Back-to-School Bash? A Reflection on Pastoring

Recently our staff wrestled with a philosophical shift. Like many churches our size, we have spent a lot of time and effort putting on events. Like calendar clockwork, we scheduled events for Easter, Mother’s Day, VBS, Fourth of July, Back-to-School, and the holiday season.

 

After over a decade of doing that (something most church consultants tell you needs to happen), we looked back and saw very little for our efforts. Some families have come through the years because of them, but we have put a lot more effort into them for the number of new attendees we have kept. In our church culture here, people tend to use these events as free babysitting and never think twice about you.

 

We asked ourselves some questions. Do we really want to attract people to events hoping they will attend a Sunday service, which will look nothing like the event? Do we want to turn our Sunday mornings into events, running the risk of selling out to a consumerist culture and failing to represent the gravity of the Christian faith? What does another way look like?

 

We decided it was better for us to simply do the kinds of things that only churches can do, and ought to do well. As a result, instead of a Back-to-School Bash with ice cream trucks and bouncy houses, we commissioned our students and teachers as they went back to their education and places of work (including homeschool families). We spoke blessings over them, thanked them for following God’s call, committed to support them, and prayed.

 

We will continue to put on events, rent bouncy houses and eat BBQ together. Part of family life is casual fun. But we will lean into our identity as the body of Christ, making a bigger deal of the spiritual significance of transitions in life, and encouraging Christians to be faithful in their vocations.

 

We are not jettisoning events, just putting them in a different place in our church life. We are not suddenly becoming “serious about our spirituality” – we have always been that. We simply want to know our identity better and do a better job of letting the community around us know what it means to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

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