The following letter was sent to the congregational e-mail list today and will be available in this Sunday’s bulletin. It might be a little long, but please take the time to read and consider. The dual messages I believe are important for this congregation to have at the front of its mind…
May the Lord’s grace be with you and your family:
The purpose of this note is two-fold. The immediate spur is the Sunday School. Rally Day is or would be 6 Sundays away from this Sunday (7/27). The larger view is something that I have been talking with the leadership of the congregation about – congregational priorities and identity. How St. Mark sees itself plays out directly in the congregation’s priorities. The congregation’s priorities should see themselves reflected in pastoral time and attention. There are many different congregational identities that are meaningful and viable, but ultimately they all must find their identity in Christ and in His mission to call sinners to repentance and life. Ultimately, finding our identity in Christ means following Him and His lead. That lead always is grounded in witness to the saving power of Jesus and flows out in service to our neighbor. I am far too new to be making recommendations, but what I hope to offer is sound spiritual guidance and some this worldly leadership as St. Mark figures out what it wants to be as a congregation.
The immediate situation of Sunday School is a particular reflection of the congregational identity. Sunday School is also one of those unique opportunities for witness and service. When you ask most Christians for the list of the three people who most influenced their faith, after parents and a beloved pastor, comes a special Sunday school teacher. A supported and well run Sunday School is a fundamental ministry of any congregation. It should also be of primary importance to parents whose kids are of Sunday School age. The lesson of Mark 10:13-16 is clear; children are a priority and in fact only those who are children before God will inherit the Kingdom. From a more mundane leadership standpoint, Sunday School, Bible Class and other small groups are the backbone for witness to the non-Christian. From Surprising Insights from the Unchurched (p117), 85% of the formerly unchurched become active through these routes. 83% of new Christians remain active 5 years later if they are involved in a Sunday School or Bible class. Only 16% of those involved in worship activities only remain active (p118). From The Unchurched Next Door, 82% of people responded that they were ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘very likely’ to attend if asked (p. 267). The Social Science and the Theology are on the same page. To be effective in reaching people with the Love of Christ, children are a priority. A Sunday School offers those chances for growth, both to the children being instructed and for the instructors to do the good works laid out in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).
With that information there will be two upcoming activities. As per the Bulletins the last couple of weeks, there will be a 7 PM meeting on Tuesday the 29th with the purpose of estimating interest, need and brainstorming on implementation options for Sunday School and Bible Class. There will follow an education board meeting on Aug 12 at noon (following VBS). The immediate purpose will be to ensure plans to get successfully to Rally Day, September 7th. Part of those plans will be curriculum and proper support and training for the instructors.
Please prayerfully consider this ministry opportunity. Be open to the Spirit’s guidance. Please come to either of the above mentioned meetings, or give me directly your thoughts, ideas or concerns. My contact numbers are here at the church, 585-486-4474 at home or email@example.com. May the Lord bless your walk with Him.