Yesterday was the vernal equinox, the technical first day of spring. Today is the ecclesiastical equinox, at least for the purposes of calculating the date of Easter (which is a far more complicated process than you can imagine). Spring is all about renewal, about rebirth, about Resurrection. Spring is for cleaning and planting and putting on the new and off the old. I am spending my time preparing for Easter and Baptisms(!) coming up next month.
I am also spending my time thinking, as I almost always am, about the church and church work. I am thinking about the things we need to add and the things we need to change.
One area that obviously needs work but will soon be improving is facilities. We have hosted the Boys and Girls Club for sometime now and they are moving into their new building the first week of April. We will be going through and doing renovations and refurbishment, making things look nicer. Things can be better organized and put into place. Maybe replace some of the old signage around the building.
But honestly, that is pretty low hanging fruit.
I read lots of articles about the harder stuff. I think about the hard stuff. What follows, in no particular order, are things to think about, not just for FWBC but for any church.
- Figure out a way to make visitors feel welcome without making them uncomfortable. Its amazing how consistently visitors to a church say they are uncomfortable with greeting times in a service; and yet people also are unlikely to come back if people are not friendly. I think this one is going to be different in each community, but its one to ponder.
- Eliminate exclusionary language. Every group develops jargon over time, which is fine when talking to insiders. It is terrible when talking to outsiders. Abbreviating the names of organizations, referring to locations in the church by formal names rather than a description or room number, or otherwise assuming knowledge creates a barrier for new people.
- Engaged with the larger community. Given the mobility of people today it could be the geographical community or it might be defined in a different way, but the church must be present and engaged in it. A church sign and a building are not sufficient advertisement. People in the community must see people who are part of the church and engage with them if they are going to feel comfortable even trying church out.
- Create community. People are lonely, increasingly so. Churches need to be actively creating community, making connections, becoming involved in each other’s lives. Far to often a church has a community and then says people can join them or not without making the effort to incorporate them.
- Make a place for doubt and spiritual investigation. Orthodox theological correctness needs to take a back seat to growth and relationships. Churches need to have a safe place to ask questions and also a place where people can work to find those answers.
- Help people experience God. Not “accept Jesus into their hearts” but have real connections with the Divine either corporately in worship or,with guidance, more privately.
- Be relevant without being trendy. A fine line to walk. A church becomes relevant when it gives people the tools to engage with their lives in meaningful ways.
This is just the barest sliver. Its hard sometimes even to articulate these thoughts, much less to try and see solutions for them.
I do know this, while the leaders of a church can be an enabling and guiding factor in these they are not and cannot be the driving force. Churches are communities and must work and change as a community.
May we find the energy for it to be eternally spring.