I suppose this is true across all professions when retirement looms and perspective on what is necessary changes, but I admit it for myself here: for the first time since I’ve been a solo/senior pastor, I am not terribly concerned with Charge Conference reports.
Our Charge Conference is next Tuesday. Now, the church administrator and I sat down several weeks ago and walked through who needed to do what. He had responsibility for all reports that don’t have to be generated by me. I presume they will all be done on time. But I’m not hovering or checking this year.
And then we have the pastors’s reports, normally for me begun at least a month in advance. Those membership issues and leadership issues, the audit of the church rolls, the way we are fulfilling the mandate by the Discipline, the things we shall celebrate, my continuing education summary and mostly, my “State of the Church Report.” Yes, ordinarily a month in advance. I looked at them for the first time Thursday.
The database is working well and up-to-date, so getting the membership/transfer/baptism/death/etc. numbers and names was easy. Deciding who to put on the “lost” list, i.e., to be removed, had been done last summer after a couple of mailings had confirmed that we simply can’t reach several people any more nor had anyone seen them in a long time.
I decided not to bother with the Continuing Ed report. After all, what are they going to do? Fire me?
Because of an excellent Lay Leadership/Nominations ministry, we are very much set with simply spectacular leadership for the next year.
But the State of the Church narrative loomed like the giant moon on the horizon–and it got stuck there. Never getting smaller, never disappearing, not something to delegate. This one has to be done well. This gives the blueprints for the future.
According to the demographic info on MissionInsite, which is a great resource by the way, the population in our zip code is slated to double in the next eight years. And the primary expectation is that those moving in are the very group we are uniquely positioned to welcome: families with children. This is wonderful.
But . . . again according to MissionInsite, this group of people have very, very little interest in religious practices and even less interest in supporting such institutions with the minimal charitable giving this group generates.
So good news/bad news. A population needing the Gospel, generously given and in a way that they can hear it and respond to that ever inviting movement we call Prevenient Grace. A population closed to both the call of the gospel and to the nature of the church as we have done it for years.
How will the Krum Church, so full of love and light, address this? What kind of creative leadership will be required of the next pastor? Will it–or any church–survive the growing apathy towards spiritual formation and the demands of the discipleship process?
I write this with a heart heavy near unto breaking with the spiritual gaps here now growing exceedingly evident. Long conversations with the young man who was arrested last week (and whose bail is now set at $550,000) have opened my eyes in a new way to what our youth experience. Because his parents can’t possibly post bond, my visits are the light of this young man’s day. As a clergy, I have far more access to him than his family.
And so we talk, facing one another in that cinderblock building, across that impenetrable glass, grateful for privacy and the phone, and figure conversations are recorded. So we speak of the past, not the present. I wanted him to start about two years ago. He said, “No, I have to go back to the seventh grade. It began then.”
He is going to start writing this, and include his memories as he writes his parents. He said, “If only the adults had talked with each other, they might have found out.” But secrecy won the day. And so much has been lost.
All is not well here in River City. We need the kind of revival that begins with massive repentance and confession of sin. We were all complicit.
So, where Charge Conference reports are concerned: we need to do these. We need the accountability of others looking at who we are and what we are about. And we very much need to be aware that the call of God stays on us, but the forms in which those calls are lived out change with each generation. The church cannot keep doing what worked in the ’50′s and ’60′s and think it can speak the language of today.
Even so, I am exceedingly relieved these are my last Charge Conference reports!