Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 – By the Numbers

    Now that 2014 is over, many of us may wonder how it went and how the church did.  Honestly, it’s hard to tell because so much of what we do can’t be measured. 

How much more spiritual are we? 

How much deeper did we go in our faith? 

How many people grew in their faith?

How well did we bear witness to others?

    Those are the kinds of questions that are really important and they are the hardest (if not impossible) to measure.  But there are things that we can measure.  What is easiest to measure is “nickels and noses.”  We can count how many people were here and we know how much money is in the bank. 

    Our finance committee can tell you that in terms of dollars, we are in good shape.  In large part, thanks to a few incredibly generous estate gifts, our financial situation is solid.  Last year we repaved our lower parking lot and this year we air-conditioned the sanctuary and the fellowship hall, and despite these large expenses, we still have more dollars than we started with.  Even so, we are not yet where we should be.  As good stewards, our goal should be to live within our means and support our ministry with our gifts and offerings.  While there are some months that we are able to do that, and we are seeing some Improvement, there are many months that we rely upon those estate gifts to keep things running.  Overall, while there is room for improvement, I think we have every reason to be very pleased with our current financial situation.

    Counting noses, or attendance, is a trickier thing to do.  At first glance, this year looks a lot like last year.  In 2013 our average worship attendance was 86.78 and in 2014 it was very nearly identical at 86.48.  But that average misses a lot that happened.  If you look at the year on a graph, you would immediately notice that our attendance during the first three months of the year was terrible.  By far, it was the worst attendance we’ve had in five years.  But then most of us would remember that this past winter was one of the snowiest we’ve had in decades and we had snowstorms on Saturday or Sunday for two or three weeks in each of those three months.  The good news is that over the next nine months we brought the average back up.  In fact, if we ignore the first three months of the year, our average attendance was 90.4.

    But even that misses a part of our story.  Most of us remember that last November we changed our worship schedule, re-launched our non-traditional worship service, and moved Sunday school between the two services.  It was a big change. 

    It was feared, by some, that re-launching the second service would cause a decrease in attendance at our traditional worship.  It’s hard to say whether that’s true or not.  Overall, attendance at our traditional service was lower than it was last year (73 vs. 78), but that fall is consistent with the fall that we have been watching since 2011.  On the other hand, if you ignore those first three snowy months, that number is almost exactly the same.

    Because we only had the Coffee House worship service for two months of 2013, and because the children’s Sunday school used to be counted as a part of the old Contemporary worship service, we don’t have much to compare to this year’s numbers.  What we can say, however is that the Coffee House launched with an attendance around 16, has gradually but steadily increased, and is lately averaging around 20.  On any given Sunday the Coffee House represents between 25-30 percent of our total attendance.

    When we combine the attendance for the two worship services (being careful not to double count anyone who attended both), we find that eight months of this year our attendance was higher than in 2013. That is definitely good news.

    The really good news is what has happened in our Sunday school.  Before we changed our schedule, our average Sunday school attendance was 17.7, but this year rose to 28.7.  This is more than impressive.  Most churches are seeing a decline in Sunday school attendance and in fact, some churches are giving up on Sunday school completely.  In that world, for us to see such an increase in attendance is nothing short of amazing.

    Counting our “nickels and noses” gives us mixed news.  Clearly, we still have work to do.  But overall, I think that the news is promising and we can find plenty of reason to hope.

(Next Month – “Much More than Nickels and Noses”)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Will You Help to Rescue a Generation?

I want to ask for your help.

    I have been thinking about an idea for ten years but, particularly with the death of my father, I just can’t put it off any more.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression.

    As I grew up, I heard a lot of stories from them, and from my grandparents, about how they survived.  Both Patti and I learned how to save for a rainy day, and how to get by when you don’t have much. Those lessons helped us to get through two years of unemployment and the first few years in ministry when our budget was stretched beyond the breaking point.

    Because many of you have learned those same lessons, during the Great Depression, during your own lives, or by surviving your own struggles, I would like to assemble your tips, advice, and stories into something that, together, we can share with our children, our grandchildren, our friends from Perry Helping Perry, and anybody else that could use some help and wisdom to get them through the lean times.

    To provide you with some ideas and provide a little organization, here are some basic categories of that you might think about: 

·         Saving for a rainy day
·         Kitchen tips (cheap meals, money saving tips, or whatever)
·         Cars (buying, selling, repairs, etc.)
·         In the Laundry Room
·         Clothes (children and adults)
·         Sewing and mending
·         Gardening/canning/freezing
·         Personal care (shampoo, shaving, haircuts, or whatever you think of)
·         In the Garage: Tools, Repairs, etc.
·         Vacation
·         Date nights or dinner out (how to save a buck)
·         Gift giving, Christmas, Birthdays, etc.
·         Needs/Wants/Necessities
·         Personal Stories

    I know that I am certainly missing a few things, but this is just to get you thinking.  I hope that you will write down some of the lessons that you learned from your parents, lessons that you learned from the “school of hard knocks,” and any tips, or pieces of wisdom, that you would like to pass along to your children or anyone else who is struggling to get by.

    Patti and I were able to get through that difficult period of our lives because of the lessons that our parents taught and modeled for us.  But many young people today did not have the advantage of having such good teachers.  

That wisdom lives in people like you.

    I hope that you will share your tips, tricks, tidbits of wisdom, and even your stories about how you survived those lean times and the times when there was more month than money. 

Your wisdom could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Won’t you please help?

Feel free to post your ideas here, email them to me, or write them down on paper.  Whatever works best for you is great.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Charge Conference Report - 2014, A Year in Review

    At the end of last year we made some difficult decisions.  In the end, we shifted the start times of our worship services so that our Sunday school could be available to both groups.  Now, nearly one year later, we are beginning to see the results of those changes.  It is difficult to pinpoint with any certainty what the root causes of each change is, but in each case, the changes that we made would at least seem to be a significant contributing factor.

    Last year our contemporary worship service had dwindled to only a handful over the summer and some weeks there were more people in the praise team than there were in attendance.   As a result, we suspended this service until the weather cooled off in the fall, and until the decisions about our worship times had been finalized.  This summer that same worship service had an average attendance of nearly 17 instead of five.   
    Obviously, there is still much to do, but the improvement over last year is encouraging.
Since changing our service times, we have seen a small loss in attendance in our traditional worship service, but this has been balanced by an increase in the Coffee House worship so that our total attendance has been nearly unchanged.

    Prior to the change in our worship times, our adult and children’s Sunday school was divided.  The adults met at 8:45am and the children at 11:11am.  Today, everyone meets at the same time.  Where we once averaged 18 to 20 in Sunday school, we now average 25-30.  We have added one new adult class and periodically offer classes for those interested in becoming members, those interested in learning more about our church and its organization, or for youth who feel that they are past the age of attending confirmation classes.  We have also added one weekly Bible study class.

    Our partnership with Perry Helping Perry continues and we find that having the food pantry here helps us to better understand the needs of the poor in our community.  Last year, an average monthly distribution was 60-70 boxes of food with significantly more given out at Christmas and Easter.  So far this year, monthly distributions of over one hundred boxes of food have become commonplace so we see that there is great need in our community and Trinity Church has been generous in giving to support that need.  After some discussion with us and other supporters, Perry Helping Perry is currently surveying their clients to see what other services they need.  Our hope is that we can find other places where Trinity’s skills will match the needs of our community so that we can find new ways to reach out in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Although I cannot report any stories of fantastic growth, I believe what we see is - stability and hope.  Our attendance is stable and shows signs of improvement.  We are regularly seeing new faces visit and worship with us, and in the last year, several of those visitors have chosen to make Trinity their new church home. 

    Last year we began hosting a Cub Scout pack and since then, the number of boys has nearly tripled.  None of those boys, or their families, currently attends Trinity, but we recognize that this is a remarkable opportunity for us to make an impact in our community. 

    In all these ways, while we may not see fantastic growth, what we see is health, strength, and opportunity.  We do not know what the future holds for us numerically, but we can be confident that Trinity Church will continue to make a difference in the lives of the people of our community.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

One Small Change

    Some time ago, I challenged you to perform One Small Act, to perform an act of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, or generosity.  I knew that many of you were already doing these things but I challenged you to not only do them, but to tell me what you had done.  It wasn’t easy.  I had to remind you and coax you, and I had to promise several people that I wouldn’t use your names.  You aren’t doing these things for recognition, but simply because they are the right thing to do.

    I didn’t ask so that we could brag.  I had, and have, something different in mind.  So what sorts of things are we doing?

  • Giving an elderly neighbor rides to his church and shopping.
  •  Paying for the car behind us at the drive thru window.
  • Taking pictures at a training seminar and creating a slide show so that the participants could see what everyone else had been doing.
  • Visiting friends in the hospital and in nursing homes
  • Mailing cards to cheer up a friend who is struggling.
  • Sending “Get Well” cards to those who are sick.
  •  Thank you notes
  • Caring for the neighbor’s dog when they were temporarily laid up.
  • Check in on those who are alone, widowed, or shut-in.
  • Donating blood
  • Visiting folk who are shut-in and sometimes taking cookies or treats.
  • Listening
  • Feeding the hungry
  • Caring for others in public places and in unexpected situations.
  • Driving a blind co-worker home after work.
   I know that there are a great many things that Trinity folk are doing that are not listed here.  We do “small acts” of service on a regular basis. One of you hands out cards when they perform their acts of kindness that declare that “You have been randomly chosen” to receive a blessing and that “God Loves You.”

And so here is the next challenge: Make one small change.

    Take a moment to think about what you are doing and how you are doing it.  You are already making a difference in your community and in your world.  What small thing could you change, so that in the process of doing what you already do, others learn that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ?  What small thing could you do differently, so that besides making the world a better place, you are also making an eternal impact for the Kingdom of God?

It won’t take much.

You are already making a difference.

The challenge is for each of us to make an eternal difference.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Planning for Next Year (Charge Conference)

    It is that time again.  By the end of next month we will need to complete our preparations for our annual Charge Conference.  That means that in the days ahead we will be making budgets, filling out forms, reviewing past performance, and searching for leaders and volunteers for next year.  Some of these things have already begun and you will hear of others soon. 

I hope that you will be in prayer for our church during this process.

    Our leadership has a significant impact on the direction of our church as well as our motivation to get things done.  Good leaders inspire us and move us forward.  But we need followers too.  Without volunteers, our leaders won’t get much done.  The chairperson of a committee, team or working group can’t do much by themselves. 

It takes all of us working together.

    As the Nominating Committee meets in the days and weeks ahead, I hope that each of you will consider, prayerfully, how God might be calling you to be a part of our ministry here at Trinity Church.  If you aren’t sure how you “fit” or how you can help, please take the time to ask me.  There is much to be done and there is a place for every one of us.

    There are some things that we will be doing differently this year.  I am hoping that they make things easier but also allow us to put a new emphasis on important tasks and allow some of our volunteers to do things that they are passionate about.  You can probably expect to hear an announcement (or three) about these changes in the weeks ahead.

Until then, consider what God might be asking you to do.