Last Sunday I asked each of you to jot down the one question about North Star UMC that was on your mind. First let me say that most of you are great at following directions! And there are some who jotted down two or three questions and you can guess what that means. Over the next few weeks I will use this blog to answer the questions that you submitted. This will be the primary means by which I will answer them. Please take time to thoroughly read the question and the answer. My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to guide our conversation so that we not only gain understanding but also unity of mutual trust and faith. So, on with the questions and answers.
Why is the church office closed during the week? How do we reach people?
Early in 2011 we took a hard look at our expenses and discovered that we spend a lot of money on heating and cooling. As a matter of fact for January of this year we paid $850 for electricity and gas service. The way our building is designed we have two units that heat and cool. Each of them is responsible for 4,500 square feet. In other words for 2 or 3 of us to be in the office we would heat/cool 4,500 square feet on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. In order to be good stewards of the resources we are entrusted with, we determined that it was more energy efficient for us to have office hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The answer to the second question is this – on the back of the bulletin is our email addresses. I carry a smart phone which means I get email from 8am in the morning to 8pm at night. And I prefer to meet with folks at public venues like Starbucks or Panera’s to visit because they are more welcoming than our open office space. Finally, if you have an emergency you can call (816) 679-1070 and either I or Matt will respond.
When are we getting a new worship leader? (And is Matt our current one?)
In our transition last summer we had intentions of interviewing and looking for a replacement to lead worship. Based upon economics and Matt’s willingness to play a dual role, he took on the worship leader function while also leading our youth. Matt is our Associate Pastor and is compensated for 30 hours per week (which he routinely works more than). At this time Matt will continue to fill both roles and we are looking for an intern to help Matt with the youth program. This is the course we will pursue for the near future.
Why have so many families left North Star? (Nine of you asked this question).
Short answer – we did not meet their spiritual or worship needs. Longer answer. I have personally talked with a number of the families who have made a transition to a new worship community. The reasons are as individual as each family. Some moved to a new school district and wanted their kids to go to church with the same kids that were in their class. Others could not get their kids connected in our children’s ministry and sought a new opportunity. For many it was the decision that we made to have one worship service over the summer and the scaled back children’s programming. And then others simply did not disclose their reasons. Needless to say I have listened to their reasons and concerns and will do everything I can to stem the tide. Also keep in mind that every congregation in our country loses about 7% of it’s worship community each year due to death(s), moves, and congregant initiated change. North Star will continue to experience loss but I want to do all that I can to minimize our loses.
3 of you asked the question about survivability – Is our (North Star UMC) future stable and will our church thrive or fall apart?
I believe in everyone of you and the gifts that you bring for worship and service. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to unify us with God and each other. I believe in the power of connection and I believe in the call to witness through word and deed. All of these are elements of who we are as a church – some strong and others gaining strength. If we pray for the Holy Spirit to made each of us open vessels and we willing submit to the HCI consultation process, I believe that God will reveal to us the potential that we have yet to reach. North Star will only fall apart if we lose faith and trust in God. North Star will fall apart if we receive the HCI prescriptions and then fail to act upon them. No matter who the pastor is or who is on our Lay Leadership Team (administrative council) or who is on staff, I believe that God is more than capable of doing mighty things through us!
A couple of final questions for this entry:
Why is there more young kids in the youth group than older?
I asked Matt to address this question and here is his input:
-While each teenagers’ decision to be a part of youth group is their own (or family’s) decision, there are a few factors that probably contribute to our youth group’s makeup of mainly 7th-9th graders (which is more in the middle).
-Our ministry as it exists today is still young (4 years) and those who have grown up with it are 2-3 years in it, while older teens are likely not as attached to the ministry because it has not always been available to them as they grew up.
-Upperclassmen generally have more responsibility with cars, sports, college decisions, and jobs and these things take up more time.
-Because our group is young, older teenagers might feel out of place being surrounded by such a younger crowd. If they have not brought someone with them to youth group, they often feel left out because they feel the younger group “can’t relate”.
Thanks Matt for the input!
Final question is What is the Baby Grace fund?
Believe it or not there are several high school aged young women in our community who are pregnant. Most of them are eligible for certain forms of state and federal aid but that does not cover everything. Baby Grace was established to fill in the gaps between government aid and the needs of teenage moms. Since the closest chapter of Baby Grace was in Lawson, our youth group decided that it would be a great ministry for them to champion and take ownership of. This Saturday our church in conjunction with Love INC will host our first open house and we anticipate about 30 guests. As a side note or benefit, it also exposes these young women to a worship community that practices more the radical hospitality of Jesus than the judgmentalism of some tribes of Christianity. Even if you cannot support Baby Grace through financial gifts or in kind merchandise, please take time to pray for our youth group and our guests.
These are just some of the questions that are on your mind. Next week I will address even more of them. Questions like:
Why do bad things happen to good people?
What is the scientific evidence that God and Jesus exist?
What are we doing to keep in contact with those who are in jail, home bound or in residential care facilities?
I hope you will keep up with my weekly blog posting to see the answers to these and the many other questions that are on your mind.
Until then, blessings for the journey.