Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ministry Musings: Size Matters

One of the reasons I love being Lutheran is our embrace of the priesthood of all believers, that notion that all of us are called to minister to our neighbor. In the church, ministry isn’t just done by the paid professionals (i.e. the pastor), but by all of us. Unfortunately, over time the church has abdicated the responsibility for ministry to the pastor, and in some occasions to lay staff. We see this especially when a congregation grows.

Experts who study how congregations function tell us that worshipping size of a congregation dramatically effects how a congregation needs to function. One of those dividing points comes around 150 people in worship, right about what we are averaging. Generally speaking the biggest changes as a worshipping community becomes a large congregation are the addition of staff to keep up with the changes and the shift in the pastors responsibilities to be more administrative.

What this means is that as a congregation grows a pastor will spend more time training and supervising ministry and less time doing hands on ministry. You can imagine the objections that arise as this happens (i.e. less personal time with the pastor, etc.). You may have raised them yourself. This can certainly be the downside of growth.

On the other hand this can be a real blessing that comes out of growth. To keep ministry happening more people are forced to get involved leading ministry that they were called to because they can no longer sit on the sidelines and wait for “pastor” to do it.

As we strive to grow as a worshiping community of Christ where are you getting involved with your call to ministry?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't Eat the Marshmellow

Where do you need to work on delaying gratification? Where have seeds been planted and you need to wait for God to grow the seeds yet for the harvest?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Changing the Conversation

At a recent church council meetings we've been talking about changing the entire culture of our congregation. We need to work on developing an atmosphere where we all realize that we live out our faith on a daily basis and don't just turn it over to the pastor and a few, select church leaders. We need to work on creating a climate where people are excited about their faith and willing to talk about it.

During one of these conversations I floated the idea of approaching conversations with friends just slightly. Instead of asking people how their week was why not ask something like, "Where was God at work in your life this week?" Instead of asking what they have coming up this week why not ask something like, "How can I be praying for you this week?" I wonder what difference it might make if we all starting asking such questions. It seems to me, by shifting the focus of the question we are reminded of the presence of God in our daily life and it can serve as a reminder of faith being lived out on a daily basis and not just on Sunday. Perhaps we should try and experiment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Line of Vision

Those of you who have been around me recently know that I think my son is the most amazing child ever. However, from time to time I find myself wishing he would look up at me more. It seems looking down is a lot more exciting. I think it's because he can see himself, see what he's propped up on, and far more likely to find something he can grab and shove in his mouth. I think it's interesting that this is our natural instinct (including shoving our foot in our mouth) for most of us as babies.

As we were sitting out on the grass the other day and I was trying to get his attention it struck me that spiritually we are often the same way. We focus down on ourselves, where we are at or where we have been, and looking around for things we can get our hands on. Meanwhile we could change our line of vision and look up into the face of our heavenly father. I wonder why we don't do that more? I think I need to remember to give that a try.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Worship Attendance

We recently got to talking about worship attendance around here. It was noted that part of the struggle is that we lead such terribly busy lives that we desire down time. Often, that means in the summer we sleep in or spend time away at the cabin. I think I can totally understand that.

However, I think I have a slightly different perspective. First of all, I wonder why worship can't be that time of recharge for people who live these busy lives? Isn't there something about standing in the presence of God that fills one with life? Secondly, and related to that I think, is something that developed for me in college. I was fortunate to go to a school where we had daily chapel. I was there just about every day. From what I can remember the preaching wasn't always top of the line. It never really is, is it? Yet on those days when the sermon wasn't perhaps as inspiring as others I didn't view it as a waste of time. At the very least I got to pause in my day read the Bible, focus on the cross, and join together in prayer. On a weekly basis here we also add the Lord's Supper. So on those weeks when the sermons don't inspire or the hymns don't soar, there are still plenty of good reasons to be in worship.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


The other night we were watching a rerun of "Friends" and there was an interesting debate that arose. Joey suggested that there was no truly selfless good deed, only selfish. Phoebe spent the episode trying to prove him wrong by attempting to do something completely selfless. The defining argument was that when you do a good deed you feel good about yourself having done it and therefore it is not selfless, but selfish.

Now, I don't totally agree with that argument, but it is interesting to note how self-centered we tend to be in our giving. How quick are we to get receipts for our donations so we can write them off on our taxes? It is incredible to watch how important it is for families to have memorial moneys go to something specific that can have the family name on it. What ever happened to giving it to the church and allowing the leadership to decide how to best use the money to make ministry happen?

The problem develops, then, that our memories get tied up in the stuff. You see it on the organization shows on HGTV, TLC, etc. You see it in the church when it comes time to make changes to the physical space and it effects the light, window, or other item given in memory of Grandma Myrtle. Which brings it back to being about what the individual wants for what they gave...a self-centered act.

I wonder how we got this way?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ministry Musings: Hospitality

When was the last time you were new somewhere? What sort of things did you look for? What kind of things were you wondering about? How quickly, and easily, your concerns and questions were addressed went a long ways in determining their hospitality, which probably went a long way in determining whether or not you returned.

We have talked about a desire to grow here at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, which means we are going to hopefully have people visiting for the first time and they will be asking questions on their way here, and as they enter. How easily they find answers will go a long way for them feeling welcome and wanting to return.
I know when I am going places I’m wondering things like: Where am I going to park? Where am I supposed go in? Can I find the bathrooms easily if the need should arise? Will I be warmly welcomed? Will I be able to follow along? How will I know what to do so I can blend in? What are the unspoken rules? Will there be a place for me to take my child to quiet him down or change a diaper?

How are we doing with out hospitality at St. Luke’s? If you are a visitor coming for the first time, showing up as worship is about to start, is there a clear place to park? Is there clear signage as to where to enter and where to find things around the facility? What are our unspoken rules about where people sit, how we take communion, how we interact, etc? How many people introduce themselves to new faces and how many speak only to family and friends? Is there something we could be offering first time visitors, like a gift or a cup of coffee?

Over the course of the summer I encourage you to invite a friend or family member to come as a “spy” and see how we are doing with hospitality. I also invite you to attend a different congregation (perhaps when you’re away on vacation) and make note of what that experience is like as a visitor, making note of things we can do to help welcome the stranger (something Jesus encouraged us to do by the way). It’s amazing how far a little old fashioned hospitality will go.