This church, founded in 1824, but recently in decline, has a significant amount of savings. It's not a huge amount, but it's six figures, which I think is pretty good based on the size of the church and its recent history. Some of this money is reserved to maintain the cemetery in perpetuity, but they are ready to spend almost all the rest on ministry. If you're not familiar with the politics of church, that is HUGE. In my experience, most congregations cling to their savings with clenched fists, letting small bits of it go to replace the roof or pave the parking lot. Then they have a fundraising drive to replace the spent funds. It gets called "stewardship," but in reality, it's often "hoarding." Truthfully, it is often "distrusting God."
So what's about to happen? Well, I don't know exactly what God's going to do, but I feel like it's going to be amazing. Here's what God's people are planning to do:
- Hire a part time musician. We have not been able to have consistent music in worship at either church, but the two churches in the charge are willing to spend some money to make that happen.
- Put on a festival on Saturday with hot dogs and BBQ chicken and a bounce house. Money raised will be given to the "fuel up" program for local schools, which provides weekend food for children on reduced/free lunch. Local neighbors have been invited, with invitations to over 200 hand delivered along with pound cakes.
- Host a community Thanksgiving service Sunday evening, inviting other local churches.
- Spend over $18k on an awesome playground at the church for the community.
- Start a summer literacy program to fill in the gaps for at-risk kids in the community.
- There are dreams to create a day-retreat center at this church in the woods, with a prayer walk and a labyrinth.
- At least one adult member is going to be baptized soon, and at least two young families (with ties to present church families) are officially joining.
I'm sure there's more that I've left out. It's exciting to see the spirit bubbling up - dry bones coming to life. I am blown away by the attitude of the folks here. Much has been learned in the discernment process, I think, and it continues to bear fruit. I feel like we've all taken to heart the idea that to gain life, you must be willing to lose it. We have to be willing to take risks and trust God. That doesn't mean being foolish, reckless, or out-of-touch with reality. It does mean not to let worry about self-preservation choke off our calling to minister to our neighbors. No matter what happens, these folks want to be faithful to that call, and I think it makes God happy. I know it makes me happy and hopeful.
So please pray for this little church and its neighbors, if that's the kind of thing you do.