One of the major concerns that church leaders face today is how to minister to young adults and their families in meaningful ways that also encourage their regular involvement in the local congregation. From time to time I will ask church leaders who have successful programs in these areas to share them with the rest of us. The Rev. Carrie Mitchell begins the series.
— Earl S. Johnson Jr.
It seems as if every congregation is asking a variation on the same question these days: How do we attract, train, enthuse and send into other ministries today’s modern families who have more choices pulling them away from church?
Build on your strengths and embrace your church’s personality. Each congregation has them. Perhaps some things our session developed in Pittsford will help others think through their own potential.
Worship is a central focus that brings together multiple generations of our theologically diverse, 930-member suburban congregation to do “the work of the people.”
Our 203-year-old congregation has many multiple-generation families who invite their friends to various ministry events.
In 2012 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Logos. thelogosministry.org This weekly intergenerational gathering during the school months has built a tightly knit community fostering biblical awareness, character, compassion and utter hilarity. The semiannual ‘Bring a Buddy’ nights attract new families to our church.
Baptism blankets are made by one of our Presbyterian Women’s circles and presented during the worship service. Older children tell us how special they feel, wrapped in the love of the church, and the women enjoy seeing their gifts affirmed.
We are blessed with devoted trustees who lovingly care for a great physical plant.
Sixty years ago, church families created a cooperative nursery school for 3- and 4-year-olds. Today, it has grown and offers
classes for 2-year olds and kindergartners (pittsfordnurseryschool.com). Children’s choirs assist in leading worship several times a year including Lent and Advent.
Our two-year confirmation program pairs mentors in the second year with our young people and fosters community with mission events and ecumenical worship experiences. Simultaneously, we offer a class for the parents of eighth-graders to equip them for the faith conversations their children will be having.
Stephen Ministers stephenministry.org point people to the ultimate cure-giver, and deacons keep our congregation connected with marvelous pastoral care and fellowship opportunities.
Encourage those who come forward with good ideas. Permissive leadership accomplishes wonders! Congregant-inspired ministries we have recently pursued include:
» “We’ve got your backpack,” which sends nutritious nonperishables for a weekend’s worth of food home with inner-city school children. The backpacks are returned Monday and filled by us to give to the students on Friday.
» Monthly Fellowship, which rotates among individual homes and provides child care for those who need an opportunity to engage in adult conversation.
Try everything and don’t get discouraged when one project doesn’t attract the hundreds of followers you desired. Although some ministries (e.g. monthly contemporary worship, mothers’ groups, parenting classes) may not have survived for one reason or another, members who created them felt purposeful for a time and encouraged to try other ministries.
Regular officer retreats are a prime time for updating the mission statement, discussing challenges, brainstorming new ministries and exploring new tools like websites and cloud computing to help keep communications transparent, accountable and open to all interested.
CARRIE MITCHELL is the associate pastor at First Church, Pittsford, N.Y.