Saturday was session 3 of a 6-session class I have been teaching along with Bill Hays and Kim Fields. It’s called Congregational Leadership Development. Our 16 students are from the Caldwell, Middleton, and Wilder United Methodist churches. These classes are being taught all over the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. They are part of the “Healthy, Vital Church Initiative”. They reflect the Annual Conference’s response to the plea heard from many of our churches: “Help us reverse our decline.” Or to say it positively: “Help us grow and become more healthy and more vital.”
I’m not really a teacher, but from what little teaching I have done I think I know that one of the greatest joys of being a teacher is that moment when a student “gets it”.
Let me share just one such moment from Saturday. One of our students started to church in the midst of a deep personal struggle. There was a lot of pain and fear and need in her life. She found what she was looking for. The congregation embraced her and gave her a safe place to heal. Her concept of “church” at that point in her life was that the church is there to help her. And it was true. The church was there to help her. And the church did help her. But here’s where she “got it.” She shared with group that as she emerged from her personal crisis and gained strength and confidence, she realized that her role in the church was going to have to change. No longer was she there as a “consumer.” The church did not exist to “take care of her.” The church was there to give her opportunities to reach out to help others.
That’s it in a nutshell! To paraphrase President Kennedy, “The question is not what my church can do for me. The question is what can I do for God, through my church, for others.”