|I think I knew where this path ends|
It feels weird to be looking back on a story that is currently on-going. Each day, including today, our story takes a new twist.
But looking back to February of this year…
If construction of light rail was likely to mean the demise of the congregation, and if I were to have conversations with the church about being proactive about – what? Fighting light rail? Relocating? Something else? – I needed to sit down and take a hard look at the numbers.
What I saw shocked me. I’m not sure why it shocked me; did I not know the congregation I was serving? Had I not been presiding at worship every Sunday for a year? This is what I saw:
-- No new members in more than five years.
-- Few visitors, most of whom were from the Ronald McDonald House nearby. Aldersgate was great about welcoming, loving, and supporting them, but these families lived elsewhere and eventually moved on.
-- An almost complete non-engagement of the preschool. This one really bothered me. Our preschool had been set up seven years ago as a ministry of the church, meaning children were taught about Jesus, and one of our members was a teacher. The preschool was given free space and paid very little toward the utilities they used. We had tried a dozen different ways of involving parents and children, to no avail.
However, it was the actual number of active church members that really shocked me. I listed every name of every active member, and I’m using “active” very loosely. “Active” included members who never came to worship but showed up occasionally to help with a building project. “Active” included members who had moved away and attended worship less than six times a year. “Active” included members who were ill so frequently they mostly stayed at home or in an assisted care facility. There were only 30 names.
The genuinely active member core was about 12. I stared at the numbers and had an epiphany: This church is dying, regardless of light rail.