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Reentry (Part 2)
I go back to work in about a week. I've already started working.
I started by sabbatical on Monday, May 29. I return from my sabbatical on Tuesday, September 5. That means that, as this post goes out in the world, I have about a week of sabbatical left. And that, in turn, means that I am trying to wrap some things up and prepare to step back into pastoral life.
So let’s talk a little bit about stepping back into pastoral life. Let’s talk a little bit about reentry. Let’s talk about what I have planned for when I return.
My biggest plans revolve around faith formation and church growth.
On the one hand, I really want to improve my congregation’s ability to understand and articulate our relatively progressive version of Christianity in a way that might make sense to people who are uncertain about church.
I have started putting together some sermon series—really a series of sermon series—for our program year. We’ll start with a series about the power of story. Then we’ll move on to series about who God is, how we understand sin, Jesus as the incarnation of God in and among humanity, how that incarnation redeemed the world from the power of sin and what that means, and how we as Christians are called to live. Each series stands on its own, more or less, but, altogether, these will present the main points of a progressive Christian faith.
I have also started putting together some plans for ways that members of the congregation can ask their own questions about faith. My responses might turn into future sermon series. They also might turn into videos, workshops, newsletter articles, or conversations. Perhaps some of them might lead us to invite other thinkers and speakers to tell us what they think. Whatever they become, I want them to go beyond ‘the pastor saying things’ and become ways that we all think about things together.
On the other hand, I really want to improve my congregation’s ability to share our faith with others and to invite people to become part of our community.
I already post a short video invitation to worship each week a few days before Sunday worship. I also post our worship and sermon videos on Sundays after worship.I’m planning on adding ‘bite-sized sermons’ that can go on our socials on Sunday mornings for folks who might be scrolling instead of worshiping. These will also give us some content for our less used social media channels like TikTok.
Of course, encouraging people to join us at church takes more than social media content. I regularly tell folks in the congregation that inviting people to church is the diet and exercise of church stability (let alone church growth). More events, like the workshops and conversations that I mentioned above, might help people invite their friends to things that are not church; and I will also plan a workshop on sharing the good news—you know, evangelism—for folks. Finally, I hope that sermon series and events will give us more to advertise, and I have plans for some additional advertising channels.
My hope is that all of these will help our members gain confidence in the good news that they have to share with others, and help all of us share that good news.
I have smaller plans as well:
I will find a way to share the things that I learned about bread, wine, and communion during my sabbatical. I think that part of this will be by making the bread—and perhaps buying some of the significant wines that I tried—for some of our communion services. That might also include some videos or presentations.
I am going to reorganize visitations so that there are clear expectations. I am thinking that I will schedule things so that I visit our members-at-home once each quarter plus, obviously, when there are actual emergencies. I will also encourage the rest of the congregation—which has been steadily improving at this—to pick up the rest.
I am going to work with our committees so that they can use their time more effectively and take on more of the visioning for the church.
Of course, I am holding all of my plans lightly. Very few plans survive contact with reality, and I’m sure that there are plenty of things waiting for me at church that will disrupt things. But, for now at least, this is what I am hoping to bring back with me.
Pray that I will be able to bring at least a few of these to fruition!
I am very impressed that the congregation managed to keep posting the worship videos every week. I know that was no small feat, and I really wasn’t sure they were going to keep doing it week after week.