About this time last year, Grace was in the midst of making the rather painful decision to dissolve the long standing Ministry Sharing Agreement that we had with a local congregation for 30 years. In its essence, that decision came from an acknowledgement that significant changes needed to be made in how ministry happened at Grace for it to thrive as a congregation.
In the past 35 years, worship attendance has declined from an average of more than 300, to just over 100. The last year has not seen a notable increase in worship attendance. We are going to need to take some risks and try some new ideas if this community of faith is going to thrive!
Here are three things that we plan to implement this fall:
- For as long as I have been here, I have been thinking that there is a need for another worship service that is not on a weekend. After much thought, we have decided to offer a weekly Wednesday congregational meal and worship service.
- Matching a national trend, Sunday School attendance at Grace has dropped so low that a traditional approach is no longer feasible. So we are planning a cross-generational worship experience that will be family-friendly and open to the entire congregation.
- Confirmation is one of my favorite ministries, but it is increasingly more difficult to accomplish in a traditional lecture setting. We will move Confirmation instruction to an event-based model (fewer, longer meetings) and increased parent participation.
Underlying all of this is an acknowledgement of something that we may have forgotten—faith development belongs in families! We need to find ways to facilitate meaningful faith exchanges that happen in families and among friends. We have a long ways to go with this! And I am quite sure that we will need to modify pretty much everything once we start.
I am also pretty certain that if we simply continue on the course that we always have, eventually the congregation itself will be in the position that the Sunday School is—too few people to make continuing feasible. That being said, each of these changes is something to get excited about.
We will be going from one worship service to three services with each focused on a particular ministry need. We have people who have plans and commitments that make Sunday worship very difficult.