Here is my pastoral letter from this week's Chronicle:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Sudbury UMC is becoming known as one of the most exciting churches in the community. There is a Jewish real estate agent who is telling her clients that if they are looking for a Protestant church that they need to give us a try. We recently had some visitors who were told by someone in a coffee shop in Concord that if they wanted to attend a vibrant church they needed to come here. And we had another person say they wanted to attend on Easter but didn’t stay because of the crowds, so they came when we were a little slower. These are wonderful comments and are a great indicator that we are doing the right things.
A recent study found the median church in the US has a regular Sunday attendance of 75 people. The study also found that 50% of people who attend church go to ones that have more than 350 in attendance. We stand on the precipice of church sizes. We are obviously bigger than 75 and on many Sundays we have more than 350. We are no longer small but not quite large. The problem with this, learned through experience, is that churches cannot stay in this in-between position. We either have to decide to get larger and make the changes necessary to facilitate that change, or we can begin to get smaller and put up with the changes that will also bring.
This is not the first time this congregation has stood on the precipice of change, nor will it be the last. In the 1950’s and 60’s a vision was set which brought us to where we are today. Some were happy with this vision and others were not, but change came regardless of what people thought. Change will come to us as well whether we like change or not and even whether we want to deal with these changes.
Pastor Joel and I, of course, are in agreement of which direction we would like to see this congregation go, and you’ll be hearing more from us in the coming months and years about how we carry this out, what it might look like, and what it means. One of the biggest things that will change is how we do things around the church. So, for example, we will not often be able to have only one event scheduled at the church during key hours, but instead will have several events taking place at the same time. There are many advantages to this especially in being able to show our size and vitality, but there are also some disadvantages which are sure to leave some people upset.
We will also have to have much greater and more deliberate conversations and interactions between groups. We can no longer afford to be siloed in our activities. Church growth will need to be working with worship, membership needs to be working with stewardship, education needs to be working conflict management, social justice needs to be working with health ministries, and on and on. We all need to be in greater communication in order to make sure the parts are all working together effectively and efficiently. In other words we have to work on becoming greater than the sum of our parts.
All of these things will require us to think of things in new ways, to stretch beyond our comfort zones and work to live into a new vision. What the future holds for us is unknown, but let us never forget what God is calling us to, that the Spirit is moving amongst us and that with Christ all things are possible.
Grace and Blessings,