Some of you may have the impression that I am an eternal optimist, that I can always spot the glorious in the tiniest of things, that I am always upbeat and a glass half full person all of the time.
OK, I’ll admit it. I’m not always! Phew, that wasn’t too bad. The secret’s out –in real life I get despondent too! A lot of rural ministry is like walking through treacle and you need the patience of a saint to see any fruit and a determination not to get stuck doing stuff in the same way that it has always been done since time immemorial. I think it is a good idea to keep reviewing what you are doing to see if it is still meeting the need and purpose for which it was originally conceived. For example, it seems to me that you blink and all the toddlers you had in church yesterday have miraculously grown into teenagers and don’t want to sing, ‘Our god is a great big God’ anymore!
Five years ago, in an act of desperation the ‘Boss’ started an alternative monthly service in one of our village halls. Over the years it has evolved and grown. Mostly it is cafe-style and always with something to do and make, a bit like messy church. There have been times when it has been exciting (three adult baptisms is very exciting) and times when it met the needs of a number of families who don’t feel welcomed at the parish church. However, in the last few months it has been a bit in the doldrums, families move on, children turn into teenagers and needs change. Last November we had the smallest numbers ever. 9 is enough to make a church and we had a good time worshipping and growing together but it clearly wasn’t reaching the folks it originally intended to reach.
Time for a review I thought. We’ll work with the people we’ve got rather than those we long to have. I’ve learnt that leaflets don’t attract folks, only personal invitations work. I long for the day when our folk will have the confidence to say, ‘Come and see’ to their friends. So, I sent letters round to past regulars saying that we were going to review what we do as part of the service this Sunday. I didn’t expect it to provoke a response and am ashamed to say that I didn’t think we would get that many. And shame on me, I didn’t prepare stuff whole heartedly. Those who expect little, deserve little!
That’s when the bargaining with God started. Send me 15 people God and I’ll keep this going. Any less and it’s time to move on to something new and energising.
Hmmmm. (Let’s just say that I had to get out some more tables) Never start bargaining with God, Sarah. You know that he will always surprise you. And you know it’s not a numbers game anyway.
What a fab time we had together, worshipping, all ages together, recalling why we love doing this and what has been great and what we could do differently. By the end of the afternoon I had a group wanting to take ownership of what we do and wanting to plan the services in the future.
Bring it on God! Keep reminding me why I love this job.