Of course, when people talk about growing the church they mean, to put in crudely, butts in the pews. Church members and clergy all want to find some magic formula to make people enter the doors of the church and fill the pews again (not to mention, the church coffers).
But over the course of my time at First Christian, I've noticed that another growth is taking place. It's not as visually impressive as getting more butts in the pews, but I tend to think it's more important: the growth among church members.
I've seen more interest in Christian Education and Mission. I've seen a willingness to try new things. I've heard new music that has filled the congregation with energy.
As Bob the Senior Pastor has said, "it's starting to feel like church."
I think that the inward growth of a congregation, it's willingness to listen to God's Spirit is essential in allowing a church to grow numerically. I mean, who wants to go to a church where nothing's happening?
Maybe the coolest sign of growth is seeing acolytes being used again in worship. From what I've gathered, the church hasn't had kids coming up and bringing in the light of Christ in a long time.
Deb, the Spiritual Formation Director tells this story best. This is what she wrote for our church newsletter:
Those of you who have been able to be at worship this fall have surely noticed an addition to our service - acolytes! Now if these acolytes seem a little younger and a little smaller than you remember them being previously, it is because, well, they are. It has been quite a while since we have had acolytes, but the Art of the Covenant kids have very enthusiastically agreed to help us re-ignite this part of our worship service. This is something that holds meaning for them and that they look forward to.
Since none of the Covenant kids had ever seen what acolytes do (yes, it has been that long since we have had acolytes), I have been walking with them to make sure that all goes well. For example, we found out on the first Sunday that the candles that are normally on the communion table are too tall, so we have been using a Trinity Candle on a lower stand while the Worship Committee looks for other options to use as well. We want this to be an empowering experience for them.
Having the Covenant kids participate in the liturgy of the worship service has given me the opportunity to talk about worship, the Light of Christ, and the Trinity in class. Ask Fletcher some time what the three wicks in the current candle stand for - he can tell you. And I’m willing to bet that Mason can get two out of three.
Assisting these children to carry Christ’s light has been a truly awesome privilege. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the congregation at the start of worship as we return to the narthex has also been a privilege. Starting worship with the Light of Christ and joy on our faces is truly remarkable. May we all carry Christ’s Light as enthusiastically as the Covenant kids do.
It truly is a wonder to see these little ones carrying the Light in and taking it out into the world.
Don't tell me this church ain't growing.