Finishing the aforementioned phrase is one of the ways that I conclude a workshop that I frequently do with churches in the Iowa Conference UCC. As you might imagine, the ways that people finish that sentence varies from person to person, church to church.
Embedded in all those “dreams” is a certain amount of tension. Often people will finish the phrase with ideal things like having a transformational, safe, fun and relevant church. They talk of dreams of having adults who are all investing in mentoring young people. They speak of a church that values listening to one another and speaking kindly. Mixed in those ideal lists, however, tends to be the practical. People will lift up having a church that is able to meet its budget or will have enough young people for a youth group or will stay open for generations to come.
I certainly understand those realities. The majority of the churches I work with are in small, rural places that have lost a large percentage of their population in just the last few decades. This reality is painful, difficult, even tragic. These small churches compare themselves to churches in growing, urban areas and aspire to be them – even if their population couldn’t possibly support such growth.
When these realities creep into the conversation, so does the fear.
Fear is almost never helpful when you’re in a situation that calls you to change. Fear holds you back from trying something new because you’re afraid you won’t have enough money or people or other resources.
At the Iowa Conference UCC, we talk often about how the Gospel calls individuals and communities to change. In a new brochure we’ll be using soon, we cite Matthew 18: 1-3 in which Jesus was asked, “‘Who will be the greatest in God’s realm?’” Jesus replies, “‘Unless you change … you’ll never even enter God’s realm!’”
Although change is often painful and difficult, it is our higher call. So, I encourage you to dream big and DO something to make it happen. All the great success stories, including Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, begin this way.