By Ven. Graham Bland
In Stewardship ministry, it is not sustainable simply to develop good fund-raising ideas. You have to know what your mission is, what you want money for.
Well, we have to maintain our church building and pay our priest, right? Yes, but what do you want a building and a priest for? In other words, what is the Church for?
Our answers to that question may vary, but we need to find answers that satisfy our souls and that reach beyond simple maintenance towards mission, God’s mission in the world.
What I call the ‘stewardship of relationships’ is becoming more and more important in my understanding of what the Church is for, and what our mission is as the People of God.
Experiences of healthy community are increasingly rare in our society. Churches have a vital role in helping our fragmented world learn about community. The practice of community is part of a church’s purpose, because the Church exists to serve those who are not yet its members (William Temple). And a church cannot serve others if it is not strong in itself.
So ask yourself: How are we doing with building a strong and healthy servant community in our church?
Eighteen months ago in Owen Sound, we brought two congregations together. We have had our challenges, but there are wonderful signs of budding relationships here. There is always someone new for us to reach out to in friendship and love. Also, God keeps bringing seekers who add their gifts to help shape our new community in exciting new ways.
Every church community wants to be able to say, “All are welcome in this place!” and I’m sure we all strive to make the spirit of welcome a reality in our church.
To support our commitment to build good relationships and hospitable communities, here are a few concrete strategies that might strengthen our practice of community where we are:
FIRST, BUILD FOUNDATIONS…
If community-building feels new to you, try these things first:
– Think about how you want to be present at church, and what kind of church you want;
– Pray for God to help you discern your role in your community;
– Decide that you would like to help with community-building;
– Be Gentle with yourself and others if you find it challenging;
– Realize that this is not only or especially about new people… it’s to strengthen the ties we already have with one another … to build trust and friendship … to refrain from assumptions or judgments;
– Expect to meet someone new at church… be ready for it;
– Rejoice that you are not alone when you feel a bit nervous or shy about meeting people;
– Doubt that it’s the minister’s job to know everyone;
– Wear a name-tag; if you don’t have one, create one.
THEN, TAKE CONCRETE STEPS TO HELP BUILD COMMUNITY…
When you’re ready, try these things:
– Plan to be at church long enough on Sunday to meet someone;
– Greet someone, anyone;
– Avoid asking, “Are you new here?”;
– Admit to someone if you don’t know their name but would like to;
– Remember a person’s name when they tell you … If you forget their name, admit it and start again;
– Invite someone to coffee hour, or lunch;
– Look for the same person next week… and the week after that…;
– Phone someone;
– Visit someone;
– Attend church regularly so that you can keep building community;
– Accept that ‘your’ pew is actually not yours – after all, no-one else knows it is;
– Change seats from time to time.
Together, let us make our church a house where love dwells, where everyone feels welcome because we make it our practice always to welcome one another.
This kind of hospitality will prepare us to become a hospitable Church in mission beyond our walls. Then, we will know more clearly what in the world we are for. Then, we will give enthusiastically to make it stronger still.
Ven. Graham Bland is chair of the Diocesan Stewardship Committee.
(Featured photo: Jon Tyson)