Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Imagine Your Church in 2025

At our recent Governance Board meeting some of us were asked to consider discernment for our congregation with the image of a car travelling at night on a road illuminated only by the headlights of the vehicle. Our small group agreed that in this situation you better be making your way forward with the use of the headlights, however limited that might be, rather than the tail-lights. And you better keep an eye out for what might pop up out of the ditch.

Congregations have a tendency to discern by tail-lights rather than headlights, harking back to what worked in another time and engaging in nostalgia which often is not an accurate reflection of what occurred. How do we look ahead to the road we are actually travelling as Christ's people?

I hope you will read the article in the latest issue of the United Church Observer with the title Imagine Your Church in 2025. That's only a dozen years down the way, even though it sounds as though it is a date in a sci-fi movie. It is based on a survey of members and adherents who seem to know that the United Church is a rapidly changing expression of Christ's body. About a third of us figure we won't be worshipping in our current buildings by 2025, a remarkable number. Another quarter offer that it is "somewhat likely," which is hardly a ringing endorsement. I think that small rural congregations and those in large, downtown buildings are most vulnerable. I would like to know whether those polled from these two sectors had even greater percentages. ttp://

I have a long-time colleague in Calgary whose congregation recently chose to sell its large, historic building and begin worshipping in another United Church.They will continue to meet as a separate congregation for the time being, but may eventually amalgamate. They will use the financial benefit of the sale for other forms of ministry. I am impressed by this creative use of headlights rather than tail-lights.

Can you imagine worshipping in another building than the one where you gather now? Is your congregation forward-looking? Do you have hope for your congregation? Have you ever been forced to deal with a moose running up out of the ditch on a dark night? I have, literally and metaphorically. Let's pray for life-giving choices for the future.


Judy said...

The moose has been lurking for a while now - it should not be a surprise .... but the taillights still beckon to too many !

Unknown said...

Coming from a small 3 point charge for the past 7 years and being the chaor of the officail borad for 5 of them I totally understand some of this concept when the charge kept tackling the issue of how it was going to run for another winter the same discussion came up when we tried to plan joint services.... dont close my church its where my family have worshipped for 100 years or if you you close my church for the winter I wont go to the other service and wont contribute. A church is a feeling a family a place to land on those difficuly days or to sing on those days when Gods blessing are so full. Discernment is a good thing it makes one take stock of what is needed for us . the problem with group discernment is too many opinions get in th way

Judy said...

John is right on every count - it is a VERY complicated matter ... amalgamation is going to be the way of the future, for sure - but no one wants "MY" church to close - discernment will be difficult! (We forget that we are "Christ's church" often and cling to what was "ours" and what had meaning for us... not allowing that the Spirit might give us much more and much better . )

dmy said...

I hear a lot of talk about family and traditions re the bricks and mortar of "their" chuch but if their own family had to join together in one house in order to still have a home to live in rather than be on the outside looking in wouldn't it be better to give up one house and live in the other? What does it matter what building we are in as long as we all are there as a family and for the same purpose...and as time goes on we will be a blended family and there to support each other and still a safe place to land each and every week.

Unknown said...

this goes further when we talk of service how they are presented how they appear. Traditional services sometimes do not put "bums in the seats" and if we want our church to grow we need to fill those siad seats. Once again some scoff at the concept of ideas like messy church , or even simply reading the lectionary from other types of bibles. Church growth is a slippery slope to navigate you must have so much balance old and new

Judy said...

I can't wait to see David's response to these comments, now !

David Mundy said...

These comments are a great addition to what I was musing about in this blog entry.

John, I appreciate the tug-of-war you describe within your congregation. How do you move forward so that there is a healthy, Christ-blessed congregation while honouring those who find change unsettling? A board chair once commented that "even a good dog bites" when provoked, referring to some folk who were testy over change.

Doreen, I really like your image of the blended family. My pastoral experience is that many blended families struggle to find a life that is theirs as a new entity. Sometimes this fails, often it takes time. It can also be a wonderful "do-over" for families.

Judy, you see the pains in a wonderful historic congregation which may be birthing or may be dying. Time will tell, and God will be there!

Judy said...

And the reading from Job last Sunday says a lot to us - we don't know what the mind of God is ... trust is hard, but necessary.