Dear Ones in Christ,
When a congregation loses connection with its context, it becomes isolated from the greater community. It may still continue to serve its members with great worship, education and fellowship - but by losing connection with those in the community outside its doors it loses an opportunity to BE the church where it is planted.
An easy way to check your context is to look your demographics. The Presbytery has a subscription for
. (Holler if you want more information.) It is a helpful tool, allowing you to see who lives in your neighborhood.
In order for that tool to be truly effective, however, it requires you to have your mother walk your dog.
Let me explain. In my last congregation, our Session had done the demographic study and we were pretty clear about who we were being called to serve. We began to brainstorm ways our wee church might address some pretty profound needs. After our brainstorming sessions, we'd feel hopeful... and then folks would get in their cars and drive home. This went on for months. We got really good at it!
Meanwhile... my folks came to visit, and Mom delighted in walking our family dog. I'd normally let the dog out in the yard... but Mom? Mom walked that pup all around the neighborhood. As she walked McGiffert, strangers would stop her to say hello and ask about the dog. Mom would invariably say that the dog belonged to the pastor of the Presbyterian church.... and more often than not, they would respond with surprise that they had no idea our congregation existed. She offered to pray for them - and to ask the church to pray for them. They shared their needs and concerns and life stories while McGiffert visited the closest tree.
Demographics on paper are helpful but only if they lead you to hear the stories those numbers represent.
How well do you know your church's context?
When is the last time you walked around the neighborhood and talked with those who live near you?
Do you know their deepest needs?
Do they know your congregation cares about them?
There's still a chance to weigh in on how your congregation intersects with the Presbyterian Mission Agency's
Matthew 25 Initiative
. This survey is
only four questions long
... but would give us important information about how this Presbytery might better equip our congregations in this new venture.
What I've discovered from the responses thus far is an interest in further discussion, as well as some congregations sharing how what they are already doing connects with the three aspects of this new initiative. (As a sidebar - wouldn't it be a great thing to get those churches that are already working in these areas to connect with those churches that have a hunger to do so?).
Several other congregations responded to the question about how to create organizational purpose. The question isn't so much what we need to do (scripture is pretty clear about that!) but how we do that within our particular context. (But you knew that!)
Grateful for your work and your witness...