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Archive for Saturday, December 10, 2011

Faith Forum: Does December change the demographics of your congregation?

December 10, 2011

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The Rev. Maria Campbell, pastor, Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Mass.:

The Christian season of Advent is celebrated during the month preceding Christmas. Advent means “coming.” It’s the time of year when we remember the coming of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago.

It is also the time we celebrate the return of Jesus in the future. So we prepare ourselves spiritually through prayer and study to receive Christ anew into our lives. We also prepare as a faith community to receive guests who come for the “holy days” of Christmas. For many, the season is a yearly reminder of the wonder of God’s love and they return to worship and events. We rejoice when members return to join in the celebrations.

As a church, it is a great time to extend hospitality to those who come for the first time seeking community and to fill a spiritual hunger. Our worship numbers rise during this period but our demographics remain relatively the same. We are a diverse congregation with a racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and life-stage mix. Our general mix of people of all ages and races remains the same.

What does change is the percentage of members to non-members in worship. This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate who we are as a faith community but also to be mindful of the amount of “church speak” we do. As with any organization, there are certain terms and phrases which are used that are unique to us. We intentionally remember that these might make a guest feel like an outsider.

It is helpful for us to focus on the commandment to spread the good news and we can only do that if we are speaking in the language of our local community. If not, we sound more like a secret society than people who want others to share the joy we’ve found. We strive to open our doors joyously to all who seek to know the God who comes.

— Send email to Maria Campbell at cumcpastor@sunflower.com.

Rod Hinkle, pastor, North Lawrence Christian Church, 647 Elm St.:

Regardless of age, our people enjoy exalting the Lord Jesus Christ who came humbly among us. Children delight in the Christmas event, the humble birth of God’s son to a virgin in Bethlehem of Judea. They dramatize the story for adults, warming the hearts of people of all ages.

Extreme weather makes it more difficult for everyone to gather to worship, but the faithful find ways of coming. The frail among us sometimes must stay at home and on occasion a service has been canceled because of deep snow or icy roads.

At Christmas we think of others in need just as God saw our need and sent his son to save us from our sin and eternal death. We are blessed by him all the time, much more than we deserve. So we are moved to share with others. We put up a mitten tree so that the smallest can learn to share. They place mittens, hats, gloves on the tree to be shared through Heartland Community Health Center.

Adults purchase food with church funds and give them to the needy in the name of Jesus. Earlier in the year our people purchased and assembled “shoe box” gifts for children around the world. Christmas touches the hearts of Christians so that children, adults and senior saints pour out love and kindness on others just as God in Christ has and does for them.

Christmas Eve finds God’s family together to receive and worship the new born king. Children, their parents, their grandparents, people of all ages rejoice in the Lord. There is great diversity in God’s family, but only one Savior, one God in one body of believers giving “Glory to God in the Highest!”

— Send email to Rod Hinkle at Preachrod45@aol.com.

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