It has been a joyful couple of weeks at St. Paul's. We have had our largest services to date, celebrated many baptisms, welcomed our bishop and had a great time shouting 'Alleluia!' after a long lent. In the midst of all the smiling celebrations and hard work of planning, set up and tear down, there have been some surprising challenges as well.
Not everyone has been feeling this, but for some in comes in the form of feeling burned-out from the intensive labor that is required from doing 'church in a box' ( For some it has come from the challenge of changes to liturgy, worship space and musical styles. And for some it has come from balancing busy lives with the desire to invest in the church that God has brought together. For many of us, there is just a sense that things are different. That everyone isn't hanging out all together like we used to. That there are some subgroups within the church that are starting to form.
This can be a strange and unwelcome feeling for those that have joined us for the past two years, and remember those first Sundays meeting in Bryan and Jeannette's living room. We never struggled with this before. And for those that might feel some of the change in the air, I would like to share an insight that has been helpful to me and it has to do with church 'Size Culture.'
We usually think of the differences with churches in terms of denominational and racial/linguistic differences. We talk about the distinctives of worshiping in an Anglican congregation rather than a nondenominational church. But Pastor Tim Keller, in his article on 'Process Managing Church Growth,' shows that often two churches of different denominations that are similar sizes, can have much more in common with how decisions are made, and how relationships function than two churches of the same denomination, one of 1,000 members and one of 100 members. Church size brings with it a particular culture, and that reality is often overlooked.
I mention this because as St. Paul's grows this year, there is a transition that is happening within our church culture. Our bishop mentioned it to our pastors when we met this past week. He talked about us being at a junction between being one big family (a house church, 40-60 people), in which everyone knows everyone else, to becoming a family of families (a small church 50-200 people). As we become a small church, the expectation that every member will have a meaningful, face-to-face relationship with every other member of the congregations starts to shift. Those meaningful friends continue to be important, but rather than just happening on Sunday mornings, they happen just as often in small groups, or ministry teams.
During this time it is important for us to find our place that God is calling us to serve and be involved. This way we will continue to stay connected, and it will also open up more space for us to welcome the new individuals and families that God is drawing to St. Paul's. We all have our personal preferences for a church-size culture, but for the sake of expanding God's kingdom, I invite us together to embrace the stage that God is moving us toward, and expect that as we do, we are going to find that Jesus is in this place as well.
Author: Cameron Lemons
Reflections from the pastor