As we begin to emerge form the pandemic (hopefully), we have some decisions to make about our ministry together. How many services do we offer? Will they be the same or different? What musicians, if any, will be involved in each service? When will we offer Christian Education? Will we have a traditional Sunday school? Will there be adult classes? Will we try a different time or a different model for children?
How do we make these decisions?
I think there are at least three things that must be at the center of these conversations. First, we are the Body of Christ, not individuals wandering alone on the journey of faith. Our ministry plan must be designed for the good of the whole. Personal preference or opinion can be shared, but no one preference or opinion should influence decisions for the whole. We must make decisions that build and grow the Body of Christ.
Second, the purpose of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This does not happen overnight, nor does it happen in isolation. Discipleship is a lifelong process. We are all on this journey, learning and growing together throughout our lives. Thus, our decisions must be made for the purpose of learning and growing together. That is, our decisions should challenge us!
Finally, as a congregation, our vision is to “welcome wanderers along the Way.” Our intention, I think, is to embrace diversity as part of our congregational identity. We often talk about hospitality as an important part of our ministry on Sunday morning, but how are we welcoming wanderers beyond the church doors? So many people are wandering through life alone without realizing the importance of community. Our ministry decisions must be focused on those outside our church doors, even when that means we give up our pew, our music, our worship time, or our comfort zone.
Recent conversations and survey responses are pushing us to try new things. The large majority of people want to worship at 10am or later. This includes nearly all of the families who responded to our recent survey. In addition, a large group of people expressed interest in worship or education opportunities at alternative times. Sunday evening was the most popular alternative time and about half of the responses expressed an interest in some type of evening ministry.
But here is the most significant revelation from the survey:
90% of our regular worshippers prefer 9am or earlier.
75% of occasional attenders prefer 10am or later.
60.5% of those in the community, most without a church affiliation, prefer 10am or later.
Clearly, what “we” prefer is not ideal for making new disciples. I invite us all to be in prayer this week as Worship and Education teams discern what our fall schedule might look like. MANY ideas have been floated and we hope to create a vision this week. Church Council will meet on Aug 2nd to discuss, and hopefully affirm, this vision.
May God bring us together as the body of Christ, challenge us to go beyond our comfort zones, and inspire us to welcome new wanderers along the Way.
For your information, below is a chart showing the worship preferences of all 45 respondants. More than half of the responses in the 9am blue column are the 90% of regular attenders referenced above. More data will be available to the teams as they meet this week. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to see additional data.