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Seven Trends That Affect Your Church

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Do you long for the “good old days”? I often hear friends talk about “the way it was when we were kids.” And, those were good days—playing outside after dark, riding my bike (without a helmet or pads) to the nearby store, standing up on the front seat of my daddy’s pickup, playing with a friend who had contracted polio as an infant, worrying about a nuclear bomb attack from the Russians . . . Well, maybe not all of the days were so good.

For my parents, my “good, old days” were their “scary future”. My scary future is the world inhabited by nieces and nephews who do not know a world where polio and small pox vaccines were necessary. Yet, they also live with the pressure of a future that is changing more rapidly than any of us can fathom.

The church is no different. Is your church living in the “good, old days” or trying to make sense out of the “scary future”? Perhaps it is trying to do both, struggling to let go of old ways and yet, not quite ready to embrace the new. The new is exciting, but it is also frightening when we do understand what is happening around us.

Plan a Recognition Service That Celebrates Everyone

I remember recognition services where proud parents beamed as their children’s achievements were celebrated. Little boys squirmed and little girls smiled at the attention from the adults. Where did those days go?

Recognition services are out of sync with our sophistication today. But what have we lost? The entire church was enlivened by the simplicity, beauty, and joy on the faces of its children. Adults saw the fruit of their hard work and were encouraged. Those who worked with children and youth were celebrated and honored for their faithfulness. Children and teens felt as if they were part of the whole church and that their service to God mattered.

But what about the children with developmental challenges? How do they and their parents feel?

Our church was celebrating the end of the semester, before the holidays, with a special Sunday night service and fellowship time. The children had memorized their verses and made posters of their missions projects. They were excited and a little scared about Sunday night’s service. Their leaders were, too.

Send out the Missions Volunteers

Your missions team has prayed and is ready to go. Now it’s time to figure out how to get them there. The more folks involved in sending, the more will also be praying and feeling they are a vital part of the kingdom work God has planned for the team. Many hands also make for easier—and quicker—work.

Consider these ideas to spur your church on in its sending efforts:

Bake and Serve Silent Auction

As the WMU director, solicit donations from church members: plates of cookies, loaves of bread, or gift certificates for a pan of lasagna or a homemade meal. Consider asking for services to be donated as well: 2 hours of leaf raking, 3 hours of housework, or 4 hours of babysitting.

Carryout Dinner

Sell tickets for a barbecued chicken dinner. Ask members of adult missions organizations to gather at the church kitchen early in the day to prepare chicken, baked beans, potato salad, and rolls. Set up an assembly line to fill carryout boxes, and deliver to vehicles as folks drive by to pick up. Recruit students to direct traffic in the parking lot.

Missions Books for Bucks

Prepare with Prayer

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” Oswald Chambers was right. No matter what kingdom work calls us, that work must be grounded in and fueled by prayer.

As your church prepares to send out short-term missions teams this summer, make prayer a priority. Recognize that prayer unites the body of Christ and makes those who pray just as important as those who go.

Consider these ideas to ensure those going are covered in prayer:

Prayer Cards: Create postcard-sized prayer cards that include a team photo, a key verse for the trip, and 3 specific prayer requests. Distribute cards to members of missions organizations and consider including in the church bulletin.

Prayer Sync: Challenge church members to set clocks or phones for a daily reminder to pray in the weeks leading up to the trip. If the missions trip dates are July 10–13, consider praying from 7:10–7:13 each day, for example.

World Water Day: Pure Water, Pure Love

How many times have you used water today? Did you stop and wonder if the water was clean? Most likely you use water more times in a day than you realize and you are blessed with not having to wonder whether the water you are drinking is safe and clean. However, this is not the case in many places around the world. Did you know that more than 663 million people lack access to clean water? The need for clean water access is great as the lack of clean water leads to numerous water-related diseases. Consider the following:

Get to Know Annie

Annie Armstrong, for whom the North American missions offering is named, was an amazing woman, yet many of our church members knew very little about her. To alleviate that, our WMU presented an informative skit the Sunday prior to the Week of Prayer for North American Missions. Women (dressed in period costumes) shared tidbits of information about “their friend, Annie.”

Here is a sampling of the information shared:

Minister around the Town

Children’s Ministry Day is an excellent way to involve not only your Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors or Children in Action in missions but also their parents. Too often, parents drop their children off and head to the grocery store or back home and miss the opportunity to be on mission with them. Our church’s theme of Random Acts of Kindness was tailor-made for family fun.

After being given a list of suggested random acts of kindness, the teams were on their way. Items to help perform these acts were available for each team to use. Small boxes of laundry detergent and dryer sheets for visits to a laundromat, bags of microwave popcorn to be taped to DVD rental machines, blank self-stick removable notes for writing uplifting messages to be left on restroom mirrors or in library books, bubbles to be left on doorsteps, and sidewalk chalk for more messages were just some of the items. Each act of kindness was accompanied by an invitation to visit our church.

Support Missions

We who are blessed with a constant source of water on tap find it difficult to imagine life without a ready source of water. Without water, we cannot live, so when a village without water gets a well, it is cause for rejoicing!

The villages of Sayoo and Gaa Beni in Ghana were overjoyed when water began to flow from the pump. In Gaa Beni, children sat under the pump and played in the water. In Sayoo, women were so excited they danced and ran to the pump to obtain water until 2:00 a.m.

A very good supply of water is present in all 3 of the wells, bringing rejoicing and satisfaction to the Mobile Care Mission Ghana well drilling team; Gila Valley Baptist Association partners in Casa Grande, Arizona; and, most especially, the residents of the 2 villages. Money to drill these wells was provided by Pure Water, Pure Love (PWPL), a ministry of WMU. PWPL demonstrates the love of Christ by meeting the basic, physical need for potable water and alleviating the burden women throughout much of the world share—finding water for their households.

Focus on Generations

Imagine a gym full of preschoolers through women in their 80s. Imagine fun and games mixed with ministry. Imagine a multigenerational morning celebrating Focus on WMU association-wide. 

While it might sound unwieldy to have all age levels together for 1 large event, everyone in our association enjoyed eating a potluck brunch before the children led in prayer for those on the missionary prayer calendar. Soon everyone split into groups to work on ministry projects specifically designed for his or her age level.

Moms who were not members of Women on Mission participated with other women and learned more about missions. In a role reversal, the children worked on projects while the adults played games designed to help them learn more about missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® using ideas that could be duplicated in their churches. Laughter swirled around the gym.

Serve in Missions

LaShondra's mentor, Cathy, characterizes her as tenacious: “After some initial success in passing some of the sections [of the GED test], several sections were proving to be much more difficult challenges, such as math and science. . . . She contemplated giving up after failing some of the tests for a second time. However, she recognized what an incredible opportunity CWJC’s program afforded her.”

CWJC, or Christian Women’s Job Corps, was founded by WMU in 1997. The ministry, which has expanded to include Christian Men’s Job Corps (CMJC), serves thousands of individuals through nearly 200 registered sites in 23 states and 5 countries by utilizing a two-pronged holistic,strengths-based approach of mentoring and discipleship. This all-inclusive method produces a holistic approach to life change, allowing individuals to understand that wholeness is a by-product of daily, personal decisions of behavior modification and thought transformation, outworked through a disciplined relationship with God and people.

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