This week I have the privilege of attending a seminar called, “Ministry to and with Millennials.” This seminar is hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship based out of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. Today was the first day, and so I thought I’d share some of my learning, especially as they relate to the church. The question we asked and discussed was: Who are the Millennials? … They are the students born between 1980 and 2000. They are a technological generation. They are motivated by what they perceive as “good.” Some believe that they are leaving the church in droves, but today we learned that the Millennials who were raised in the church usually remain in the church, although they may drop out for a bit during the college years. Therefore, as leaders in the church we were encouraged to reach out to them – those in the church and those outside the church. We were also encouraged to mentor them, as Millennials, having grown up in an “instant society,” with the Internet at the fingertips, can sometimes be impatient when it comes to spiritual growth or change in the church. In terms of work, Millennials prefer a flexible environment and the promise of advancement. They tend to blur the lines of work and life, which can be good in terms of integrating life and work, but a potential hindrance in terms of taking regular Sabbath. Finally, we learned that Millennials are cause-driven and action based. Accordingly, they are big on social justice and they prefer an embodied (lived out) faith… This is a summary of what I learned today about ministry to and with Millennials… What do you think? Would you add anything?
Last week I had the privilege of meeting with my “company of pastors” (a number of Christian Reformed pastors in this area). As usual, it was good to talk about what is going on in our lives over a pizza meal. We also read an article in preparation for our meetings. This time it was one on singleness in the church. Through this article we explored various perspectives on singleness, which led to a discussion on how to enfold single people in the church more effectively. I was left with one major application: extend hospitality. Not just to singles, but to all people. I wonder how we can grow in our ministry of hospitality as a church but also as a people. We claim to be a hospitable church. But what does that hospitality look like, and how can we increase it? And what exactly is hospitality? I’m currently reading a book by Henri Nouwen called, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Doubleday, 1975). According to Nouwen, the second movement of the spiritual life is from hostility to hospitality. As he explores this movement, he does a good job defining hospitality: “Hospitality . . . means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them a space where change can take place.” (p. 71) I like this definition of hospitality. Perhaps it is a helpful measure for us as we reflect on our lives. Are we hospitable? Do we seek to extend hospitality to others (including singles)? And what does that hospitality look like? . . . May our hospitable God empower us to extend hospitality to each other, to this community, and to the world. For Jesus’s sake.
I’m a grateful pastor. First of all, I’m thankful that I’ve been a pastor of the same church for almost five years. This December we will celebrate our fifth anniversary in our current church. It’s been proven that, generally speaking, longer pastoral stays lead to healthier churches, so I’m thankful that we’re moving into the next stage of our pastor-church relationship. I’m also thankful that we’re currently focusing on Neighbourhood Life. Fewer people are coming to us to hear the gospel, so we need to go to them and meet them where they’re at. So, I think this is a step in the right direction. I’m also thankful for the many mentors that help me grow spiritually, including my spiritual director, my spiritual companion (a fellow pastor), my small group (my local ministerial association), and the various authors I read. All of these mentors help me grow spiritually and make me a better pastor. So as you can see, this pastor feels very blessed. How about you? What are you thankful for?
Last week I talked about the Body of Christ. This is Paul’s brilliant metaphor to describe the church of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12). Just as a human body is made up of many parts, which work together for healthy functioning, so is each member of the church a part of the body of Christ. All parts are needed for good health! Another name for the church is the Family of God. I also like this image, as God himself—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is a sort of divine family. So too are we a holy family. Sometimes we think of the church as a business, and we run it that way. But actually, in reality it’s more of a family. This is especially true for a small, strong congregation like our own. Every church is made up of individuals that make up a church family. Some are related by blood and others are not. But no matter: we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, since every church is a family, and since we all belong to a biological family, today we want to focus on family. The Pastoral Team of this church recognizes that every church family and biological family struggles. So we invited a trained pastor and counselor to come and encourage us. Thank you for welcoming him and receiving his word from the Lord regarding the family.
Last week the Leadership Team of Wolf Creek Community Church hosted a “Volunteer Appreciation Night.” What a wonderful evening! We ate a delicious steak dinner courtesy of our Hospitality Team. We connected as workers and leaders. And we also had a debriefing conversation, as we reflected on another blessed year of ministry. Things slow down here in the summer. Programs pause. People take a bit of Sabbath. So June is the natural end of our ministry year. So, it was good to thank the Lord for all he has done in and through us, and also to reflect on some of the challenges of ministry. I really appreciated that conversation. It was good to hear how the Lord had grown people spiritually through leadership. It was instructive to hear about some of the challenges we face: frustration, fatigue or feeling alone in ministry. The foundation for this conversation was 1 Corinthians 12, where St. Paul writes, “Now you are part of the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” I love Paul’s angle. Each person in a local church is important. Each gift is needed. Each volunteer valuable. So, I’d like to thank you all for using your spiritual gift(s) to bless this church. Thank you for being a part of the body of Christ!