During my evaluation this year, your Pastor Parish Relations Committee and I examined some statistics concerning our church. One of those statistics was average worship attendance. For the last four years our worship attendance has been about the same – right around 155. That raised the question, are we stagnant? And the answer is: in some ways we have been.
We wondered what is going on. Well, it seems to me that many of our longer term members are getting older and are unable to attend regularly. Because they attend less frequently, they know fewer and fewer of the persons attending, so Bethel has taken on a new feel that they are unaccustomed to. It seems that our younger couples with children have had their children grow old enough to engage in activities that occur during our worship times. And it seems that we are all feeling the pressure of the lack of time so, Sunday morning becomes for some a time to sleep in and rest.
Beyond worship there are other indicators that something is adrift. Many of our studies begin with 12 or 20 participants and have ended with only a handful. To some of our leaders, it seems that the same people are engaged in everything. It is almost as if as the church has grown in membership that people have felt like they are not needed so they do not participate. And there is more talking about people than with people going on.
It is as if we have reached a plateau. And that is precisely what was described to our leaders two years ago at a leadership retreat. The leader of that seminar posed that we were standing on the edge and we would either take a step forward or begin a decline. He posed that thought from the experience of churches our size who have experienced growth like we have and reach the point we have.
But all the news is not bad by any means. Our youth group has grown by leaps and bounds and is postured to have an increase next year too! Our worship attendance has grown significantly this year so far. Our missions team remains aggressive in calling us to serve others. We still support many local organizations. And our fiancés have not been in this good a shape since we began our building program a few years back. By all other measures we are still doing better than most churches our size or bigger. But God does not ask us to be better than most, he has set us apart and asked us to live a life of love. Most of us know that if love stagnates it is not good.
So what do we need to do? We need to recommit ourselves to becoming disciples. We need to study – it is a lifelong pursuit. We need to engage in acts of service – everyone is not called to do everything but everyone should be engaged in something. And most of all we need to open our hearts to hear what God is calling us to do and be in this community and then set our goals to achieve that calling.
When things are stagnant, people take what could be productive time and use it to worry or to grouse about things. When things are stagnant, new energy is needed. This summer we are going to have an offsite meeting to revisit the vision of Bethel and to discern where God is leading us and how we will get there from here. If you are interested, stay tuned and come join with the church leaders so your voice can be part of what helps us achieve the future God has for us.
Blessings for the journey –