There are many books about how to be a good leader. There are many strategies on church growth. There are many conferences for conference types to share conferencey ideas. I haven’t yet seen a book, strategy or conference called “how to not really have a plan”. Funny that. Though most of us work that way.
a building, not a church
Do I? Well, I do have a plan, it’s just it… changes. Or maybe it’s not so much a plan as an idea, or a vision, or a hope. I know roughly where I am going but I haven’t planned how to get there. That doesn’t make for a very good book.
Let’s begin 2 1/2 years ago, when we first felt the call to come here. On paper it didn’t look our kind of thing. A small church with roughly 14 older ladies, one child, fortnightly robed HC services, no musicians, no kids work, living under the shadow of threatened closure. So many people said to me, what is your plan?
My response was always: I have no idea. How can I know until I am there? Except to love. We will go, and we will love. But you must have some idea, people said. Nope. Except that I feel that God has called us here, and that we will not achieve anything unless we love. And we could not achieve anything without the foundation of 80 years that has gone before us, and specifically the prayer that led to the parish and the then Bishop supporting a new appointment in an apparently dead-end outpost of a cash-strapped and difficult parish. That was brave.
"...and this is how not to have a plan..."
Here we are 2 years later, with an average of 25 -30 adults and 10-15 children on a Sunday, which has blown us away. And brought its own problems! 2 adults to 1 child is a pretty tricky ratio, and not a problem we foresaw! But what a problem to have. Especially as the 14 ladies are still on board.
And those of you who have followed our story on this blog will know about the detached youth work we found ourselves doing, which began as chasing people off the roof and grew into our trampoline ministry, and supporting families and helping young people into college; and this week we take on a new risk as our youth work student begins for the year, with the plan to build on the detached youth work. Apparently not many churches take on youth workers specifically to do detached work – maybe we are about to find out why.
I wanted to tell you about it, because it is exciting. I wanted to tell you about it because I haven’t seen this sort of change happening before. I know it does, I have read about it, but always with a cynical and jealous tone. Ministry is not a competition, but I have yearned for stories to tell. And here we have them. It is a fragile ministry, as I have written before. My boss is going on maternity leave as the youth worker begins, upping my workload considerably; 2 people leaving or falling ill could cause everything to crumble; we have gained a son in the last year which has changed our availability and energy levels; the parish has no money for new projects; people growing in faith is so hard to quantify and it’s a tough place to grow faith… endless is the list of things that could change everything.
houses or community?
But on Sunday I thought to myself, if I had had a plan, this would have been it. This is where I wanted us to get to, but I could not see how. I could pretend I did have a plan, and that it worked. Then I could write a manual. But there was no plan, only a dream, a hope, a future unseen.And love.
Thomas asked, if we don’t know where you are going, how then can we know the way? That is the beauty of following the Way.
And these 3 remain: faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love.