At any rate, I thought I'd write about some of the good stuff that is happening at my church, because I don't think I do it often enough, and because I think I should, and because good stuff is happening.
~In the past, I've written about my attempts and frustrations about starting a senior high ministry. The past four years have seen plenty of starts and stops, hopes raised and hopes dashed. I was working uphill from the beginning: there was nothing when I came, there wasn't necessarily a high expectation that I would change that or that anything I'd attempt would stick mostly due to others' attempts and subsequent failure to stick, and critical mass has been hard to acquire given this church's size.
Our most recent confirmands are the oldest in an entire group of kids who are used to attending church functions. There's a younger group that does a lot of youth group-y things, for whom a continuation of that once they hit high school would just be a natural thing. We've had two activities so far since fall started, with solid-to-excellent turnouts, and even though I've said this to people in the church before, it looks like we really, really have a sturdy foundation on which to build something now. Really.
~We're doing mission work. A lot of mission work. We walk in the Relay for Life. We've sent people to New Orleans. We've built with Habitat. We truck over a sizable amount of food for our food pantry every month. Over the years, getting involved with these projects has helped cultivate a missional attitude and a focus on what we can do in terms of local hands-on service. In the past year, we've begun talking about initiatives that we can take to reach out to our community - building relationships in addition to meeting needs.
~We're in the midst of collecting a Time and Talent survey that we made sure to actually include talents and not just jobs to volunteer for. Assuming that we get a good response to it, it will be used as part of an asset mapping exercise that each committee, as well as the church as a whole, may undertake. We've had a lot of visioning discussion in the past year, and this is kind of the next phase. So right now, the jury is still out on this, but hopefully it yields a lot of positive things for the church.
~I'm going on sabbatical next spring. This may not sound like a "good for the whole church" thing, but I think it is for a couple reasons:
- It means that I'll have been here five years, which didn't always seem like a sure thing. But I've heard from multiple places that the deeper kind of ministry is possible after no less than four years. So we may just be starting our best years together.
- It gives both pastor and church time to rejuvenate and come back together even stronger, provided that both parties fully understand that that's what a sabbatical is meant to be for.
- While I'm away, the church will be pretty reliant on lay leadership, which will be a good learning experience in what the "priesthood of all believers" is about.