Re-imagining Congregational Ministry

‘future church’ from a youth discussion

I have a fantastic job where I get to ‘think big’ quite often as I work on the presbytery (a.k.a ‘mid-council’, a.k.a. ‘regional’) level. As I visit with church staff and members, worship with a variety of congregations, and work on the immediate responsibilities of my own job tasks, I always dream a bit about what congregational ministry could look like if a church were to ‘go back to the drawing board’ once again.

worship from 1950’s

Some say that established churches simply can’t do this; that what we need are more new church developments. I’m not willing to go that far; I understand the challenges of changing culture and expectations, but I think we as a Church can begin to re-imagine congregational ministry in a variety of contexts. So here are some ‘dreams’ of mine to get the creative juices flowing…

Preaching.  Can congregations really experience revitalization by the pastor’s preaching? I think they can. This is the unique opportunity and responsibility of the pastor; they have a designated time each week with the majority of the membership in attendance to teach, inspire, and equip. The question is: would the congregation be open to a pastor who would experiment with different preaching models? What would it look like to use video, congregational conversation, or member testimony?

Music. Yep, that conversation again. See my previous post, ‘Beyond the Hymns and Organ’.

Small Group Ministry. One thing that Presbyterians have been bad about over the last twenty or so years is the unwillingness to transition to a small group ministry model. These groups have proven over the years to be effective in inviting new potential members, equipping those in attendance, and empowering others in leadership opportunities. I’m hoping we would be open to the idea!

Hands-on Mission. Giving money to a worthwhile organization is a great thing. However, hands-on mission is just as important, not only for those being served, but for the one who is in service as well.

Community Partnerships. We live in a pluralistic society with many different organizations and communities. The local church has the opportunity to be the location of such an intersection of individuals and communities. It is essential for not only the pastor to be involved in such relationships, but the entire congregation to be the ‘salt and light’.

Membership & Participant Invitation. How many opportunities for invitation do we create in the life of the church? What would it look like to invite individuals and families over for dinner once a month and share with them about our church?  What programs will help families and people of all ages feel welcome to learn about our church?

Member Equipping. What would happen if instead of creating lists of names for committee needs, we turned the table upside-down? How about meeting with each and every member, and discerning where their gifts for ministry lie, and then discussing how they could best use those gifts and passions?

Music & the Arts. I have grown up in appreciation of the arts, and the church has a unique opportunity to be a very important part of a community’s art scene. How can we contribute to the music scene? What would it look like to have a gallery in church? How could we be the place of theater, creative writing, and painting?

Youth & Young Adult Ministry. This has been the answer to a lot of church brainstorming over the last sixty years, and with good reason. I have been working in youth and young adult ministry for sixteen years now, and this is still a passion of mine. See my previous post for more conversation, ’21st Century Ministry with Youth?’

Again, this is by no means a ‘how to’ on church revitalization, but these are some areas which deserve consideration and creative dreaming!


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