There has been much writing in recent years about why the church is failing to grow, why young people are not becoming part of the church and even leaving, and what the church needs to do in order to turn that trend around. Blogs, books and broadcasts all tout different theories from different sources about different ‘angles’ and . . . different solutions.
I want to tell them all to just QUIT!
That’s right, just stop talking about church growth, church shrinkage, church renewal, church and start talking about ‘being the church’ and what that means. Those who have been at Hope UCC since my beginning here will tell you that the first thing I did was get rid of the “Grow This Church Committee,” (Much to the disappointment of one very important member).
I told those in attendance and the rest of the congregation that what we needed to do was simply be the absolute best church we could be then people would want to come. In three years we have grown by 25%. We are still growing though not as fast.
Here are a few of my key recommendations:
1) Claim your mission and carry it out.
If you serve in a food pantry do it to the best of your ability with a one hundred percent effort. If you serve the homeless give it all you’ve got. If you serve the LGBT community do it with unbridled enthusiasm.
2) Be a strong community of love and support for each other.
Personally I believe that Jesus’ message is about bringing people together. This is a favorite of mine so I could go on here for a long time. You will have to dig into some sermons and other BLOGs to see this but here . . . Love one another. Seriously, but have fun doing it.
3) Open your hearts by being loving people to all God’s people.
The churches that are growing in the United Church today are the churches that are Open and Affirming, that is they are open to and affirm the presence of all people regardless of sexual orientation. This is a witness statement. Once a church makes this statement then go back to hint number one in this list and do it with rainbows everywhere!
4) Open your minds to the new insights given to us through progressive theology.
We do not build houses like we did 2,000 years ago, follow the medicinal laws of the Old Testament, or believe the science that was accepted even one hundred years ago . . . why do so many people close their minds theologically? Think about what modern thought has done for electronics and helps your friends move their theology into the 21st century.
5) Open your understanding of God.
It is powerfully expansive to be able to understand that the all-powerful God that we are taught about is truly more than we can imagine God to be. God is more than our definition, more than a theologian of one hundred years ago even more than Paul could have imagined. God is even smart enough to have revealed God’s self in ways different than we learned as a kid.