Monday, July 08, 2013

Disappointment (and possibly failure) in ministry

It has been a hard summer in my pastorate here at United Churches.

Things started great enough. We had a great VBS led by capable leaders. The problem is, since the week of VBS, both old folks and younger families have not been nearly as regular in worship. Thus, attendance has taken a quick downturn.

I have wracked my brain on why this has happened. Is it the result of people's personal response to my ministry. Perhaps for some. There were a few challenging confrontations in the spring that people are still dealing with. Some of those we will get over. A few may abandon ship at the church temporarily or permanently. However, this is a small percentage of the overall attendance downturn we are experiencing this summer.

Another possible contributor is switching worship times for the third time in around 18 months. Right before I came here, we had two services. Then we had one at 9am. After that, by a narrow vote, we switched to 10am for services so that we could have Sunday School precede worship. As a compromise for those who wanted 9am services, we decided to have a "summer schedule" that ran worship at 9am again from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

There are a number of other concerns. An aging congregation. Younger folks that play a lot during the summer. Blah! Blah! Blah!

None of this was a concern last year when attendance was up for the summer. Of course, that was the "check out the new pastor" summer. But still.

So, I have been thinking. And I made a list I have noticed that there are a lot of people who are simply less regular this summer. I get that. There are folks struggling with illness. I understand that as well. But what does this say to our church and myself as its pastoral leader?

Part of me thinks this is a great opportunity to identify a problem (church attendance) and push forward toward some plans that have the possibility of growing our church. Also, I wonder if this situation challenges me to set different priorities for my ministry and what I am focused upon.

So, I am going to go to the board at church tomorrow, share the problems transparently, and seek their wisdom and insight as the church leaders on how we best address these attendance issues.

I enjoy this town. I enjoy our congregation. I want to be here a long time. At the same time, if it is my leadership that is not meshing with the church....they may want to make changes. We will see. As for now, I am disappointed in myself and this situation, and am doing a lot of soul searching and prayer about how to fix it.

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