Driving into Sioux Falls the other day I heard on the radio a speaker –who was talking about the effect of the pandemic and the necessity for many to work from home—say, “the work place has changed forever. Workers in many professions have discovered that they have the option to work from home or at least to work in an office setting where there is significant freedom to choose the environment from which they will work.”
That long conversation got me thinking. I wondered what will end up being the sum total of what we have learned about ourselves as a congregation. I then started to think back to visits I have been having in the hallways and at committee meetings here at Beaver Valley, as well as with other pastors reflecting upon lessons learned in their congregations. The lessons are many.
For us here at Beaver Valley, the simple truth is that the Church across this country and our own congregation has been changed for the future as well. We, like most congregations, have discovered how vital digital communication was during the pandemic but also will be into our changing future. The youngest half of our culture at least jump on the internet (usually through their cell phone) to get their news, to make reservations, to get directions to places like our Pavilion, to listen to pod casts and even, believe it or not, a sermon once in a while.
All of this is to say that as we come out of the pandemic now, it is clear that we must not lose the wonderful capacity we have gained over the past year and a quarter to be able to live stream worship and have it posted on YouTube for folks to take in. It’s celebrating a newly formatted web site that will be easy to navigate on mobile devices. People will engage with our ministry in ways we have never seen in just a few weeks (be watching for an August 1 “launch” of our new BeaverValleyLutheran.org web site!) It’s evangelism we are talking about. It’s being the church in a very new way.
To make sure that we act upon what we have learned about the culture in which we plan to continue to grow our ministry, our church council has voted to add a staff position. In this Tidings you will find a simple job description for the Director of media that we seek. This person will coordinate “all things digital” for our congregation, week-in-week-out.
We have also learned that the challenges our young families face in being involved in a traditional Sunday morning Sunday School–all of that was becoming apparent even before the pandemic hit–are even more evident now. The prospect of finding a half dozen Sunday School teachers to commit to a solid year of teaching a room full of children is almost nil.
So how do we honor our baptismal promise to raise our children in the faith? The Christian Education committee has been brave and right to suggest that a new model for how we teach our children the basics of faith is required. Since late spring, the committee and I have wrestled with how to offer a faith-building model that allows parents to be a part of Sundays with their children as often as possible, and to show up not feeling like they have been missing out….each lesson a standalone lesson, each morning a complete experience.
We are moving forward with a new Sunday morning with our children using the Whirl curriculum and video series published by Augsburg/Fortress. It’s not a new curriculum that is going to fix everything, we know that. Using this new material, especially the new video components, will be the platform from which we work to create a fresh, one-room-school-house, way of gathering. It will allow for a festive, start to the morning. It will allow children to at times still be in their own age cluster all the while doing things like an Sunday School opening and sometimes a song at the end of the actual lesson time (for those parents and children who want to stay and be a part of a Sunday School choir.)
We have dreamed about how this could be a festive, no more than a half hour long time for parents and children to be in church faithfully together learning the essential stories of faith.
To make this happen, the church council has approved the hiring of another part-time staff person. This person will be the director of our Sunday School program (including organizing the volunteers required to make each week’s Whirl Sunday School meaningful and fun, put on a great Christmas Program as well as organize our summer faith event…a VBS of some kind). That job description is also published in this newsletter.
What have we learned over the past year? That only those congregations that believe that God is at work among God’s people like God always has been will stay alive. We know that evangelism, reaching out to the next and coming generations will require a great digital ministry. We know that finding ways that work for families to come and be a part of our faith community with their children is a blessed endeavor.
We pray for good people to step up and commit to making our ministry better. We trust God is alive among us as we come back together ready to head into a critically important fall.
Pastor Greg Johnson