From the Pastor

A couple of weeks ago, I asked everyone in worship to anonymously write down their age on a paper and turn it in so I could report the average age to the congregation for my Doctor of Ministry (DMin) work. That is all I said at the time. You all obliged me. Thank you so much! I want to take the opportunity here to make an observation or two and explain why I needed the information and where and how it will be used moving forward.

First of all, let me say that I was pleasantly surprised at the average. It was just a month or two over 68, and this was without several of our younger members in attendance on that Sunday. One of our church members commented upon leaving that she would suspect the average age of our congregation would be seventy-five or older. That is what I would have suspected at this time last year as well. However, over the last six months or so, we have seen younger people in worship, and we now consistently have children in the nursery! Praise God for that! This bodes well for the future of the church. We certainly are embracing this part of our congregation and will need to continue to do so moving forward.

Next let me say this. In my nearly two-year tenure here, I have frequently been surprised when people tell me their ages. Usually, it is because their age is several years higher than I would have guessed. This, in itself, is a testimony to our vitality as a congregation. I believe we are much more active than a lot of our country is at the same age. Although, we can perceive ourselves to be an aging congregation, we still have so much to give to God’s kingdom, and we are still capable of doing so.

This leads me to why I needed the information and where I am going with it. Many years ago, just as I was starting to explore this thing called ordained ministry, I was involved with Stephen Ministries. Stephen Ministries is a one-on-one ministry that pairs a care-receiver with a trained caregiver. It was through this relationship that I came to know an elderly woman in the community. She was an octogenarian who was living with her son after a stroke left her unable to live by herself. Rose (name is changed) and I met weekly for almost a year. Every week she told me the same thing. “I don’t know why Jesus keeps me here. I can’t do anything.” Rose was grieving her loss of independence and the loss of her ministry to her church and her Savior. In the years since then I have encountered many such people. They may not say the same words, but they display the same sentiment.

I have also noticed that in general, the church does a good job engaging younger people in the ministries of the church. However, the church hasn’t always been so good at engaging the gifts and graces of her most senior members. Our senior members are our saints. They have much wisdom and love to share. Yet they are often inadvertently pushed to the side as the church tends to focus on ministries that will engage young adults and families with children. Although we (FUMC – Deming) don’t have many ‘ministries’ for anybody at the current time, those we do have, like VBS, are focused on kids and younger people.

Since becoming a pastor, I have always heard, “you need to equip/staff your church for how you want it to look, not for how it is.” This is all well and good. We certainly need to do that. However, for the last year or so, God has been telling me, “Equip the church for how we want it to be but start doing things with what you have.” What we have is a church full of 68-year-olds, many of whom are grieving their young, vital years and wondering how they can serve God and Christ’s church with their current abilities. It is my hope and prayer that by helping our saints to navigate through their current normal, we can all identify our current gifts and graces and how those fit into ministry for God’s kingdom. Additionally, it is my hope and prayer that we, as a church can embrace the gifts and graces of all her people, and thus empower everybody – including our elders –  to be engaged in ministry that is physically and spiritually fulfilling and which invites and engages the Holy Spirit among us.

There is precedent for this. If you get a chance read up on the Welsh Revival of 1904. Two old women who were saddened at the complacency displayed and the decline of membership in the church began desperately praying. Through their efforts began a spiritual reawakening which resulted in such great church growth throughout Wales that church buildings could no longer hold the people. This is where I am being called to as your pastor. The average age of the congregation is one of the first steps in determining how to move into such a time and space. Although I don’t know yet what will look like, all I can say is may it be so and may it begin here.

Blessings to you all!

Pastor Koreen