The Next 18 Months

The next 18 months of being The Church could be the most fun we have ever had in ministry. Or not.

I remember talking years ago with a colleague in the first year of a new call and when asked how things were going, he exuberantly said, “I’m having so much fun!”

There are parts of professional ministry that aren’t fun. Filling out forms. Meeting with bullies. Sitting through poorly prepared meetings. Serving people who have zero interest in discipleship. Realizing your congregation is more of a social club than a faith community.

These are the fun parts: Watching the Holy Spirit move a congregation from stuck to unstuck. Meeting the person God has sent you to help with ___. Teaching Bible studies among people hungry for God’s Word. Preaching a sermon God has inspired you to preach. Sitting with siblings in Christ during their holiest moments.

If you are not having fun in ministry, ask yourself “Why?” And what needs to change?

Note: Jesus didn’t die “for fun.” Don’t get me wrong.

Our role as The Church is to be with people in their pain and confusion. And yet nothing is more exhilarating than watching God work.

This is a bone dry time for many people. Exhausted. Frustrated. Anxious about the future viability of our congregations. But the next 18 months will tell us all we need to move forward in this ministry.

  • People will trickle back, and many who are “coming back” will not return immediately. They’ve loved Sunday mornings in their pjs and it might take a while to realize how satisfying it feels to be with everyone in the same space.
  • God will use what we learned during the worst of the pandemic. At the extremes we learned – on the one hand – that we have no energy to be a 21st Century Church or – on the other hand – that we are surprisingly good at pivoting.
  • Churches without the capacity to serve people their community well will close. The tiny churches will close faster.
  • Lots of 60-something pastors will retire. They had planned to retire at 70 or 72 but COVID wrecked them. Or “it’s just not fun anymore.” Retirement is a good thing.
  • Lots of pastors will be re-energized (including some in their 60s) because God has shown us what’s important in 21st Century Church. Clue: it’s not the pew cushions.
  • The spiritual lives of many deepened during COVID. One pastor shared with me that their deacons met every Friday via Zoom during COVID to pray. And now those deacons have little tongues of fire floating above their heads.
  • Summer is a good time to let go of some things. Yes, there might be Vacation Bible School or Youth Trips. But you can cancel all those July meetings. Yes. Meetings can be cancelled.

This is a good time to assess personally what’s giving us life and what’s sucking the life out of us. And then do that with your Church Leaders. What is energizing our congregation right now? And what do we have zero energy for?

Where do you want to be in 18 months? If God keeps telling you that you want to be living near the grandchildren, listen to that. If God is saying “There are people in this community who need you” listen to that. If God is saying “My people are really tired and we can get rid of those soul-sucking activities and still do ____ and ____,” listen closely.

Deep breath.

Image from the 24/7 Prayer Room in Charlotte, opening at Amity Presbyterian Church in July 2021

2 responses to “The Next 18 Months

  1. Yes, meetings can be cancelled. No deacons’ meetings for two months because we will be meeting around the tables for coffee fellowship with our fellow believers.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Looking Back & Moving Forward – United Presbyterian Church

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