By Laura Stephens-Reed
A new liturgical year began on November 29, and now the secular calendar is rolling over as well. Many people of faith will be making resolutions to improve their lives, and there’s no reason churches as whole can’t do the same. Here are a few ideas to prime the pump:
Re-visit the congregation’s mission statement. An accurate mission statement is handy to reference when planning or debriefing ministries. Its composition, however, is not one-and-done. If your church’s statement no longer accurately reflects the direction of the congregation, take some time to discern, discuss, and describe your corporate calling.
Take a ministry to an underserved part of the neighborhood. You earnestly invite the people in your community to church events, but few of them show up. One reason might be that you’re asking them to meet unfamiliar people on unfamiliar turf. Another might be that they don’t have transportation to your campus. Find a way to go to them.
Kill a dying/dead ministry. Now I’ve gone to meddling. But those ministries that have outlived their effectiveness are drawing resources away from new possibilities. Ask the keepers of once-vibrant ministries what aspects are most important to carry forward, celebrate the successes of the former ministry and its stewards, and clearly mark the ministry’s end.
Risk starting a new ministry that might fail. Listen with your heart, discern big, and try not to be too attached to the outcome. Consider incorporating the “carry forwards” of the ministry you’ve killed in innovative ways.
Cut back on meetings. Have you seen this meme on social media? “I survived another meeting that could have been an email.” Decide what really needs to be accomplished in person and handle other business by another means, freeing up time and energy for hands-on ministry.
Partner with another congregation to do something neither one could do alone. Does your congregation have a welcoming physical plant while a neighboring church has an excellent ministry idea but nowhere to host it? Team up!
Conduct an audit of the church’s accessibility, signage, communication, and family-friendliness. Look at your church’s physical space, information-sharing, and ministries to minors through the eyes of first-time visitors. Where are the gaps?
Add or improve one means of communication. Do you often hear, “I didn’t know that [ministry] was happening”? Ask people how they best receive information, and make sure you have at least one way to reach each learning style (e.g., visual and auditory processors).
Examine one “way we’ve always done it” for current effectiveness. Some “ways we’ve always done it” are as useful as ever. Others are not. What are those givens in your congregation, and what needs to be refreshed?
Bless those who have found “better fit” churches on their way. It is hard to see people we care about – especially those we have walked beside in difficult times – leave our churches. But sometimes those folks need a new environment to flourish spiritually. Rather than hounding them to come back, support their decision and continue to be their friend.
How is God urging your church to be resolved? How might you invite the Spirit to make you brave and creative to do so?
Laura Stephens-Reed is Regional Director for CBF peer learning groups in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. She is also a clergy coach and congregational consultant who blogs at laurastephensreed.com.