In this presidential election year, some political nerds might remember The Big Mo. George H.W. Bush spoke of it in the 1980 election. He had it after the Iowa Caucuses that year.
Some of our congregations also experience The Big Mo. A colleague recently shared that his church has noticed several guests visiting from a neighboring congregation going through turbulent times. Subsequently, giving is up, there is increased energy, and people are excited to be a part of things.
When a spiritual community is clearly on a roll – reaching out in effective ministry, making an impact in their suburbs, regularly welcoming new members -momentum is up. I loved this as a parish pastor.
In the same way, when a congregation is in a downward spiral with low energy and low satisfaction, momentum slows to a halt. Congregations become stuck and floundering. I hated this feeling as a parish pastor.
How do we turn around a low energy church? Sometimes we can’t. The leaders are too tired and the resources are depleted. It’s a holy thing to close congregations whose momentum has slackened to a point of no return.
But it’s also possible to change a congregation’s momentum. It happens when:
- There is a core group of leaders (more than one or two) who have energy and skills willing to work alongside the pastor. Both the pastor and the leaders find themselves to be faithfully fearless and teachable.
- There is a strong capacity for ministry. Resources exist – from financial to human – to expand outreach into the needs of the community in the name of Jesus. Those in need are no longer invisible in the neighborhood and there is a spiritual craving to connect with them.
This is not about large endowments and “big givers.” Yes, money can fuel ministry. But money ≠ momentum. Sometimes it’s a bandage but the bandage won’t last forever. Underneath, growth and healing are required to shed dependence on the bandage.
Momentum Killers include:
- Long meetings with no purpose.
- Cranky leaders who shame and blame visionaries.
- Pastors who have given up but won’t leave/retire.
- An inability to articulate why (theologically) our church exists.
Momentum Builders include:
- Gatherings that feed souls.
- A clear connection to the needs of the community.
- Sacrificial giving of all resources.
- A clear vision that even a child can articulate.
My favorite mission statement: We exist to change the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ. This kind of audacious proclamation fuels all kinds of mo.
Image of Newton’s Cradle which demonstrates the transfer of momentum.