Moving Beyond Survival: DOXOLOGY and Your Church’s Future

 Boom and bust have been the cycle of farmers for generations, as well as businesses in small towns that depend on farm customers. But lately it’s been mostly “bust” and very little “boom.” Plummeting commodity prices, rising expenses, and international trade wars have all taken their toll on those who live and work in America’s heartland. Combine that with the advent of factory farms and vanishing family farms, add in plunging birth rates and the exodus of rural youth, and that leaves the average congregation on the ropes numerically and financially. A whole lot of churches in rural and small-town America are in survival mode these days.

Have your members begun to look backward instead of forward? Have you adopted a survival mentality? Is there a lot of nostalgia for past “glory days” when you had a flourishing children’s Sunday School and far fewer vacant pews than you see at worship these days? Is there a growing and nagging sense of shame that somehow you’ve failed the pioneer generations who founded your congregation?

DOXOLOGY would like to be the catalyst to help your church members take a fresh look at what can be a pretty deflating picture and find the possibilities hidden behind the challenges.

Besides our classic program for pastors, lay leaders and clergy couples, the break­out session in Minneapolis (at the RSTM National conference) will give you a fuller picture of what we have to offer you. In broad strokes, here’s what we have to offer your congregation:

  1. We’re no miracle workers; there’s no magic wand or button you can push to make all your problems go away. There’s only this promise of our Lord Jesus: “I will build my church.”
  2. We need to explore what Jesus’ prom­ise means in your specific location: What does Jesus mean by “church?” More im­portantly, how does He build His church?
  3. What is a pastor? How can you as God’s people join together to enhance your pastor’s ministry in mission to an increasingly paganized culture?
  4. Which invisible people groups have moved into your community since the days of the founding of your congregation? Where do they live and work? How can you get to know them (and speak to them, if they converse in another language)?
  5. What are the resources the Lord has given uniquely to you in this generation to reach out anew with His changeless Word?
  6. Which aspects of our Lutheran theology connect well to a world in spiritual free-fall?
  7. Which points of connection have you been given in your daily lives with those who do not know the Lord Jesus and His church?
  8. How can you partner with sister congregations in your vicinity to better address the work the Lord has given you to do in our generation?
  9. What can you do to encourage fellow members to live more deliberately as the family of God, lifting each other’s burdens and multiplying personal joys?

Join me for the webinar “Moving Beyond Survival: DOXOLOGY and Your Church’s Future” on October 10 at 1 p.m. CST, as we discuss these and other matters facing church leaders in these momentous times.

Contributed through the LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission monthly newsletter by the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, executive director for Spiritual Care, DOXOLOGY

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