Minister’s Letter – October 2019
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2 NIVUK).
I recently received the following in a recent email:
Growing older and smaller is the pattern for most Church of Scotland congregations. Along with others, I’m convinced that it doesn’t have to be like that and along with a few others I’m currently doing work to launch a Scottish version of the Growing Young cohorts for Church of Scotland congregations. Organised by Fuller Youth Institute, part of Fuller Seminary, the cohorts draw on research with 250 churches and highlight 6 key factors in churches that are effective with under 30’s and are “growing young.”
These factors are:
- Keychain leadership: rather than centralising authority, others (especially the young) are empowered.
- Empathy with today’s young people: Instead of judging or criticising, attempts are made to step into the shoes of this generation, recognising something of our own journey theirs’.
- Take Jesus’ message seriously: Instead of asserting formulaic gospel claims or watering the gospel down to a message that we are “just to be nice people”, young people are welcomed into a Jesus-centred way of life.
- Fuel a warm community: Instead of focusing on exciting worship experiences or programmes, the aim is warm peer and intergenerational friendships; creating a sense of belonging across generations and breaking down the generational barriers.
- Prioritise young people (and families) everywhere: Rather than pay lip service to how much young people matter, creative ways are found to tangibly support, resource, and involve them in all facets of congregational life. This is described as a “hinge point”: without it, churches grow old.
- Be the best neighbours: Instead of condemning the world outside their walls, these churches enable young people to share with the whole church in thinking through how to be “good neighbours,” locally and globally. And having thought it through they put it into action!
It is worth reflecting on these points, as we seek to grow our congregation. I would also share that we are looking at various ways to equip Clincarthill for growth: the above is one option; another is the Path of Renewal Programme, of which we have applied to be a part.
While these things are helpful, I would point out that simply following a programme will not guarantee growth. Why? Because God is not calling us to follow a programme: He calls us to follow Him.
We all need to reflect on the “how”: what are the steps we can take to make Church more accessible to those who have no experience or understanding of God, Christ, our faith etc. But if the “how” is not backed up by sincere Christian service and living, I fear it will strike as hollow.
Focussing on God also helps us to take the necessary practical steps; because we are no longer begrudgingly giving something up for the sake of “culture” or “progress”. Instead, we are choosing to do things which may be a sacrifice for us, but we know brings delight to God our Father, because we put His call first in our lives, before all others!
When God’s people follow God’s ways above all others, amazing things can happen!