July 1 marked the beginning of my second year at Port Huron First UMC. It truly is hard to believe that Caroline and I have been here for a year. In many ways, it seems like just yesterday that we moved. Nevertheless, here we are now, our first year together behind us. From this vantage point I’d like to reflect a bit on my first year.
Acknowledging the obvious, undertaking a new appointment in the middle of a global pandemic certainly came with some unique challenges for both you and me. Mostly, it restricted our ability to meet and get to know one another in the ways we’ve been accustomed to. I wasn’t allowed to make hospital calls or visit those in health care facilities. For the sake of everyone’s well-being, I didn’t call on anyone in their home, including our homebound members. And because worship was only offered remotely for many months, we weren’t afforded the usual opportunity to meet and greet one another on a weekly basis during my initial months here. So, in terms of getting to know each other, it got off to an unusually slow start, the result of which is I feel somewhat disconnected from the majority of our church family. Hopefully, our second year together will take care of that!
On the flip side, being forced to adapt our usual ways of doing church had a few positive impacts. The first is that the overall expectation of what we would accomplish in our first year together was relatively low. Generally speaking, I’m a slow-but-methodical mover, so this worked well for me. Because the expectations of me were to basically keep things going until things opened up again, I had the freedom to move slowly and focus on a few important issues. And, quite frankly, church growth was not one of the issues I felt the need to begin to address in my first year. What we did address in year one was 1) creating a new staff position for our children and youth ministries; and 2) updating and developing our worship-related technology and, just as importantly, cultivating a commitment to reaching people beyond those who will show up in our building on any given Sunday morning.
A few months ago, I mentioned during a sermon that I came to Port Huron with no agenda. That assertion was 95% true in that I didn’t come here with any preconceived ideas about what I was going to do or what needed changing. The 5% that wasn’t “true” was that I came here with the purpose of talking about and focusing our energies on making disciples of Jesus Christ. And more to the point, developing disciples who in turn disciple others. My one agenda has been and will continue to be doing what I can to help this congregation intentionally live into the mandate given by Jesus himself to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
During this past year, it’s been my observation that through the years there hasn’t been the same focus on and commitment to adult faith-formation as there has been to the faith-formation of our children and youth. Now, it’s quite possible that I don’t have a full picture of our adult Christian education offerings, but from what I’ve been able to gleen, there is a lot of room for growth. And because I believe the making of new disciples requires the active and intentional development of “old” disciples, I’d love to see us make it a priority to create new opportunities to grow in our own faith and understanding and, just as importantly, to avail ourselves of those opportunities. I would consider it a big success if by year’s end 20% of our active adults were personally involved in some type of faith forming group (Bible study, small group, Sunday school class, etc.).
Year two lies before us. Only God knows what it’ll bring. But I’ve no doubt that it will be an adventure. I for one am excited about what God is doing among us and through us. I hope you are, too!