It is hard to imagine that 2022 is behind us. I’m not sad in that we had major inflation, turmoil in the markets, war in the Ukraine, Ethiopia, Yemen and other places, as well as continued cultural turmoil in Afghanistan, Iran, and frankly, the USA. My prayer for this year is peace and stability in the world community. I also am in prayer for our beloved UMC as she goes through her breakup.
Especially, I'm in prayer for NBUMC as 2023 unfolds. As 2022 began, we had a congregational meeting to assess where we as a congregation were, both in strengths and weaknesses. In this New Year, I want to take a few minutes of your time to let you know what our primary foci will be as we live in community. There are three things I am focused on as 2023 begins. One is no biggie, two are biggies. So here goes.
First, this is not the biggie: Ruth’s Pantry at Project Suppertime. Kasie, Myra, and Margaret are listed as the representatives to the Council on Ministries and do a fine job. I would like to see a seat created on the Administrative Board for the director of the ministry. The purpose is not to meddle, but to create a clear line of responsibility and accountability in that, by a factor of several, this ministry is the largest financial asset and expense in the congregation. This action should create more visibility for the ministry within the congregation. Secondarily, is there any way to leverage this constituency into the life of the congregation?
Next, I feel a need to expand our small group offering, creating a place for new persons to connect and build relationships. Our small group leader training was a success in 2022, but, we have allowed ourselves to shrink our small group offerings again. Our curricula is set through Easter, but, after Easter, I will be advocating for us to expand our offerings.
Finally, here is the biggie we need to confront if we are to grow and frankly, to survive. We need to relentlessly examine and hone our hospitality/welcome as a congregation. Yes, we are friendly and loving, as are most congregations who are plateaued or shrinking. But congregations in a growth mode are attuned to hospitality and welcome as primary ministries. In reviewing 2022, I discovered we have had a fair number of first time guests attend our Sunday morning worship. We have had an abysmal rate of return on our first-time guests. Folks, this is on us. So, we need to ask ourselves the great question found in Ezekiel 37.1-14. “Can these bones live?"
Toward this end, we will kick off a Hospitality/Welcome ministry on Saturday, February 11 at 10:00 a.m. Our curriculum will be “The Art of Hospitality,” by Yvonne Gentile and Debi Nixon. We will look honestly and deeply at how we invite, welcome, and adopt folks into the life of the congregation. We will prayerfully determine if we have the resources and the will to change and adapt to reach new people for Jesus Christ. We will “come to Jesus” regarding what our future holds for us, at least as far as is in our control. I ask each of you be in prayer as it pertains to this ministry.
This will be the hardest work we’ve done in about 40 years. It will push us way out of our comfort zones. We will have to confront and slay some sacred cows, some of which we know and some we haven’t yet discovered. I want you to know that however we end up is fine. Isaiah is pretty clear that the only thing lasting forever is the Word of the Lord (Isaiah 40.8). If we decide we are moving toward the end of our congregational life, so be it. But, if God is calling us to “bring back the land of NBUMC (Ez. 37.12),” then it’s time to get busy.
2023 will be what we make it. I’m proud, honored, and blessed to be part of this congregation. Who knows? Maybe the best is yet to come. Happy New Year.
See you Sunday,