Good questions to ponder...

By the Rev. Dr. Jason Parkin

It would be hard to estimate how many books, articles, sermons, and treatises I have read over the years-like most clergy-about various aspects of congregational life and ministry. I have waded through many heavy, serious tomes, monographs and abstracts and briefer, succinct works; engaged with colleagues, in soul- and church-searching conversations and discussions; sat at the feet of many of the leading figures in several disciplines; and, in general, tried-like most clergy-to become immersed in the literature and lore of how congregations function and operate.

Ironically, however, the single best summary I have seen on what makes for a healthy congregation did not come from a massive volume or a learned scholar or a wise fellow cleric. It came from, of all places, the newsletter of a small Lutheran Church in Perry, Iowa, and reads as follows:

A lively church has parking problems; a dead church doesn't.
A lively church has "noisy" children and young people; a dead church is too quiet.
A live church often changes the way things are done; a dead church doesn't have to.
A lively church often asks for more program and mission money; a dead church has plenty of money for what it does.
A lively church asks people to open up and risk involvement; a dead church plays it safe and never risks.
A lively church sees challenges and opportunities; a dead church sees problems and dangers.
A lively church apologizes, forgives, and seeks forgiveness; a dead church never makes mistakes.
A lively church uses its traditions and facilities to serve people; a dead church uses people to preserve facilities and traditions.
A lively church builds on its past, believes in God's future and "lets go" with faith; a dead church believes only in the past and "holds on."
A lively church is filled with committed givers; a dead church is filled with tippers.
A lively church dares to dream great dreams for God's Kingdom; a dead church has nightmares.

Yes, it is simplistic. Perhaps it's even a little glib. It is also largely very true. So how're we doing? And how can we do even better in responding to the call of God in this time and in this place? To what is God calling each of us, and all of?

Good questions to ponder in this month of Pentecost, this month of the Spirit, this month of our parish birthday feast....