A Sleepy Church or Sleeping Giant?
Bethel Methodist Church is a small, aging congregation struggling to grow and bring in younger families and youth. Sunday attendance would average just around 100. It’s glory days were well over a decade behind them. Gray hairs filled the pews and youth and children were scant. Pastor was probably doing twenty funerals to every one baptism.
I was relatively well known in the church of my upbringing just down the road. My parents were still attending St. John’s Lutheran and, hearing the news of my new job, many were wondering what I was doing over with those Methodists. My childhood pastor at St. John’s and now a pretty good friend, Pastor John Rogers, took me out on his boat one afternoon and asked me outright, “So, what on earth are you doing over at that sleepy little church on the corner?” He gave me his impressions and I didn’t really disagree with his assessment.
Similarly, on another occasion several months later when I invited a student to come to an event were were hosting, they asked where the church was. I told them it was smack dab in the center of town right across from the town square, adding, “It’s impossible to miss.” Apparently not. They looked at me curiously and said, “There’s a church there?”
This statement was telling. For while Bethel UMC was situated in the center of town, it had become invisible to many. It was completely off the radar, especially the youth. How could we reverse this reality, and make it once again a beacon of light shining out into the surrounding town?
Still, one has to give this “little sleepy church” some credit for having the faith and vision to raise money to pay a youth director when they didn’t really have any youth to direct! Oh, there were a handful of youth grades 7-12. The number was right around twelve — a fine number to start a ministry with if you ask me!
As I prepared to kick-off my first season of paid ministry I was again neck deep in the narrative world of Acts, and letting the early church’s beginnings be my example, playbook and guide.