People from around the Presbytery have begun to ask me when it might be safe to once again have face-to-face worship and open up their church buildings for congregational activities. My response is….
- I strongly suggest that you pay closed attention to the recommendations of Governor Wolf and the CDC, and
- the decision is ultimately up to your Sessions.
That said, I encourage Sessions to carefully think through all the implications of inviting their congregations back into their buildings. There is much more to consider than you might imagine!
To help your church leaders make healthy, pastoral decisions, below are links to two documents. One is an extensive set of questions developed by colleagues from presbyteries around the country–important questions pertaining to Worship, Christian Education, Fellowship & Pastoral Care, and Property & Administration.
The second document is a model for returning to church in three phases, developed by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. Each phase is based on the WI governor’s plan to gradually open up the state based on key benchmarks related to COVID-19 case counts, testing availability, etc. While the criteria in Pennsylvania will, of course, be somewhat different, this is another good resource for Sessions to use as a decision-making guide.
Finally, please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about going back to your buildings. I would be happy to be part of one of your upcoming Session meetings via Zoom or phone. Meanwhile, I am grateful for all the ways you are worshiping virtually and serving your communities, and I am praying that you and your church families stay safe and well.
Transitional Presbytery Leader
Those of you who attended the January Presbytery assembly heard a presentation by Tod Bolsinger about the concept of adaptive change for the church from his book, Canoeing the Mountains. When asked if ever imagined that this book would be so popular, Tod said “No, I was totally surprised, but it really seems to have struck a nerve in churches across many denominations.
Indeed, the theory behind Canoeing the Mountains, that the church must learn new ways to engage in ministry because the old ways no longer work, has also struck a nerve here in Lehigh Presbytery. We’ve heard excitement and energy around learning more about adaptive change and beginning to innovate and experiment in the hope that our congregations’ DNA will begin to shift in a positive way.
You can view the Zoom recording of the January 24, 2020 Presbytery Assembly with the presentation by Tod Bolsinger, along with his PowerPoint Presentation and additional free online training resources by clicking the links below.
A Word from our Transitional Presbytery Leader
How many of your church’s participants these days are farmers? I ask because, for the most part, the time we worship on Sunday morning was established in an agriculture-based culture. Farmers and their families could do their morning chores and still make it to church by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. That culture began to decline with the start of the American industrial age in the mid-19th century. The church, on the other hand, has never changed.
Consider how dramatically the workplace has shifted in the last 150 or so years. According to 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more than a third of U.S. laborers work on weekends, many of them on Sunday, and a small but steadily growing number of American workers have more than one job. This doesn’t even count the people who travel or are involved in sports on the weekends. Yet few Presbyterian churches offer a non-Sunday worship alternative, effectively missing out on at least one in every three people in the workforce. Read HERE about an Episcopal Church in Philadelphia that offers mid-day services Monday-Thursday as part of a neighborhood outreach program and is closed on Sunday mornings.
This is just one example of how our churches must consider the way we’ve always done things and ask how we might adjust to fit the reality of the 21st century. People have many reasons why they’re not coming on Sunday mornings, and very few of them are related to a lack of faith. What if your congregation took a risk and experimented with an alternative to Sunday morning worship (in addition to, not instead of) for six months? And if that didn’t work out, what if you tried something else? Or, you can keep waiting for the farmers.
We also need to assess what we’re doing on the presbytery level. 2019 is very different from 1871, the year Lehigh Presbytery was formed. How can we best put our energy toward building what will be, instead of trying to revive what was? What can we do to make our mission and assemblies more relevant to the needs of our congregations and communities in the 21st century?
We’ll be engaging in conversations about these questions and others in the coming months and trying some new things. Please share your ideas!
Grace & Peace,
How do you invite your congregation to support God’s mission in the world?
Do you send a stewardship letter every fall, asking people to pledge? Often these letters focus on supporting the operating budget and issues such as repaving the driveway or replacing the copier. Sometimes there is even a veiled threat to cut current mission activities, unless enough pledges are received. Is this inviting?
Do you offer a minute for mission during Sunday worship? Often these messages resemble demands to fulfill church obligations. “It’s our turn to serve at the soup kitchen and I need six volunteers.” Or “The mission committee distributed 12 Christmas baskets last month.” Is this an invitation or a committee report?
A better way to invite people of faith to support and engage in God’s mission is through stories about how their stewardship is making a difference in the world and in the lives of people. They don’t care much about the driveway or the copier, which are tools for the church’s mission. What people really care about is where the church is working to help transform lives; where their gifts are supporting God’s work in the world. What difference did the Christmas baskets make to those 12 families?
The best stewardship letters and minutes for mission engage the congregation by sharing stories that tie their stewardship directly to your church’s mission. “Because of your generosity, we are able to….” A well-communicated story can make all the difference.
Please call or email if I can be helpful in developing your mission and/or stewardship efforts. I’m here to help!
Grace and peace,
Rev. Rhonda Kruse
Transitional Presbytery Leader