Monday, July 31, 2006

It's Time to Plant

A L-A-R-G-E challenge for the PCUSA is our continued membership loss. Continued losses will mean additional staffing reductions within all governing bodies. More and more churches are having a difficult time affording a fulltime pastor. It is as though this cycle keeps repeating itself: membership losses mean less giving, which affects programming and staffing, which leads to more membership losses which lead to less giving…

It has been said that it is by far more difficult to redevelop a plateaued or declining church than it is to start a new church. This leads me to the question, “Why isn’t the PCUSA planting more churches?” A former GA staff member who work with new church development told me that the way the PCUSA has done new church development has been a failure. This week I am going to explore possible ideas for planting new churches.

Celebrate the Past

Aunt Joan celebrated her 80th birthday in June. She is a dear lady who is suffering from osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease. Her mind is sharp but her body is failing. We had a fabulous birthday celebration in her honor. Family members came from five different states for that special day. Photo albums and scrapbooks came out of storage. It was a grand day for Joan and the entire family.

In this day of declining membership in the PCUSA we must remember and celebrate the past. Many of our declining churches have had a great impact on people’s lives and neighborhoods: baptisms, marriages, youth lock-ins, women’s gatherings, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, Christmas pageants and memorial services. Those churches have seen smiles and tears. They are filled with memories. We MUST remember and celebrate.

Will our “remembering” and “celebrating” bring back the glorious past? No, that’s not the point of doing it. Aunt Joan didn’t get a single day younger after her big party. The party didn’t add a single day to her life expectancy. What it did was let her know that we care! Our struggling churches need to know that we care!

In the ten years that I have been at Evergreen the Presbytery’s General Presbyter has never been to Evergreen (except the one time we hosted the Presbytery meeting). During those years the Committee on Ministry has never visited our church or Session (even though they are mandated by the Book of Order to do so). Don’t get me wrong, I’m their not visiting is fine with me. Things at Evergreen are fine. My hope is that they would skip visiting a church like Evergreen and make a special effort to visit those churches that are having a hard time keeping the doors open. The visit wouldn’t be for programmatic reasons; the visit would be for the purpose of celebration. Have the Presbytery pay for a catered dinner where people could bring their photos from the church’s past. Invite former members and pastors. Remember! Celebrate! Party!

These celebrations may not add a single day to the life expectance of the church. It will let those at the church know that their ministry through the years is valued and appreciated. This should be a precursor to planting new churches.


At 8:44 PM , Anonymous Larry Zirschky said...

Lance, thank you for taking time to "blog" about the NWI, it was interesting reading your perspective. My thoughts and impression of the NW convo mirror your impressions. I also appreciate your perspective on the Tall Steeples. My fear is that they will continue to do "their own thing." Case in point, the brochure I received today for Peachtree's Globel Presbyterians Convo. The topics were in line with the NWI. Good seeing you again my brother. BTW, we are beginning to network churches in Colorado (Eastern & Western slope). Christ is All.
Larry Z.


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