As you know, I haven’t been able to experience our congregations at the peak of their ministries. Sunday school rooms bursting at the seams, not a lot of empty seats in the pews for worship–memories that have been shared with me by members and seen in photos from the past. I know many of you lament the size our congregations are now compared to when you were growing up, or when you were bringing your kids to faith formation. I think grief and lament are appropriate for many reasons, but I also want to share some insight on the subject.
I believe a pet peeve my husband has about me is that I am overly optimistic. I trust people more than I should, I have been known to enter “dangerous” areas without a second thought, and I usually believe that there is always a silver lining to every rain cloud. With that being said, because I’ve never seen Salem & Siloa of the past, I can only speak to the present; and I have seen a huge silver lining lately.
This is the first summer I have been able to experience VBS in all of its normal, amazing glory. First year I was on vacation, the second was take-home VBS, and last year we tried to do as much as we could outside “just in case”. This year I was fortunate to experience our youth taking over the entire church for two days for learning, fellowship, music, and fun. And it couldn’t have happened without the generous time and resources shared by our adult members.
What I also saw sitting on the sidelines of VBS at times is just how much our members care about the kids. Not just in a superficial way either. I saw adults taking care of each others’ babies and considering all the youth to be an extension of their own families. I saw our youth shepherds putting so much heart and energy into making the experience fun for the younger kids. And during the potluck and clean up I saw so many non-members step in and help get the church back in working order because they wanted to be a part of the experience as well.
Like I said, I truly didn’t sense that any of these acts were done in a superficial manner. There was genuine care and mutual trust between the individuals and families involved in VBS, and I would like to argue that is because of our size of congregations. Because we are on the smaller side, you get to know a lot more people on a deeper level. Because we run our programs based solely on volunteers, everyone can pitch in when necessary because we don’t rely on a bunch of paid staff to “do the work”.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing things that come with being a larger congregation. But as I reflect on what I experienced during the week of VBS, we have a lot going for us as well as smaller congregations. I’m so entirely grateful for all the ways that people give of their gifts to the ministry of our congregations–some people filling many roles.Let’s continue to highlight the joys of our present reality, and encourage and invite others to be a part of what we have to offer at our churches!
Pastor Mary Fielprmaryfiel@gmail.com (507) 525-3909 cell