Yesterday was a wonderful day at the Lebanon Road Church of Christ. We love this congregation, and our elders gave us yet another reason to say that about this place. They gave us a “future vision” of our congregation, a look at where we want to be down the road.
For some time–over the course of many years–the average attendance at Lebanon Road has declined. While no decline is preferable, there is a positive side to this in that there has not been a split or major division that has led to this decline. Over time, for various reasons, our attendance has simply slipped.
Many elderships see this type of situation and ask the obvious questions: “Why is this happening?” “What can we do?” “Is this the way it’s always going to be?”
Some resort to doing nothing but asking questions and never get around to trying any sort of solution. We talk the problem to death, but never really seek solutions to move forward. Eventually, programs and mission works are cut, the staff is reduced or moved to part-time pay, or other measures are basically conceded to the overwhelming downward momentum.
For some time, though, our elders have been working on a plan to lead us forward, and yesterday it was officially unveiled. Currently, Lebanon Road has three ministers: myself (pulpit), Harry Middleton (outreach), and JD Buckner (youth). Instead of doing what most places would do and letting someone go for budget reasons, our elders announced that we would be adding a fourth minister to our team!
The new position is called “Minister of Growth and Education,” and the major focus in on–as one of our elders put it–helping the congregation maintain a “laser focus” on personal evangelism and congregational growth. The elders, obviously, will continue to shepherd and oversee the work here, but this person will be a type of “point man” to help us make and maintain disciples who then make other disciples.
As if that news is not exciting enough, our own youth minister, JD Buckner, is going to assume this new position. He certainly has the desire to work in this capacity, and our congregation loves both JD and his family. His familiarity with our congregation and the local community will be a tremendous asset as we seek to grow. Also, when we hire a new youth minister, JD has agreed to devote significant time early on to helping mentor the new man and help him get settled in with our family here at Lebanon Road.
I’m sharing this with you because (1) I’m thrilled about it, but also (2) to provide encouragement to congregational leaders. This is truly a step in faith, and I firmly believe our elders are setting a standard here that deserves our praise and thanks. They are not cowering in the midst of declining attendance. They are not letting the outside world’s negative news cause them to think that the Lord’s Church in this place is dead (or even dying). After countless hours of prayer, thought, and planning, they are stepping out in faith and helping us as a congregation to do the same.
It is now up to us to put forth our best effort and humbly ask God to bless us, as we have been doing all through the planning of this process. So, whether the congregation where you attend is growing, declining, or just “maintaining,” I hope this provides you encouragement. At least one congregation is looking down the road and trying what we can to help the Lord’s Church grow.
Photo credit: Jeremy Bronson on Creative Commons
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