2014 has been an exciting year for our church. We’ve had ten baptisms, somewhere between ten and twelve new families in attendance and we’ve seen some wonderful opportunities for service.
It’s also been a year for us to learn what it means to be a growing church. How do we retain these new families? How do we provide new avenues of service? How do we make people feel they are included in what we’re doing?
I’ve been praying and considering different options for 2015. I try to read a variety of ministry blogs and listen to a lot of different ministry podcasts. One that caught my attention was Ron Edmondson from Immanuel Baptist Church. Ron distilled the mission of Immanuel down to three simple words: Gather, Grow, Serve. I read these carefully and–after many attempts to change them enough that it wouldn’t feel like stealing–finally decided to just steal them. Well . . .with Ron’s blessing, I think. The vision behind these three words fits where God has taken our congregation and where I see us going in the future.
I love the simplicity of an idea like, “Gather, Grow, Serve.” I love how it can be applied to nearly everything we do as a church and yet give us focus to help us do things right. I love how anyone ought to be able to grasp and then pass on what these three words mean to them as individuals and us as a whole.
When I first came to Kansas thirteen years ago this church was beaten down. It had gone from a period of tremendous growth in the 80’s to a slump in the new millennium. They felt defeated. I came in with the desire to build them back up, not so much in numbers, but in their own spirit. I wanted the people in this church to know that they ARE valuable to God and to their community.
They still have a difficult time taking compliments. Tell them they have a beautiful building and they will thank you. Tell them they are a wonderful bunch of Christians and they will tell you how rotten they are–even if they aren’t. The negativity that infected this church has been difficult to get past.
And the truth is they are a wonderful bunch of people! Our visitors love how friendly they are, our community appreciates their involvement and good works. Missionaries around the world know the prayer and financial support of Kansas Christian Church. The hard part is getting them to recognize that too.
So, it didn’t surprise me when I got blank looks from the congregation when I told them how great 2014 had been. When I told them that, statistically speaking, they had the influence of a church of 600 the look I got seemed to say, “Are you sure you’re talking about us?”
On another level, though, we did take quite a beating in the past year. Several deaths and some health struggles really hit us hard. I’ve found it’s very easy for these people to get discouraged–especially the older ones.
I’ve had a few comments this week about my encouragement for them to leave the back rows open for visitors. I think it’s just something they never thought about before. I’m hoping to see some good progress on that one in the next few weeks.
I am genuinely excited about 2015. God has blessed us in some wonderful ways in 2014. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for us now.