What’s Up with Pastor Todd 3-5-21
Today I invite us to consider a key to all successful congregational endeavors: momentum. Years ago I was invited to attend the first “Nehemiah Institute” in Atlanta, GA. It was founded by Rev. Cameron Trimble and the Southeast Conference UCC to train church planters and church redevelopers. Nehemiah Institute is known today as Covergence, one of the premier progressive church organizations in the U.S. One of the speakers was the pastor of a small church in rural New Hampshire that had recently experienced a dramatic turnaround from a dying, conflicted congregation to a healthy, vibrant, growing congregation. One of the conference attendees asked this pastor, “What is your secret?” She said, “I follow the energy.”
Every congregation has an energy or “momentum.” The key to shifting from the decline side of the church life cycle to the growing side is shifting the momentum. It is looking for those signs of life–where the positive, healthy energy is manifesting–and nurturing them. This builds momentum. Failing to do this means that the congregation will simply keep sliding down the decline slope. It’s like looking around your yard while the snow is melting and the spring sun is shining and noticing what is coming up and then putting your time and attention into protecting those shoots and helping them grow.
Momentum is also key to church consolidation. In a “joining model” in which there is a “lead church” and a “joining church,” the “lead” church is the church with momentum. It is a common misconception that the lead church is the bigger church. NOT SO. The lead church could be the smaller church if that is the church that is growing, reaching new people, starting new ministries, and building momentum. (See Better Together, p. 7) Since First Church and South Church are NOT pursuing a joining model but a “marriage model” in which two congregations join as equals to create a new congregation, it is vitally important that we build momentum together. If not, we will encounter difficulties.
Under the leadership of our Vitality Team, First Church has been building some wonderful momentum. Already in 2021–in the midst of a pandemic!–we have welcomed seven new members! First Church has momentum. The question for our marriage model consolidation is: How will we build momentum together with South Church? It was the topic of our last Vitality Team meeting and I hope a topic in our upcoming conversations with South Church. Our combined efforts promise to bring even more new life and even stronger forward momentum.