Beginning in the fall, I and several members of Grace Church have been attending a series of workshops offered through the Eastern Ohio Association called "Vitality Days." It features a notable pastor, author, and speaker, Rev. Michael Piazza, who over the course of his ministry has turned around several churches, making them dynamic, exciting, and engaging places of worship and service.
If you talk to those who have attended--all members of Consistory or Spiritual Council--they will tell you how engaging Rev. Piazza himself is, but also how eye-opening the material he covers has been. And I bet they will be more than happy to share some of what they have learned. And, in fact, it is our intention to make known what we've learned to a wider group of people in order to discern how to implement these things at Grace.
Since the general question of what Grace can do to enliven its ministry to both members and the surrounding community has been at the forefront of many people's minds as of late, here is a sampling of what these workshops have covered so far:
- Not every church has to completely switch to what we typically know as "contemporary worship" to reach people. However, that doesn't mean churches can or should decide to live and die by a single form of music at all costs. Rather, it should be willing to pull from a wide variety of musical, technological, and liturgical styles to craft a service that is unique and engaging every week. The bottom line here is that there are ways to do this within a "traditional worship" framework.
- In a similar spirit, in terms of worship a church should craft 52 unique celebrations a year. Rather than "plug and play" new words or songs into the same basic setup week in and week out and hope it's enough, it should ask how each Sunday morning can be a special event for those who attend, whether based on the church season, certain causes the church is passionate about, or other themes that can energize and teach.
- People's attendance habits are changing. This comes from a variety of factors including Sunday mornings being the only time for families to be together, work commitments, youth sports, and so on. As a result, someone might consider a church "their church," but may only make it a point to attend once a month, once every two months, etc. This has implications for point 2, but it also means that the days of seeing most people every single week on Sundays (particularly younger generations) are gone.
- You can choose to lament point 3 all you want, but it won't change anything. Instead, we should be asking how to adapt, particularly using points 1 and 2.
And that's just a small series of examples from one session!
My point is that some among us have found ways through Vitality Days to think about certain issues that Grace has been dealing with over the past year or more. Ask us about it. Ask how you can get involved and impact your church for the better. We'd love to share more and will share more in the months ahead.
Join us in bringing continuing vitality to Grace UCC.