Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl Mania

This weekend is the Super Bowl, its also the Souper Bowl youth collection here at Stodgy Presbyterian.

Unfortunately, the local team, the Stillers (Steelers for those outside of Western PA) are in the Super Bowl. I fully expect to see a bunch of black and gold jerseys, coats, and so on at Worship on Sunday.

Even the Pastor will be wearing a jersey, although he'll have it under his robes. I, myself have no dog in this hunt, and so declared myself an agnostic. That said, I really don't care for people wearing team jerseys and such at church. Not that I would rather see everyone in suits and dresses either. I'm a business casual guy myself, but I'd do believe that we are in the world, not of the world, and this is bringing too much of the world into worship.

I was talking to the Pastor this morning, and he told me that in 2005, one of the congregation got up during the 'Joys and Concerns' time, and lead a cheer for the home team.

I'm thinking of going somewhere else for worship this Sunday, perhaps a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, or a local R.C. church ??

Then again, the last time they were in the Super Bowl, someone said this happened.

And so it goes .....

UPDATE: It wasn't all that bad. Oh there were Steeler's jerseys galore (about 1/3 of the congregation), the rest wearing black and gold. (I wore a very neutral beige sweater with khaki pants).

During announcements, joys and concerns, there was only one person who got up and yelled 'Go Steelers!!'. No prayers for victory, or anything like that. Then the pastor, in his sermon, brought the congregation to task, albeit very subtlely. Using the passage Mark 1:21-28, he talked about strange things that happened at the synagogue in Capernaum. He injected thoughts about what would we do if Jesus showed up for our Steeler's party. Looking at the expensive jerseys and all, what would we say if He asked about what we've done for the 'least of these'.

Needless to say, there was some uncomfortable squirmings in seats. It was a good sermon.

Of course, after the benediction at the front doors of the church, the pastor opened his robes ... showing his Steeler jersey. Of course, he won that ... didn't spend a dime on it ;)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Annual Congregational Meeting

As I mentioned yesterday, we had our Annual Congregational Meeting last Sunday. As happens at many churches, once the benediction is given, everyone leaves excepting for the few who really care about what goes on in the church ... and the gadflies who are always complaining about something that changed.

Well luckily we didn't have any gadflies this year, not sure if its was because they didn't show up, or they joined the Church Everlasting, but it was very quiet at the meeting this year ... too quiet.

The pastor led off with prayer, then went into the agenda. The first item on the agenda, was promptly taken care of, as we didn't have to vote for a nominating committee, as we did that in May. That was one of the things I pushed, so that the committee would have more time to work for nominees. (BTW .. how's that working for you RC ??)

The next item was to request nominees for the audit committee. Evidently, the same two brothers (CPAs both) do the audits every year. The committee requires three, so we had two volunteers already, but trying to get the third one was like trying to pull a tooth from a chicken, there weren't any. Even after the pastor said that there was nothing for the third person to do but review the final report, no hands. Finally, one of the current elder's spouses put his hand up.

Then it was time to close nominations, the Pastor asked for a motion. Again, no movement from the 70 people present. I raised my hand, the second was asked, zip, nada. I leaned over to Bob, just down the pew "well ?", he raised his hand. OK .. Moved, Seconded and Passed (MSP).

Next was the request to close the meeting of the congregation and open the meeting of the church corporation. "Need a motion ...", leaned over again to Bob, "Your turn ..". He raised his hand. "Second ??", I raised mine.

And so it went for most of the meeting, the RC and Bob show, except when it came to close the meeting of the corporation, and move back into the meeting of the congregation. Then after the review of the minutes by the Clerk, came the motion to accept the reading. Again, RC & Bob.

Came to the closing prayer, and request for a motion to adjourn. No hesitation at all there, MSP .. wam ... bam ... boom.

Now besides from the lack of participation, and the fact that not enough End of Year report packets were printed up ("we always throw them away afterwards ..."), not one mention was made of the terms of the Call!! They were changed, and not a peep about them was mentioned in the meeting.

Sure the BOO G-7.0302a says "It (the congregation) shall review the adequacy of the compensation of the pastor or pastors upon report of the prior review by the session." And sure the preface to the constitution says "(1) "Shall" and "is to be/are to be" signify practice that is mandated".

Of course, following the BOO has never been a major thing here, except when it works for what they want it to do. According to the Pastor, they have never brought the Call up at these meetings as long as he has been there ... over 20 years !!

Have I said in previous posts that the Pastor has been burnt before by thse congregants, and has been worn down to the point he really is burnt out!

And so it goes ....

Been Busy

I've been fairly faithful lately, writing a post about three or four times a week. However, I've been away for over seven days. Not for a lack of things to blog about, but just plain work, and I'm tuckered out.

I work an evening shift, and when I get home it usually takes a few hours for me to unwind, and get sleepy enough for bed. Occasionally, I'll just sit, then wake up about four AM, wondering what happened to that cop that was getting chased on TV. Last night, I hit the sack around one AM, and slept through to eleven !!

I've not even had enough time to clear the driveway of the snow that has accumulated over the past several days; and tonight we're supposedly getting more snow/sleet/rain that will probably ice over later tomorrow. Happy Happy Joy Joy !!

So tomorrow my main task will be to clear the driveway, as its my day off. Then, if there's still time, I'll get myself a haircut, and replace some parts on my car. At least that should be easy to do, they just snap on and off. Of course, that's the kiss of death, 'its easy to do' ... yeah right.

After all that, I'll sit down and write a post about the Annual Congregational Meeting at Stodgy Presbyterian. Or as we joked about it, the RC and Bob show.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Deacons - M.I.A.

It seems my ramblings have been the catalyst for the thoughts of a few of my readers. They, in turn, have given me some interesting ideas for use at SPC. I hope that this continues in future posts of mine, and the comments that those posts may generate.

Now, tonight was our monthly Session meeting, I've been asking questions about what our Deacons are supposed to do, and tonight I asked who takes care of the coffee hour. Turns out that the pastor does make the coffee, however, I also found out that its has not always been the case. It seems that it started when some of the Deacons a few years ago found out that the Pastor got to church early, so early that he could start the coffee pot (the usual 40 or 50 cup percolator) so that the coffee will be ready for the 'fellowship time'. Of course, there is no real fellowship time, nor is there any hospitality either.

Now that the Deacons don't have to worry about the coffee, all they need to do is pick up the donuts, put them out on a tray, and leave. There's a 'tip jar' that says all donations go to the Deacons Fund to help pay for the donuts. No staff, nobody to help the visitor, and so on. Now, the kids get to get a donut prior to Sunday School and, I have to say, I'm fond of the cinnamon buns they get. However, nobody's there during Sunday School (except a few parents waiting for the kids to get out of Sunday School so they can leave), no one there during Worship to direct people if needed, and no one there after worship, since most people leave to head home, lunch, or watch the local team play football.

While driving our Worship Elder home, she related something to me that didn't shock me, but did confirm what I already figured about our Board of Deacons. That Session is not exercising its oversight responsibility, and the Deacons really don't do all that much. The Worship Elder was telling me about the Christmas flowers that were supposed to be delivered to our shut-ins. Evidently there were 10 poinsettas that were available for use. The Elder personally took one to a shut-in, however, the rest of the flowers are still sitting at church. Obviously, they are not fit for any delivery, so they will become compost.

That said, there appeared in the monthly newsletter a self-congratulatory note on the Deacon's Page thanking those deacons who made deliveries. This is not sitting well with the Elder, as she's going to be looking for Deacons to serve Communion during Holy Week. I wasn't sure if it was on Holy Thursday, or Easter Sunday, but she's got her doubts that she'll get the number of Deacons necessary.

Something else came up, evidently the Deacon Moderator tried to get out of all flower delivery, by asking the Elder, "Isn't it your job on the Worship Commission to deliver the flowers?", evidently with 11 Deacons, they don't have enough people. And I'm still trying to figure out exactly what their duties are.

And so it goes ...

Aside to Mac: anxiously awaiting your next post over at the 'Scuttlebutt'.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We don't do that here ....

Ever hear that from people in your new church? I heard that when I joined Stodgy Presbyterian a few years ago. For that pick anything that you've seen done at previous churches.

I've already mentioned a few things in previous posts, and since I've not had a chance to think about a full topic for my next post, I'll just stream of consciousness about what I've been told we don't do.

We don't do liturgists! When asked why, I'm told that well, we had them before, but people stopped doing it. Looking deeper into why they stopped doing it, turns out that the person who did the scheduling either rolled off Session, or just quit doing it. In either case, no one took over the scheduling, nor the advertising for volunteers. Of course, this leaves the pastor having to do everything during the Worship.

However, this is going to change, as the new CE director wondered the same thing. She brought it up at a staff meeting, the pastor had no objections, so today there was a blurb in the bulletin requesting volunteers for liturgists. So, in the next few weeks, I may be opening service with a Call to Worship.

We don't do Monthly Communion! We've never done it that way before!! In fact, the history of this place shows that at one time they did do monthly communion, but for some reason (probably too much trouble setting it up), they reduced the number of times they do communion to once a quarter, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Christmas Eve, and so on.

When asked about how the General Assembly a few years ago encouraged increased celebration of the Eucharist, I'm told, yeah but .... (and then the person trails off) so it does seem that it was too much trouble.

Too much trouble ... the same reason I get for why we don't have people in the congregation serve as ushers instead of just Deacons and Elders ... the same reason we don't do Wednesday night fellowship or worship (too much trouble to attend) ... the same reason they won't come to an Alpha Course ... or Lenten Bible Study ... or any home bible study ...

And they wonder why the church is dying ... literally ... we lost two this week to the Church Everlasting. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples ... Jn13:35a . Unfortunately, disciples are not what we have at SPC, just members in another country club .

And so it goes ...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Deacons don't do that ...

About four years ago, in a church I'll call, Old But Growing Presbyterian (OBGPC), I was on the Board of Deacons; first year as a Deacon then for the last two as Moderator.

At OBGPC, the Deacons were responsible for Congregational Care. We contacted each member at least quarterly, had a meals ministry delivering hot dinners for those who were going through sickness, a birth or a death in the family, and so on. We staffed, setup and provided donuts and coffee during the Coffee Hour Fellowship Time. We assisted at any church function by cooking, setup, and so on. We had twelve dedicated Deacons on the board.

We also started planting the seeds for a Stephen Ministry, which eventually was started when OBGPC called an Assistant Pastor who's passion was for Congregational Care. The Deacons rallied around that push, and it is now in full function, along with many other programs that provide congregational care. The Board still has a membership of twelve, but there are many volunteers, and the Deacons oversee the activities involving a congregation of around 600. The Deacon's Fund consists of donations from the congregation, which is passively asked for donations through the inclusion of a Deacon's Fund envelope the first Sunday of each month.

I'm presupposing that many of those who read this blog have Deacon Boards that act much like my old church's.

Then there's Stodgy Presbyterian. The Board consists of fifteen Deacons for a congregation of about 250. As Deacons you would think that their charter would cover congregational care, as I was told "Deacons don't do that ....

As a member of Session, we've not had an annual meeting between the Session and the Deacons (see the comment to me above). I have not seen any directive from Session to the Deacons that lay out their duties.

Here, as far as I can tell, are their responsibilities. Hold fundraisers to help build up the Deacons Fund, delivery of the sanctuary flowers once a week to a shut-in member, assigning at least one Deacon to each and every commission, bringing donuts on Sunday and then leaving, taking the tape of the Worship service and then making 3 copies on our duplicator and placing each in an envelope for mailing, having Deacons as greeters and ushers, and making sure at least one deacon is available to assist in counting the Sunday offerings.

They say they're overworked. They lost three Deacons when an entire family of mother and two daughters moved to a new church. They were all in one class*. So, we now have 11 deacons to serve, as one resigned due to age related illnesses.

I mentioned, why do we need to have a Deacon on every commission, not doing that would allow them to do other duties. I was told "for communication", which made me then remark, "who do they communicate to besides the Board of Deacons if they're not contacting everyone?", I didn't get an answer to that, as the person I said it to was nonplussed. I don't think she had given it any thought. FWIW ... I'm assuming the only communication that occurs is from the grapevine, which every church has, and usually gets some detail wrong.

You would think that the Deacons, who should be the first persons to present a welcoming face to any visitors, would staff the Coffee Hour and make sure that visitors know their way around. "Deacons don't .... "

You would think that they would be the face of Congregational Care, contacting the members, and asking about them, how they are doing, and letting them know that "we haven't seen you in a few weeks, is everything alright?? " Again, "Deacons don't ..."

When I asked about this during the Session meeting on the Pastor's Call and budget, all I heard was that it was the Pastor's job, and "Deacons don't ...". One husband and wife team*, told me that they have never had a church that did that. Of course, they had been at Stodgy Presbyterian for about 15 years, and I'm not sure if they were Presbyterians before that. Which brings up a question, am I wrong to assume that most Deacon Boards are like OBGPC or are they more like SPC's ?

And so it goes ...

*yeah, I know .. not a good idea ... not my choice

Friday, January 9, 2009

Session ... spiritual leaders ?? We don't do that here !

SPC has had the same pastor for a while, Bob Purring*. He's the reason my wife and I first started attending SPC. He preaches the Word with passion. I'm not saying that he doesn't have his flaws, no pastor is perfect, but he tries. He peppers his sermons with humor, local references, an example using his wife (I sent him this video), but brings it all together at the end. I kinda wish he'd make the sermons more cerebral, but I suspect he got flak from someone about being "preachy" when he did.

Anyway, Bob does what most pastors do, in his office in the mornings, does lunch, then does shut-in visits. He also does a lot of funerals, most of them not members of the church. In fact, he's usually the first pastor called when a funeral home gets a request from a family for some sort of religious send off. We've actually gotten a few new members after Bob performed the funeral, as he does have empathy for the family.

The reason he does all these funerals is that the Session, years before, gave him the permission to do these as a means of additional income. I'll come back to this later.

Our Session consists of fifteen Elders, which for a church of this size is too large. When I arrived it was eighteen!! It was proposed that we reduce the size of the Session to twelve, but the argument was made "Who will do all the work?", when I replied "Members of the congregation", half the Session gave me looks like they thought I was crazy, the other half as if they knew I was. We compromised on fifteen, even with a reduction of three, we are still having problems getting members to serve on Session, which is the reason the original number twelve was proposed.

As I've mentioned in a previous blog entry, most of the Elders believe that serving on Session means that they're on the board of directors. Actual contact with members of the congregation is done by the Pastor, not the Elders, or didn't I know that? Most Elders when asked about opening a meeting with a prayer, will say nothing, expecting the Moderator (Pastor) to pray for them. And forget about actually leading a bible study.

Trying to enact change in a church where most of Session have been members for years is very hard. "This has been my family's church for over 20 years ...", is a phrase most often heard. Mike McCarty at Around the Scuttlebutt has an entry that gives a good example about what I'm talking about.

Here's an example: We've been trying to add contemporary worship tunes to our worship. In the summer, we'd begin early with ten minutes of contemporary worship before the normal summer worship time, we'd get a nice group of newer members (less than 10 year members), after the contemporary time, in would walk the older members, which would include about 75% of the Session (great support, huh). This past summer, we realized that we needed a keyboard for the service, the Worship & Music Elder at that time, who supported our ideas, OK'd the purchase.

We got a nice keyboard, and it sounds great, much better than the upright piano they've had in the sanctuary for years, and which never holds tune as the temperature fluctuates so badly in there. (A/C ... costs too much, no matter that even on Summer hours, we bake!!) The keyboard can sound like a grand piano and fills the sanctuary, unlike the upright which you could barely hear in the back. So the music director doesn't use the upright any longer. He moved the upright out of the sanctuary because it just took up space, and the fit hit the shan.

"You can't move that out of the sanctuary!" "It's been there since I've been a member." "It's a nice piece of furniture!!" Actually, the wood's been veneered! So, the piano is back, but it's not used for anything. It sits in the front of the sanctuary, used as a stand for candles; but it's back where it belongs !!

But I've veered off a bit, as I mentioned in a previous blog post here we did the review of the Pastor's call last month. Bob is getting the Presbytery recommended increase this year. This has not been the case in past years, as there has been years where pledges would not cover all requested ministry budgets, and thus where do you cut? Normally, you would think the ministry budgets; not here, you just don't give the pastor and/or staff any raises that year.

OK .. in my humble opinion (IMHO), the only ministry that really can't get cut is Buildings and Grounds, as much of that budget is needed to keep the lights and heat on. Everything else is fair game. I remember reading somewhere that the church should pay its pastor so that the pastor can worry about the spiritual welfare of the congregation, and not the physical welfare of his or her own family.

Which leads to why Bob is the go to pastor for the local mortuaries. In order for him to increase his income, the Session in years past authorized him to work outside of the church, instead of granting a raise.

OK ... I heard that jaw hit the desk, close your mouth, and if you hadn't read my previous rant, er post, check out that link to that post above. Next post ... "Deacon's don't do that ... "

And so it goes ....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stodgy Presbyterian

If you've been reading my posts (rants?), you'll know that Stodgy Presbyterian is a church that claims 270 members, 70 to 110 show up on any given Sunday, and is slowly dying; although the long-time members really do not realize that.

Over the years they've tried reaching out to the youth with a youth pastor (ordained), youth director (non-ordained), and a number of parents who thought they had good ideas to attract young families and youth to SPC.

None of them worked, and the reason is that this church; as I mentioned above, has a majority of exiles. 1st and 2nd generation exiles, to be precise, where anything that reeks of a change in the way their home is setup or things are done is anathema. They are afraid of CHANGE ... it rocks their foundations, and it would not be 'their' church any longer.

What I've been trying to do for the last two years is to make them realize that its NOT their church, but HIS. As they keep things the same, they are losing members who are leaving not by walking out, but carried out. The original settlers are mostly gone, except for a few that are still hanging on in nursing homes. However, they are never seen, and are kept on the roles because we just can't remove them. Occasionally, we'll get a bequest from an estate, and sometimes that's the only way we know they've passed on.

Then there are the 1st Generation exiles. These are the sons and daughters of the settlers, who fought in WWII and Korea, and who are also passing on to the Church Everlasting. They helped to fund the endowments, build the sanctuary in the 50's, and brought their Baby Boomer kids to SPC, who are the 2nd generation exiles. They are the kids who grew up in the 50's and 60's, and who are now parents and wondering why the church can't attract their kids as they were.

In the early 90's, when the Baby Boomers were having kids, who will eventually become nomads, they had a youth pastor. Evidently this person did a lot of good things, and attracted kids from all over the area, problem is some on Session did not like these things, and became all passive-aggressive when a new idea came before Session. Evidently there was always the "well, its a good idea ... but ...", then the reasons why it would never work here were given. Basically they were that it was never done that way before ... sound familiar ??

Eventually, that youth pastor got frustrated and sought another position. Over the next 10 years they had one or two good youth pastors/directors, but they all got frustrated and left. The ultimate illustration was when the last Christian Education/youth director tried to change the way Sunday School was done, along with the curriculum. Again, the passive-agressiveness kicked in, and the two C.E. Elders did not back up the director, so she just up and quit. The person they now have is also one to try to change things, and she may be getting things done, as the Elders in question are no longer on Session.

So they are trying to hire another youth director. The good thing about this is that we're looking for someone who is young, and the Session thinks it a position we need. Now we need to see what happens.

However in my opinion, we've already lost the senior high school youth, the middle school kids are still coming to church. The problem is, the parents are not always in church, and the parents are the nomads. So can we capture the youth if the parents are not regular church goers, thus unable (unwilling?) to get up to get the kids to Sunday School.

Which gets to the root of the problem. Many of our exiles and nomads do not realize that being a member of a church does not make you a Christian. They are treating church as a club, where they can come when needing a baptism, a wedding or a funeral. They certainly have no need of Sunday School, Wednesday night services, or any other fellowship except their glad handing on the Sundays they show up. These types are also less likely to pledge each year, and are also less likely to put more than a token amount in the plate. As mentioned above, the nomads want value for their buck; one of the main problems with trying to evangelize to the nomad is that "never done it" syndrome, which means that we either won't do it, or won't fund anything that will change the way things are done.

Again, you don't change anything in my church.

And so it goes ....

NOTE: This group of posts will not have any logical grouping. It will probably be a complete stream of thought set of posts. I'll apologize to my readers in advance for my A.D.D !!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Greying and Declining Church

Yesterday I basically wrote a blogpost that was part rant, part reality. I guess I either struck a nerve, or a lot of pastors and elders are thinking about the apathy of many people in the pews.

Both Bill Crawford over at Bayou Christian, and Mike McCarty over at Around the Scuttlebutt have posts about what to do about once vibrant churches that are now in decline.

In the case of Stodgy Presbyterian, the church's heyday was in the 50's just after the new sanctuary was built by members who helped grow the church after WWII, went to college and/or returned to the local industry. These members were well-to-do, and bestowed much largess on the church, creating many of the current endowments that help to supplement yearly tithes and offerings.

As I mentioned in a comment over at Mac's blog, Dr. Craig Barnes defines three groups of generations, each with their own world views in most older churches: settlers, exiles and nomads. Stodgy has a few settlers (less than 10, and all shut-ins), many 1st generation exiles (who are dying off), a lot 2nd generation exiles (baby boomers), and a few 1st generation nomads.

Settlers - these are people who helped start the church; usually settled in ethnic pockets, the church was a central part of their lives, usually blue collar. You put down roots with what you know; people who's beliefs were much like yours. Settlers are not common anymore, you find pockets in the older cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Not many of these left around.

exiles - these are the kids of the settlers, fought in WWII, took advantage of the GI Bill. They left the settlements for the suburbs, but romanticized what they remember as "home". These are the ones who helped grow Stodgy Presbyterian, help pay for the sanctuary, and funded much of the work of the church. They wanted a church as home, sermons about heaven, and needed order; they needed rules on what to do. They were also very service oriented, and did not have to be asked to volunteer.

Also part of the exiles, and classified as 2nd generation exiles, are the Baby Boomers who grew up during the 50's and 60's. They filled the Sunday School classes and learned from their parent's volunteerism. They married, lived near the church initially, but as they rose in the company, they moved to the exurbs. Again, great volunteers, served as Deacons and Elders, and on all the committees. They still consider the church they grew up in their church. No longer want to serve, as its time for others. They come back every Sunday, but because they are too far from the church, can't make it to anything held during the week.


nomads - this group thinks that life is about entertainment; what is your place in the story. The kids of the exiles, they have a vague sense of home. They each seek their own individuality and their own spirituality. They visit churches as consumers; want value for their tithing dollar. Driven by their "feelings", they church shop for the story they want to join, or do bits at a few different churches. Any notion of home for them is self-constructed, not from where they grew up. If they don't like 'X', find a new one, substitute community, church, spouse, or career for 'X' .

What is interesting is that 2nd generation nomads are now looking for community to find fulfillment. Some are turning down promotions rather than move.

I offer this as a basis for the classification of church members in any discussion that follows.

As I mentioned, Stodgy has a lot of 2nd generation (baby boomer) exiles, with a few 1st generations exiles. This last population are dying off to the tune of 1 or 2 a month. More to come.

And so it goes ....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What does Evangelism mean?

As the Evangelism Elder at Stodgy Presbyterian Church, I have prayed to figure out what my purpose in this church is.

Mirriam-Webster defines evangelism as:

Main Entry: evan·ge·lism
Pronunciation: \i-ˈvan-jə-ˌli-zəm\
Function: noun
Date: circa 1626

1 : the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ
2 : militant or crusading zeal
— evan·ge·lis·tic \-ˌvan-jə-ˈlis-tik\ adjective
— evan·ge·lis·ti·cal·ly \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

So, I've tried to do the actions as defined by the first definition, with the determination as defined by the second.

I've seen some winning of commitments to Christ as the number of attendees and those becoming members has increased. Not a large number, but greater than previous years. The trouble is, the second part of that definition; the revival of commitments to Christ seems to have eluded me.

What can you do about a congregation that is:
1. aging
2. feel they've done it all, and know it all
3. do not feel they need anything more than an hour on Sunday to be Christians.

How can you change a Board of Deacons who:
1. Feel that congregational care is the dropping off of the sanctuary flowers to a 'deserving' shut-in.
2. Think that having a Deacon (or two) on every ministry commission is a requirement
3. Does not provide a "Fellowship Hour", just provides the donuts. The pastor actually makes the coffee.
4. Spends more time attending meetings and having fundraisers, than doing anything else except on the day the church food pantry distributes its monthly quota.

What do you do with a Session that:
1. Is more like a Board of Directors, than the spiritual leaders of the congregation.
2. Who does not do any congregational care, except perhaps meeting people at worship, but when asked why aren't the Deacons doing this reply "We've never done it that way".
3. Who think that the way to save the church is to provide a youth director to a church with a very limited set of kids of an age group that matters. We've already lost those senior high kids, middle school kids are a target, but I'm not sure that will sustain this congregation.

Frankly, I'm not expecting any answers, just needed to vent since I just had to cancel this quarter's Alpha Course due to lack of interest. I'm going to try again after Easter, and this time, I'm going to spend a bit on advertising in the local paper, and give up trying to evangelize this congregation.

That said, if this congregation doesn't wake up to the fact that its losing more members because of members being promoted to the Church Everlasting, than to the kids not coming back, it won't survive another 20 years, and wind up like many of the churches you read about on Presbyweb where the 16 remaining members decide to close the church, rather than merge with another.

What's interesting is that at another Presbyterian Church close by, some changes have prompted members to start coming to Stodgy Presbyterian. This may result in our gaining some members, however, as most are of AARP age, again this will not result in any real, sustainable growth. More than likely, the other church will be facing in about five years, what I expect will happen here in 15 to 20.

And so it goes ....

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another new year ... everything old is new again.

The year, 1979 ... a new president is taking over from the previous president who couldn't handle the economy, and had a problem with the Middle East.

Gasoline averaged $1.69 for regular, housing market was in the tank, an auto company was getting a bailout, and the military was too small for what it had to do.

One thing different, we had to make do with what we had in the military. The budget was about what it was for the previous few years, however, President Carter advocated a large increase for military pay, and for the first time in years, the military saw an increase that was not swallowed up by the cost of living, in fact, I believe it was close to a 10% increase.

Fast forward, 30 years later. Much of what was listed above, is true now. I'm already seeing things that worry me about the next administration and the military. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a editorial showing headlines the editorial board would like to see. One of which is a Peace Dividend from the military. Now, since the only way to get a peace dividend is to end the war and/or reduce the size of the military; both of which could cost the US more in human terms, than we would receive in monetary savings.

I'm not about to argue whether or not bringing the troops out of Iraq will cause the US harm, in my opinion it will in a number of ways. Its what we do with those troops that will matter. My main problem with the way the Bush Administration acted after 2001 was that they allowed themselves to be distracted from the real problem; catching Bin Laden. Iraq was a side show, orchestrated by some who thought that there was some unfinished business that needed to be taken care of; and who thought that it could be done on the cheap. I do see that they are moving the Marines out of Iraq to Afghanistan where they can actually do some good against Al Qaeda.

The bright light I see right now is that they are keeping SecDef Gates in the Pentagon. The man is intelligent, understands the realities of the world, and protects the men and women in uniform. He'll not allow any push for a peace dividend decimate the Armed Forces. We'll see.

And so it goes ...