By Kathy Price
Editor’s note: Eighth in a series of articles about the A2 Indicators.
I think one of biggest issues we face as United Methodists is the loss of connected ministry. By that I mean not just one church associating with another, but the sense of one or two people doing all the work and everyone else becoming a spectator.
Without involvement our church life becomes an obligation and ceases to have life. So far, A29 has raised my level of awareness as a pastor to the need for listening as ideas are presented and then pooling those ideas to find out which ones work the best where we are. Our churches are dying, and we know we need rebirth. So what do we do to turn around this cycle?
Since I have three churches on my charge, I thought having a leadership team to be essential to the development of those ideas and implementing them in ways that will work in a rural setting. Having come from a larger church setting, I found the challenges of rural Methodism to be significant.
Having people from each of the three churches on one team will help us all to become more connected where it counts the most, which is open dialogue about the future. Most people think that rural churches see themselves as incapable of growth.
I have found the opposite to be true and with the presentation of new ideas and opportunities, there is a sense of excitement mixed with a little anxiety. I have found, as a pastor, one of my greatest tools is to present myself as a “team leader” who wants everyone (who desires involvement) to be involved in new programs and possibilities of connectedness. I teach on a consistent basis that each person is gifted and needed in the body for the work of the ministry.
In the past six months I have looked time and time again at the results of our A2 Indicators and asked the Lord what he sees as the best way to begin a process of rebirth in these congregations. In all honesty it meant going back a few paces to some things we had let go, getting those things running again and then bringing established programs up to a new level of relevance.
For instance, one church had simply quit having Sunday school, so we have started a new path of Bible study in that area. This, for the time being, is a mix of all ages (adult), but within the next six months I hope to divide this group and make two classes with age-relevant ministry going on within each class.
We had completely lost touch with youth ministry, so in the month of September we started having a youth Bible study on Tuesday nights. We have made this an open invitation to any young person in the community who wants to attend, and I am sensing excitement from the few that have been in attendance.
During the summer, we had events that brought people together in a new and fresh way around music, food and laughter. My greatest experience has been in just listening to the members of my congregations speak from their hearts concerning the histories of each church and the concerns each has for the future.
To be honest, rumors of closure were all over and spoken openly. I need to continually reassure that we are not looking at closing the doors on any church any time soon, and that if we will simply look to God for the directions to take we will see success. I also reassure them that there are ample resources available to us as we seek to establish our core values and move toward ministry around those values.
The month of October will see the first meeting of our leadership team for the Rose Hill Charge. During that meeting it is my hope to move from being an idea on paper to being a life-renewing force for change and hope for the future.
Desire, passion, vision and planning are the goals I personally desire for this group of dedicated people and our churches. I hope to use the Bible study to launch us into lively dialogue and follow-up with the rest of the discovery journey.
Price serves the Rose Hill Charge in the Meridian District.