Thrive: to grow vigorously; flourish; to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.
Study after study has presented reasons why churches in the United States are in a state of decline. And to most of us who grew up from the 1950's until today, "things" just aren't the way they use to be at church" — crowds that outgrew the space in the sanctuaries and in the Sunday School classrooms; building projects to accommodate the influx of people. Families together in worship. Fellowship activities created for the "church folk" to stay connected with one another. Being at church 3-5 times a week for said fellowship activities, meetings, prayer groups, Bible studies, and worship.
Yes, those images are too few and far between. In some cases that is not so good. And in other cases, it may be good. Whether it is doing church like we always did it or having the next best tool for the worship experience such as contemporary music, lights, videos, and a forty-five minute sermon (yes, UCC people, they do exist), these may not lead to the transformation that is truly needed for the churches in the U.S., or even at Spring Creek. No, "tools" may be helpful, but they are not what transforms congregations. For churches like Spring Creek to transform at this time and place, what is needed is a commitment by all to be do the work that is needed to be a thrivingcommunity of faith.
Ruth A. Fletcher wrote a book entitled, Thrive: Spiritual Habits of Transforming Congregations. In the book she presents words, images, and stories of how congregations transform into what were churches in decline or plateaued into thriving communities of faith. In each story, image, and words congregations are given suggestions as to how they can transform into something new and exciting that people want to be connected to. Here are some of the words you will be hearing during our Fall sermon series, Thrive, that Fletcher and others suggest to congregations who want to be thriving, transforming congregations:
Pray, grow, commit, connect, serve, have a vision.
I hope that each individual here will try to the best of their ability to engage in each of those areas in which Spring Creek can transform into a striving congregation making a "divine difference" together for years to come. Right now, we have been given a good start by the prayer ministry beginning led by Sara Ostgarden. We have been looking for ways to connect and grow as people of faith with service opportunities as well as becoming engaged in a new group called "Aging with Attitude." We hope more and more people will become engaged in learning opportunities that will be offered. The Church Profile Committee has started the work to prepare for a search for a settled pastor, and this work will allow all of us to participate in what we envision Spring Creek to be now and in the future. Jim Powers and Terry White will soon be leading efforts to formalize a visioning process.
Yes, Spring Creek has taken the initiative to start the work that is necessary to identify itself as a congregation that wants to be a thriving, transformed community of faith. However, it takes everyone's participation, and everyone's focus on how we can be more connected to God's vision, power, purpose, and direction!