A new era for our midweek ministries

Well, believe it or not, it’s now five years since I joined our church.

A lot has happened in this time, and we have so much to thank God for.

The first three years saw steady growth in numbers, and we raised enough money to afford a full-time assistant minister.

But two years ago this month, Adam went on sick leave, and ever since then we’ve been in survival mode, and now, recovery mode.

And during this time, we’ve started to plateau, and now decline in numbers.

As Simon joined us this year, I started the process of reviewing all our ministries.

We studied the results from the National Church Life Survey, and we considered our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Then, with lots of input from our staff team, I prepared a ministry master plan, which I then shared with our Parish Councillors, Bible study leaders, and ministry coordinators.

Then, at two Combined Leadership Group meetings, we spent hours refining and improving the plan.

And today, I’m excited to share with you some of our vision for the future.

We are making these changes because we need to include more people from our church and community in our ministries.

And this needs to happen because many of our newer and younger members are not attending our midweek ministries.

That means that they’re missing out on the great benefits of our dinners and small groups and socials.

We need to transform our ministries so that they will work for everyone in our church.

The future of our church depends on this.

The first thing is that we are launching new small groups for our 5pm congregation.

Tonight we will distribute a survey to ask all our 5pm members to nominate the best times in their week to meet with a small group.

And then in the next few weeks we’ll then launch two, new small groups, so that there is a group that can fit into everyone’s busy schedule.

And in due course, we’ll also do a similar thing for our 10am congregation, too.

I want every member of our church to be a part of a small group, even if they don’t regularly attend that group.

This will help us care for each other better, and to provide a way to increase the connections in our church.

As these new groups launch, it will mean that our young adults will now be mingled with older adults in Bible study.

We’ll have school leavers meeting with retirees… new parents meeting with grandparents…

We will be bringing adults of all generations together for mini-fellowships that will lead to new, and unexpected joys.

But because we will not longer have one, dedicated young adults Bible study, we will now have the need to bring those people together, from time to time, to focus on what it means to be a disciple of Christ in that stage of life.

Four times a year, we want to bring our young adults together to grapple with what God’s word says about choosing a career, and buying a house, and starting a marriage, and alcohol and gambling, and travel and leisure.

So, we’re going to re-launch the ‘Mix’ events, four times a year, one each term, and have a quality guest speaker, and a great meal, and time of fellowship and encouragement, both for people in our church and also for the wider community.

But, it doesn’t stop with our young adults.

Ever since I arrived here, I’ve wanted to start up a group to help parents disciple their kids and to strengthen their marriages.

And so, four times a year, we’re going to bring our parents and carers together to grapple with what God’s word says about disciplining children, and family devotions, and online safety, and midlife crises.

So, we’re going to launch a new group called ‘Recharge!’, four times a year, each term, with a special guest, and a great meal, and a time to strengthen and support each other in the challenges of raising a family in this crazy world.

And it will be for Christian parents and carers, and for their unchurched friends and family who are searching for answers about how to live in this world that God has made.

But, what about those who are empty-nesters, our baby boomers?

Well, we’re going to re-jig ‘Interact’ so that it, also, can bring together baby boomers to grapple with what God’s word says about Christian grand parenting and god parenting, and singleness, and godly choices in retirement, and nurturing your marriage in your riper years, and coping with grief and loss.

So, next year, we’re going to have four events, one each term, with a special guest and a special meal, and lots of time for laughter and tears and rich fellowship across our two congregations, joining with unbelieving friends who are searching for meaning, and who need to find Christ.

But, it doesn’t stop there.

As our ‘Interact’ people get older, then they and their spouses and their friends need to grapple with God’s word about how to deal with grief, and poor health, and the special evangelistic opportunities of aged care, and to keep strong in faith, as our bodies grow weaker.

To do this, we’re going to return to having a quarterly, midweek church service before our Prime Time lunch, where we invite a guest preacher, and have Lord’s supper, and then our famous, Prime Time lunch.

And the Prime Time group will also keep heading out for regular socials, especially for those who are a little less sure on their feet or maybe housebound.

I am very excited about these four new, or new-look ministries.

In summary, each term our young adults will have a ‘Mix’ event, our parents and carers will have a ‘Recharge’ event, our boomers will have an ‘Interact’ event, and our seniors will have a ‘Prime Time’ event.

And each time they gather, we’ll have a quality, guest speaker who will be charged with the duty of grappling with God’s word, to help us see our world in a biblical framework, as they share deeply-practical application that is based on rigorous, theological foundations in Christian ethics and doctrine and hermeneutics and exegesis, and lots of other big words!

I believe it will be an exciting development in the life of Oak Flats Anglican.

And it will mean that not only will we have a bunch of people joining new Bible studies, we’ll also have a suite of new, generational-focused ministries for people to attend once a quarter.

But this creates a little problem.

If we encourage people to go to another four dinners each year, then we will end up competing with our monthly men’s and ladies’ dinners.

And this will put even more strain on our time and our wallets, and will make it harder to keep all these dinners and events viable.

So, after much prayer and discussion, we’re now going to change our men’s and ladies’ dinners so they meet quarterly, not monthly.

Instead of 11 times a year, they’ll now meet four times a year.

But, on top of the four men’s or ladies’ dinners, you’ll go to four Interact dinners, with the same quality speakers and food and fellowship you’ve grown to love.

Every adult in our church will have their four men’s or ladies’ dinners, plus their four ‘Mix’ or ‘Recharge’ or ‘Interact’ or ‘Prime Time’ dinners.

There will be eight, great, dinners per year, for you and your friends to gather for fellowship and a solid, talk from God’s word that is targeted at your stage in life.

And it will also be an opportunity for us to have a fresh look at our men’s and ladies’ dinners, and see how we can make them even better.

I reckon we ask our men’s speakers to grapple with what God’s word says about pornography, and anxiety, and work and leisure, and marriage, and materialism, and substance abuse, and domestic abuse, and all sorts of issues to do with Christian discipleship.

And we can ask the women who preach at our ladies’ dinners to grapple with what God’s word says about contentment, and domestic abuse, and marriage, and motherhood, and anxiety and depression, and work and leisure, and lots of things that our Christian women need to address.

I think there are many topics of discipleship that we need to address, and I think these events are the best forum to do it.

And we’ll continue to ask many of the guest speakers we know and love to continue to speak at our dinners.

But, all of this means a change to our men’s and ladies’ dinners.

We will now meet less often, but we’ll also have another dinner each quarter that will be just as good.

And as our men’s and ladies’ dinners have been getting smaller and getting older, this is the best way to renovate and rejuvenate these ministries so they keep going for decades more into the future.

Friends, we have been very well served by Jane Mills and John Wilson and their terrific and tireless work in running our men’s and ladies’ dinners, and we want to do all we can to preserve the legacy of this long-standing ministry in our region.

But to keep it fresh, we need to do some things a little differently.

I realise this is a change for our church, and that some of us will find it hard.

But, friends, as I said earlier, we need to make changes so that we can include more people from our church and community in our ministries.

And this needs to happen because many of our newer and younger members are missing out on the great benefits of our dinners and small groups and socials.

We need to transform our ministries so that they will work for everyone in our church.

The future of our church depends on this.

The next step is to hear from everyone in our church about the best time and place for these events.

Next week I’ll be handing out a survey to every adult at church, asking you all to tell us what we need to do to make our dinners and events work for you and your friends.

Have you not been coming because they’ve been too expensive, or you didn’t like the food or the venue, or the time of the week?

We want your feedback so that we can run four men’s events that will work for all our men, and four women’s events that will work for all our women, and we want to run Mix, Recharge, Interact, and Prime Time when the people in the target generation are best able to come along, and to bring their unchurched friends.

And then, after we’ve gone through the feedback, we’ll let you know our plans for 2018.

Friends, I urge you to embrace these changes, and to pray for me and our church as we seek to run ministries that bring great glory to God as his word is proclaimed to men, women, and people of all different ages and stages of life.

Please come and chat to me with your thoughts and concerns and ideas.

If you’d like a longer chat, invite me over for a cuppa, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And next week, when we distribute the survey, please share your thoughts with us, and have an open mind to how we can disciple and evangelise Oak Flats and our neighbourhood and our world.

Jodie McNeill, 22nd October 2017