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  • Aug6Fri

    Reflections on past ministry, con't

    August 6, 2021
    Reflections on past ministry and the different slices of it that we have shared together over the years continues here. We have spent much time together in meetings: committees, subcommittees, special teams, congregational meetings and meetings related to the work of council. But ideally and at their best, meetings aim to improve ministry, enhance ministry, and help ministry flourish.
    It is especially council meetings that have taken up a considerable amount of ministry time and preparation. As most who have served on council know, there are great joys and great challenges in serving. There are great joys sensing the Spirit moving, the council working together to the rhythms of love and unity and the joys shared in the stories of God’s work and victories in the congregation and community. But also in the work of council, there can be great challenges in serving. There are times when it is difficult to find a clear path forward, with members sometimes holding to polar opposite viewpoints or council encountering the messiness of differing personalities or individual fears or personal preferences, all of which tend to slow ministry progress. Sometimes one configuration of council feels God leading in one direction only to have newly appointed leaders enter and undo or rework decisions. However, most often members carry the same de-sire of following God’s leading. Moving ministry forward is complicated and Bethel is no exception.
    An outside facilitator from Resonate (previously Home Missions) led a Renewal process that ran for multiple church seasons and used denominationally generated surveys, explored congregational dynamics, talked about church life cycles and helped us set goals. Our ‘Renewal Implementation Team’ guided us for a few years after. We engaged with facilitators to try to help us understand dynamics that contribute to healthier ways of functioning, relating and communicating as a congregation. We invited guest speakers to teach us about care ministry, a psychotherapist on authentic “listening” and an outside leader in hopes of reviving principles in the material titled ‘Can the Pastor Do It Alone?.” At other times we tried creative ways of streamlining congregational care at Bethel by reconfiguring and subdividing the wards into 3 groups of multiple house-holds.
    Over the years, a number of variations on “40 Days of Prayer” have been promoted. Many of us regularly attend-ed the annual prayer breakfast for the city of London. We ran the tried and true CRC course Discover Your Gifts. We had several stewardship emphasis Sundays, inviting Christian Stewardship personnel to address us at congregation-al meetings on at least 3 occasions. About thirty copies of ‘The Treasure Principle’ were made available in conjunction with a Stewardship Team. During one season, that team stressed the practice of stewardship several Sundays in a row during our offering time. Several members have attended Willow Creek sponsored events and Global Leadership summits at FCCC, some moments of which we can give some sober second thought to knowing as we do now of the power abuses perpetrated by some of this movement’s leaders. Groups of members have attended seminars like ‘Into the Neighborhood’, events by Christian Churches of London Network (CCNL), ‘The Emotionally Healthy Church/Person’, ‘Canoeing the Mountains’ (also by video), the Go-Local initiative seminar and a number of Dunamis sponsored events. A few years ago a congregational retreat looked at applying to Bethel the denomination’s vision of “Our Journey 2020.” Serious consideration was given to participating in the Renewal Lab, originally associated with Calvin Seminary. The summer SERVE reports we regularly heard from our youth upon their return was always an encouragement to all.
    Council and committees have often made room within meetings to develop skills or our understanding of ministry. To mention a few: we studied Tim Keller’s ‘Gospel in Life’ video series, ‘Leadership Essentials’ in subgroups and Lance Witt’s short videos on self-leadership. The elders have made a couple of runs through parts of THE ELDERS’ HANDBOOK and regularly find miscellaneous skill development moments. The deacons have used a similar handbook for study. Books, videos or their summaries about change and moving forward have been discussed at the council level; titles include ‘Who Stole My Church?’, ‘The Strategically Small Church,’ ‘12 Dynamic Shifts for Trans-forming Your Congregation’ (around which council developed a retreat)
    Although challenging to read carefully, more recently a solid attempt was made by the elders at understanding the GROWING YOUNG material and was followed by inviting Lesli VanMilligen of CRC’s Faith Formation ministry to lead us in congregational discussion more than once.
    Again, no doubt so much more could be added council and congregational ministry will go unmentioned but all together we can still remember, celebrate and treasure our ministry together.. . -EGN