What's Going Well?
I sat down a couple weeks ago with our district superintendent, Rev. Kiboko Kiboko, for my annual professional interview. We prayed together. We talked about Salem and my ministry and my family. He asked a wonderful question: “What’s going well?”
I thought of so many things. Salem is a great congregation with wonderful people. We continue to reach out and receive many new people. Worship gatherings are passionate, lively, and engaging. We are tweaking our discipleship pathway and working on engaging people in discipleship and service. We created a MAP (ministry action plan) for the congregation.
We have built a wonderful, new facility and are working on paying the debt (about $1 million). We're in the midst of our second capital campaign. Giving continues to increase and we are getting closer to paying 100% of our general church apportionments again, supporting the ministry and mission of The United Methodist Church around the world (we've been working on this since recovering from the 2008 flood).
I told our district superintendent about several ministry areas that are doing new and excellent things. For instance, Care (led by Deb Black), Communication (led by Julie Lefebure), Finance (led by Linda Curson), and Outreach (led by Debbie Klatt the entire Outreach Team) are all doing a fantastic job. Many others are too!
We need this kind of excellent leadership in the areas of worship, discipleship, and service. The Leadership Board and I are currently working on reorganizing our director-level staff positions and creating and implementing new positions to help lead Salem in these very areas. This is probably the most important thing I'm working on now.
For a congregation our size to grow and be fruitful, the pastor has to get out of the way. That is, the pastor can’t do too much or be directly in charge of too many things, or the church can only grow as much as the pastor can get his or her arms around. Responsibility has to be shared with others so they can use their gifts, creativity, and leadership. Equipping and releasing more leaders allows the congregation to multiply, be healthy, and grow.
I am in my tenth year of ministry at Salem, and Salem is uniquely situated to grow and thrive. Two new studies agree that years 10-15 are the most fruitful for a pastor in a church. Everything we have accomplished since the flood has now placed Salem in a position where we could be very fruitful over the next five years in growth, community outreach, discipleship, and service.
Of course, I can’t guarantee that I won’t be asked to move, but things are good at Salem. We’re working on reorganizing our Staff and getting the right people into leadership roles to help us move forward in our mission of making disciples of Jesus who make a difference in the world.
There is one other issue we need to work on. It’s big. While Salem has always been a warm and welcoming congregation, making new people feel right at home, we need to intentionally reach younger generations and more diverse people. While we could have an important conversation about how the younger generations have disappeared from the church and what we need to do, mostly we just need to look at our cultural context.
We are located in Cedar Rapids where the median age is 36. That’s the middle point of the age range. Half the people are older and half are younger. Furthermore, the people of Cedar Rapids are 85% White, 6% Black, 4% Latino, 2% Asian, and then smaller percentages of other ethnicities.
This is are city, our metropolitan area. Do we represent our city? Are we that young? Does Salem include 30-50 people, based on attendance and membership, who represent races and ethnicities other than White?
In truth, we are blessed to have some younger people and some diversity, but our context is even more diverse. The New Testament book, Revelation, describes the kingdom of God as “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9).
Our first step is to engage the community and be in relationship with the people around us. I have a friend who is a pastor who engages his community with a "Beverages and Bibles" outreach in a pub and in a coffee house. Some kind of community engagement like this should be the most important thing on which we’re working. After all, next year, I’ll be asked, “What’s going well?”