The Beginning of a New…
After a wonderful August away – both from the blog and, for most of the month, from home – I was struck again this past week at just how powerful beginnings are. Our kids began a new school year, our oldest beginning his high school career (yikes!). I also began a new term, whether I was ready or not. The political conventions remind us that we are beginning – if not the political season, as we’ve been listening to campaign ads for months – at least the home stretch of the presidential race.
Most of our congregations are also entertaining some new beginnings. No, it’s not the beginning of the church year – that’s Advent, still two and a half months away, thankfully! But we are entering into what we often call a new “program year,” when Sunday school, confirmation and youth groups begin meeting again, when social and service groups resume after the lull of summer, and when the regular fall worship schedule kicks in.
While churches celebrate this new beginning – many with “Rally Sunday” or some similar designation this weekend – statistics about church attendance predict that not all of us will begin our fall by going back to church. Indeed, as in years past, we can expect a 2-3% decrease in attendance this year, perhaps worse.
Church leaders and members often scratch their head or wring their hands wondering why? I have some thoughts on the matter, and will share more of those in the next couple of weeks, but at this beginning of a new church program year, I’m curious what you think? Will you be going back to church this fall? Why or why not? Or, maybe better, what could your church do that would make it more likely for you to return or – if you already plan to come back – what would make you more excited about a new year in your congregation?
While you’re pondering these questions, take a moment to read a letter my colleague Terri Elton recently wrote to the Church. It’s posted on the First Third website (an excellent resource for all things related to children, youth, and family ministry, btw!). She raises some great points about the craziness of our lives and the importance of church resisting the default position of being simply “one more thing” we feel obligated to do and instead becoming the one thing that helps us make sense of and navigate the rest.
I hope your summer ended well. I was grateful for the August “blog sabbatical” and glad to be back in fellowship with you. And I hope you have some wonderful beginnings to which to look forward this week and month.
PS: I’ll be resuming the Daily Bread devotions on Monday. We’re almost, but not quite, done with the passage on Jesus’ encounter with the rich man!