“You surround me – front and back. You put Your hand on me.” (Psalm 139:5, CEB)
In my neighborhood, there are several small public parks. When the grass gets worn down, the Lawn Care Specialists put seed down. Sometimes they just throw some topsoil and seed down and let it be. Other times they throw topsoil and seed down and they surround the area with yellow tape, to keep people from walking on it.
Which response do you think has a better opportunity to survive?
Both areas show signs of new growth, small shoots of new grass rise above the soil, glistening bright, luminescent green in the morning sunlight. The new grass is beautiful, but fragile. When there is no yellow tape to keep people (and dogs) from walking over the area, the new grass is stepped on and is often destroyed. It quickly becomes worn and hardened dirt again. But when there is a barrier around it, the grass has time to take root, grow, get strong, and survive.
We should learn a lesson from our Lawn Care Specialists. When we see new growth in the church, we should set up a protective barrier around it, so that it can grow strong and flourish.
I recently sent out an email to our young families. It began something like this: Jesse & Becky just had #2; Jeff & Lauren are about to have #2; Garrett & Nora just had #1; Jim & Laura are about to have #1. These young families are added to other young families whose kids are a little older in our congregation.
We’re seeing new growth in our church family. These young couples are not new to faith or to church life. They have a long background in churches. They bring a wealth of Biblical knowledge, perspective and wisdom. The question we need to ask ourselves is how can we set up a protective barrier around them, so that they might take root, grow strong and flourish? Let me offer a few suggestions.
First, listen. I’m trying to set up a time where the young families can gather together so that I can hear what they like about FPCSA, what they don’t like, and how the church can better support and encourage them. When talking to them, ask them these sorts of questions and hear what they have to say.
Second, focus on the present and future, not the past. Talking about the “Glory Days” makes our church sound like it’s dying or, at best, declining. And remember, when we were in the midst of our Glory Days, we had brand new, state-of-the-art facilities. But those facilities have aged and they are no longer state-of-the-art. Rather, focus on the areas of new growth. Look at the times when we experience our greatest energy: World Communion Sunday, the Children’s Christmas Pageant, others.
Third, look for ways to change your attitude. Let’s build a “Culture of Encouragement,” not criticism. Let’s seek to be positive, not negative. Let your encouragement be infectious. When kids are running around, be thankful we have kids. When food gets spilled on the carpet, be thankful we have food. When a baby cries in worship, be thankful for new life. Let’s keep it positive.
Finally, expect to make changes to encourage growth. Many of us remember the great short book titled, “Who Moved My Cheese?” In it, the author shows how people get frustrated and confused when things change. But change is necessary for growth. And many of the changes are not fundamental to the life of the church. We’re not changing doctrine, we’re moving the furniture. These are not life or death changes. They are simply little things to provide a warmer atmosphere to encourage growth.
I’m look forward to taking the comments and perspectives of the young families to our session. I’m really excited about who is on our leadership team this year. We have a new slate of officers that will help direct the path of our church. We’re looking to develop a strategy for ministry that will encourage growth.
As you receive this church newsletter, the New Year is beginning. Change is afoot. New life is beginning. The Psalmist proclaims, “You surround me – front and back. You put Your hand on me.” As God surrounds us, places His hand upon us, and protects us, let’s do all we can to protect those sources of new life in our church family, so that they might take root, grow strong and healthy, and flourish.
I remain yours in Christ’s Love and Service,