I am now about a week away from completing half of the Church Conferences for this year and I have noticed some trends. Overall I have seen some wonderful ministries being accomplished, some good plans in place. I have heard stories of lives being changed in significant ways. Many churches have had at least one Profession of Faith this year and some have had a significant number of folks making that commitment of their lives their local congregations. Some however continue to report zero Professions of Faith, which is a concern.
Most churches are engaged in some ministry in their community, reaching out to those who are in need and those who don’t have a church home. The ministries are wide and varied and it has been exciting to hear about the people who have been affected in positive ways by the ministry our churches provide. I have especially appreciated the stories of new innovative ministry that folks are discovering as they become more and more passionate about the mission to reach out in effective ways with God’s love. Sadly, there are some churches that not taken any risks this year to engage the need around them or help new people discover the joy of new life in Christ.
The most common areas of struggle were identified in two areas: Leadership and Finances. While some congregations are experiencing strong energized leaders and at least adequate if not abundant giving, many are dealing with self-described “tired leaders,” an inability to recruit new leaders, and inadequate funds. These things do bring about a sense of frustration and weariness. The GR District Leadership Council is looking at who we might bring to our District Conference next spring to speak to us about the struggles around leadership development and stewardship in these changing times. Again, though while these two areas were common places of difficulty for many, there are those congregations that exhibit high energy and real excitement about their future, about where their congregation is going and all that is ahead. I believe that the most important factor in identifying those in that latter category is a clear sense of mission that is identified, known, and is guiding all that is occurring in those congregations. Clearly understanding and claiming the mission helps congregations not only know what to do, but to know what not to do.
The other factor I see in those thriving congregations is a general willingness on the part of the majority of congregants to be a part of carrying out the mission and vision regardless of the personal cost. In other words, a willingness to put themselves and their particular preferences aside for the sake of others, wherever that may be necessary, in order to fulfill the mission.
It’s been a good month and a half of being in congregations across the Grand Rapids and Heartland Districts. I look forward to the rest of the journey this fall.