Why Are You Here?

Do you remember the survey I asked the congregation to complete late last fall, as the first step of your study and conversation process to prepare for the pastor search? The Session met on Sunday afternoon, March 21, to review the results and identify what they could learn about needs, looking for new leadership, and strengthening the church. What follows is a summary of the main discoveries.

While most of the congregation is positive about worship and music, a large number of people need help connecting their worship experience with taking the good news into the world as they seek to live out their own call to serve God.

People appreciate the social opportunities and welcoming character of the church. While most people feel supported, a good many are looking for a stronger sense of community, and believe you can improve the way you handle communication and conflict.

Overall, in almost every section of the responses, there was a large number of “Don’t know” responses. This and other responses indicate a need for improving intentional communication and information about the church.

People are pleased with the outreach giving done by the Outreach Committee. At the same time, they are looking for chances to serve in hands-on ways as a church. As with the comments about connecting worship to service in the world, people are looking for ways to affirm the connection between faith and action.

Everyone agreed that the church needs to develop an intentional process for inviting, welcoming, involving, and discipling new members. There’s a desire for more learning and engagement in spiritual practices and disciplines.

You are to be commended for the wonderful use the community makes of your building!

And, there is a long list of all the ways people in this congregation are involved in service to the community! That needs to be celebrated and shared. One person completing the survey commented they “would not call that ministering.”That comment disappoints me, because it suggests that some people don’t appreciate that using their God-given gifts in service to others is not ministry. It is. We are all baptized to share in Jesus’s ministry in the ways we are gifted and sent out.

There is plenty of room to improve the collaborative relationship between pastor and people, to provide mutual clarity about your call and vision as a congregation. Being clear about this will be important for the search committee, in finding a pastor who wants to work with you to help you develop your vision for ministry and service.

You have good leaders with strong skill and ability, but there seems to be some lack of clarity or trust, and some uncertainty about how your leadership is used and the willingness of the congregation to follow and support. For leaders, training, support, affirmation/thanks, and time for rest is important.

In the answers to the supplemental questions, there were a lot of predictable answers, like, “we want more and younger people in the church.” But that’s what you want for yourselves so that you can feel better. The real question is “Where is God calling you?” And, How can you serve your neighbors?” Not how can you get them to prop up the institution you love. Keep in mind the question: “Why is the church here?” And, “Who is it here for?”

God’s people have been given a gift to share with neighbors and strangers, with the world around us. The church is not an end in itself, but exists, just like Jesus when he walked the earth, for the sake of others.

Sam Pendergrast