Sunday, February 05, 2012, 4:59 PM
Diane and I first began worshiping at a United Church of Christ congregation in 1982. We felt warmly welcomed from our first encounter. We participated fully in the life of the church as we were able and quickly came to cherish all aspects of church life.
Yet, from the beginning, we knew that we were part of something greater. In those days, "AD" magazine was the official publication of the United Church of Christ and the United Presbyterian Church. It was exciting to learn how our church was involved in ministries throughout the nation and all over the world.
In 1984, the pastor invited us to attend an event on vitality for small churches sponsored by the Conference. The event was held on a weekend at a church in a neighboring town. About 5 people from our church went.
It was our first direct experience of the church beyond the local church. There were some presentations and some small group discussions. It gave me a whole new perspective on what it meant to be part of the United Church of Christ. We learned that our church was not the only one that was experiencing difficulties over membership, money, and relevance. But we also learned about some new approaches that folks in other churches were trying. We came away with some new ideas for our church to try and with a deeper sense of connection to members of other churches in different places that were facing similar circumstances.
This happened long before I even sensed a call to ordained ministry. But as I recall this event nearly 30 years later, I am again reminded of how a connection with the wider church can help lay leaders be more effective in their ministries in the local church.
On Saturday, March 24, the Connecticut Conference is sponsoring "March in the Son: Equipping Church Leaders for a New Decade". This event will include workshops on all aspects of faith formation and church leadership. It is designed so that a group of leaders from each church can travel together, participate in different workshops, and then share what they have learned with one another as they seek to implement some new approaches and ideas in the life of their church.
Registration information is available at:
While the training will be practical, there are additional benefits to attending this kind of event. Local church leaders need to know they are not alone. Your church's treasurer is not the only one facing the challenge of having to stretch precious dollars. Your Christian Education and youth leaders are not the only ones struggling with how to keep children and families engaged in an increasingly de-churched culture. Your trustees are not the only ones dealing with deferred maintenance for a building that seems to have turned into a "money pit". Yours is not the only sanctuary with more empty seats than ones that are filled on Sunday morning. You are not the only church that is both terrified and encouraged by the new social media whose influence is growing every day.
I strongly urge you to encourage the leaders of your church to participate in this event, and to attend yourself if you are able. The Connecticut Conference is committed to training and equipping church leaders for the work of ministry in challenging times. This is one of the ways we are trying to do this.
I hope to see you there.