Moving Forward 3

Today I want to look at the next two questions together.

3. What are the priorities and needs the community around us?

4. Then what new priorities might our congregation need to focus on today to help the congregations of 2025?

Yesterday we talked a little bit about what the what the community will look like in ten years.  But what are some of the trends right now in our community?  We can look around and we can see some wonderful young families, some of them are from the community and have grown up in the community and stayed in the community.  Some of the families are newer to the community, like mine, and we are finding all the wonderful community charm that is present in Arthur. For some people there is a deep interconnectedness in our community that those who are new are still learning about.  There are many different forms of families in our community, some are two parent, some single, some mixed, some blended, foster families, some with many people in the family working others who are not able to work at this time.  Some people are struggling with relationships while others are working through problems each day.  In our community there are families and people who are single, living away from their families.  In other words, we have a variety of people here in Arthur, no it is not as diverse as Toronto, but there is diversity in families, in relationships, in socio-economics, in living arrangements, in where people work, even in ethnicity and backgrounds.  We have differences in religion with eight different eight different churches in town.

In Arthur we have a downtown that is in transition.  We have solid businesses that have been in place for years, we have new businesses that are trying to make a go of it but we also have places that are sitting vacant waiting for someone to try something new.  In the wider community we have different plants and retail and service businesses that help to support the people in the community and surrounding communities.  We cannot forget about all the hard work that the people in the agriculture industry, from family farms all the way up to the large operations, put into providing food, work, and who bless this community in so many ways. And we have a number of service clubs that work tirelessly to enrich the culture and build into the lives of the people of Arthur.  That being said there are also a number of people who commute to work, whether it is Fergus, Mount Forest, Guelph, Orangeville, Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge, and many other places.  Some people go to church in some of those places, some do there shopping there, some are going to doctors and specialists there.

Education wise, we have three schools, all at the elementary level, an alternative education facility, the learning centre, home schoolers, and a number of home daycares.  At the high school level the youth are transported from here to a number of different places including Mount Forest, Fergus, Guelph and some to Palmerston.  Even though they are away during the day, they come back in the evenings for a while.  When it comes to those that want to go to College or University, many of them have to leave the community, whether it is just for a week or for semesters at a time and for some it is the whole year.   For some they have to move away to find a job in their field and or to find a job that they can do to make a living.

In our community there are still strong community ties but there are some who do not have the same familiarness as other people do.  One of the ways that people stay connected here is through sports: hockey, lacrosse, baseball, soccer and karate to name a few.  These are draws for many age groups to come out and participate.  There are also a number of clubs, from horticulture to 4H, and many more.  These are all things that people find valuable and a good way of coming together and building friendships or at the very least having something to do to grow and spend some of their time doing something that they enjoy doing.  Churches have also been places that help to build community, help to share life together, and help to bring hope and love into people’s lives no matter what their background is.  There are even more initiatives going on that we are not aware that are going on.

One initiative that has become very big in our community is the #Get In Touch For Hutch group and event.  The community has come together out of tragedy to make a difference against mental illness.  A need and a reason was taken and this group spearheaded by the Hutchison family after the death of their son and brother Steven.  While there has been tragedy in our town, the community has pulled together to support each other to let each other know that we are all important and we are not alone.

Youth for Christ has continued to make a difference in the lives of youth in our community through the Door ministry.  Also The Arthur Second Look store has continued to pour support back into the town, the community, and the people.

This, while long, is just a snap shot of what is going on in the community.  There are different seniors groups, summer programs that are awesome and inviting people to be a part of the community.  As we look around and see what is going on in the community what do you see.  What are the areas of strength and what are the areas of growth, and what are the areas that are struggling?  What is being done and what could be done?  This exercise is a cross between being very detailed oriented and having the courage to day dream and through out ideas.  As a church how are we going to need to change to minister to the realities around us now and the realities that are coming into being for the future?  How are we as a community of faith going to be able to boldly step into our community now and in the future and continue to share the love of Jesus, the hope that He brings, the second and third chances etc, that we have been given because of His unending love for us?  Changes will have to be made, but the Gospel that has changed me and so many people around the world has not and will not change, God’s love as seen through Jesus is a real hope for yesterday, today, and even tomorrow.  What are you thoughts?

Moving Forward 2

Here we are on our second day and looking at the second question on the survey.

2. This is what we believe: God exists, God desires certain things to be,  God has God’s own mission for the world.

 What can we imagine God desires to see in the next ten years in the Christian faith communities of our area, and in the society around us?

What will the future hold for our congregation, if the trends we have identified in question #1 continue as they seem to be unfolding? How will things look in 2025? 

 Yesterday we looked at what is happening around us right now, today.  If we don’t know where we are right now we can not try to see where we will be 10 years from now.  When we start to think to the future, we need to also remember that God has a purpose for us and has invited us to be part of His mission.  We are not just looking at what we want to do, if you leave it all to me, we might have laser light shows during the worship service, this however may be all about me and very little to do with God. God is inviting us to be part of what He is doing and wants to do.  Remember that God is the giver of life, is calling us into fullness of life and is preparing us for eternal life.

So as we look at where we are and open ourselves up to what God is doing and wants to do, what will things look like in 10 years.  While this is about God’s work, lets look at ourselves, we will all be 10 years older.  Some of us will have less hair, or greyer hair. Some people will have retired and possibly moved from where they are now to another residence, and some will have moved to another community.  Some people will be very close to 1oo years old, and others will be just starting to have a family.  For myself I will have two children that will be out of high school, and one just about to finish.  In ten years I may even be a grandparent.  Life will be different, we will be different, how we identify ourselves will be different and for some of us we will not be part of this community of faith for various reasons.

So when we move out from ourselves into our community of faith, what will be the same, what will be different, and what will have changed so much that we may not recognize it.  The church has gone through change and has survived, we do not need to be afraid of change.  Change itself can be a wonderful blessing.  Our congregation at one time was two separate congregations but the two congregations were willing to give up what they had to create what we have now. So when we look at the church, who will be sitting beside you in the pew or chair?  Who will be on the leadership team?  What will the worship service look like? What will the music ministry look like?  Will we still be in the same building? Will we be still have the same focus for missions?  How will Christian Education look like for all age groups?

We cannot just look at our own ministry, we must look at the community around us and what are some of the trends that are affecting our community.  Will there be more or less churches in the community?  Will we still be partners in ministry with Gordonville the way we are or will we have a different relationship? What businesses will be in the town?  What ministries will still be in the community?  What new ministries will be needed to deal with changing needs and demographics?  Will we have the commitment to serve in new opportunities for ministry in our changing community?

I realize that this is just talk right now, we cannot predict the future exactly but we can take the information that we have now and start opening ourselves up to where God is leading us instead of being blind to what is happening right now and not being able to move forward with God.  One reality that is becoming more and more apparent in Canada and the United States, is that people are coming to church less and less.  This isn’t because people don’t like Jesus, it is because people’s lives are changing.  There is a busyness, there are multiple commitments whether it is family, work, school, kids, or sports.  We need to acknowledge this new reality and move to meet people where they are at and share the joy and love of Jesus, instead of complaining about it.  In some cases it is acknowledging this reality and prepare people to be examples of Jesus where they are going and being.  We have the opportunity to help people engage people with the life changing grace of Jesus. This is an opportunity, not a failure, not the beginning of the end, it is an opportunity to connect with people and help people to grow. What are your thoughts?  Feel free to leave a comment on the board here, email me at edcharlton12@gmail.com, or Facebook message me or write on the Facebook page.

Moving Forward

The next few Blog posts are going to be commenting on a survey that was put out to our congregation.  These will be more to help us start thinking about our future and not in response to the survey itself. Some of these questions were taken from our presbytery’s visioning process.

  1. How are things today for our congregation? What trends have we seen (positive and negative) in congregational life in recent years?

It is important for us to all to start off by taking an honest look at where we are right now.  We cannot forget that there are good elements in our church culture, practice, and heart.  Too often we do not see the good things that we do everyday right now.  On the flip side, there are some areas that are growth areas.  We cannot assume that what worked in the past will connect with people today.  Priorities are different today than they were, ten, twenty, or thirty years prior to day.  While the world has changed churches have not changed as much.  Yes the Gospel that we preach is eternal and it is as important today as it was 1000 years ago, but how people hear the Gospel has changed. How we live out our faith has changed, as has how we address sin.

It is also important for us to look around and be aware of what we see, in the church, in our lives, and in our community. We are already in a time of transition in a number of ministries.  When we start to look at the trends we need to also look at our commitment levels to continue ministries but also to look outside the church for the needs of the community.  We need to have this conversation, what are your thoughts?