Monday, July 4, 2016

Year in Review {2016 edition}

Celebrating the New Year in July? Nah. But since United Methodist appointments begin and end in July, now is as good time as any to take stock of the church since this time last year. 

I presented these pictures during children's time yesterday. I asked the kids if they could see themselves and their families in the pictures. A few remembered having cake at the church's birthday celebration a few months ago, others smiled at the picture of last year's VBS, and everyone pitched in to list off the babies we baptized this year. 
It's good to remember. 

This lesson was as much for the adults, though. I'd wager that many didn't know all of the good things that we do week in and week out, both inside our church walls and out in our community. And that's a problem. 

I just finished Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom Rainer in my adult Sunday school class. If you have any leadership role in your church or wonder about the long-term health of your faith community, this book is a must-read. 

Rauner's book has made me look at this year's accomplishments through a different lense: are these 9 little squares contributing to the long-term health of the church? Are we serving others or just ourselves? Are we making disciples? Are we loving God and neighbor in a visible and transformative way?

Healthy churches have a missional focus. They're not stuck thinking their best days are behind them. They're not bickering over how they've always done things instead of finding new solutions to emerging problems. They don't have time--they're too busy serving others. 

For the record, I think Grace UMC is somewhere in the middle of the overall church health spectrum. There are areas in which we excel and areas that need transformation. We have much to celebrate! But we also have areas we could strengthen. 

As we enter our third year in Neoga and add a third church to our charge, I'm offering this prayer for my churches (and yours, too):
Father and mother God,
Open my eyes to the needs of others, so that I can learn how to serve. 
Give this church a heart for our community. Let us see it through your eyes. 
Help us to raise up our kids to know that church is about service and transformation and love, not just a place to sit on Sunday. 
Help us to show others this love, as you first loved us.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen. 

If you made a collage of your year so far, what would you include? What would you leave out? What work is still in progress?

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