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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

What is your Point B?

Main Idea: The Changing Church

 

Before we look at how to get from Point A to Point B, let's define what those points are. Rather than submit hardnosed data that can be argued with uselessly, I'd rather focus on the concepts themselves.


About 80 years ago, Point A for many mainline churches was a comfortable Christian social atmosphere and regular church attendance. Point B was an expanding a swelling church or planting a new one practically filled instantly.


Starting around 40 years ago, Point A was a stable multi-generational congregation that was beginning to see a decline. Point B was renewed church growth.


Today, we've seen a few decades of decline in church attendance, contributions, membership, and affiliation. Point A is declining church metrics, and we're still trying to figure out what Point B is. For some, it is church growth. For others, it is amalgamation. For still others, it is church closure.


What is Point B for your church?


Before we can find solutions to get from Point A to Point B, we need to be clear on what Point B is. We dance around this question, and we discuss it privately with our peers. It's time we talk about it openly now in a pastoral spirit - owning our fears, being vulnerable and forgiving with each other, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us.


I was in a meeting recently that found itself in the position of doing just this - Acknowledging Point A and beginning to bring forth where they were feeling the Holy Spirit was leading us: Point B. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of.


We acknowledged a strong desire of many parishioners to return to the past. Many cling to nostalgia and are seemingly unwilling to include anything new or risky.


We acknowledged the moving of the Spirit into our communities. Clerics and laity alike finding purpose and meaning living out the gospel beyond the walls of the church building.


Among us were those who had amalgamated and those who are in the process of amalgamation. We were - all of us - well acquainted with the pain and sorrow of the declining church, and under no illusions of what the future may hold.


But we are Christians, and so we hope. We are followers of Jesus, and so we don't allow our concern to become fear. Instead, we perk up our spiritual ears and hear the moving of the Spirit.


In this meeting, eyes became brighter, and voices became lighter as we envisioned the future of the Church beyond our walls. Began to see with Christ's eyes our place in this Kingdom. Began to understand even as we spoke the godly opportunities for the gospel that lay beyond our necessary changes. And where we are called to support each other to get... from Point A to Point B.


There area many Point Bs. Some are more likely than others, and there will always be different ones for different churches. Clergy and bishops and congregational development professionals and growth experts and passionate consultants like myself are well-versed in how to get us from Point A to Point B. But if our churches don't know what their Point B is, there's nothing anyone can do to help them.


So let's get clear on Point B. What is Point B for your church?


We'll talk more about getting from Point A to Point B in another post, as well as what might be blocking the way.


In the meantime: what is Point B for your church? Are you having difficulty even having the conversation?




Note:

I am in a peculiar "in-between" space in the Church. I find myself in meetings with clergy as an almost-peer ("what do you mean you're not ordained?" I often hear) and among gatherings of the laity as someone who is not ordained but who brings much of the gravity of a cleric (clergy spouse, former aspirant, preacher, and well-educated teacher). Thus, I can engage in conversations that clergy and laity do not have with each other. Combined with my social science and business advanced degrees and research, these experiences provide me with data unavailable to virtually everyone.

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