We look back to look ahead better.
Yes, it’s a chance to celebrate some wins, but it mostly helps us grow stronger into a new year.
So let’s take a few moments to look back at 2015 as we prepare to stride into 2016.
The first thing I should say is how much prayer and service goes on behind the scenes—whether that be preparing to teach a Sunday School class, having coffee and prayer with someone who is hurting, ensuring the building is in good shape, researching how to help refugee families, trying a new outreach, or coordinating rental contracts.
So that’s a bit of a warning: I’m about to comment on some of the visible things–and some fun things–quite simply because they are more measurable and also give you a sense of our trajectory.
Here are some happenings that were unique to the past 12 months:
We hosted the Renewal Fellowship Conference, a first for us. That’s a group of leaders in the Presbyterian Church committed to prayer and renewal across the country.
We hosted the Life 100.3FM Dropbox movie tour.
We got a new soundboard.
We tried some new online and in-person studies.
A new ministry called “Nourishing Hearts” began, which brings food to individuals who are sick and home-bound.
We elected 4 new elders as we transition into term service for eldership.
We advanced a more user-friendly interactive website.
We grew a Leading With Care committee that is bringing in practices to ensure Westminster is an up-to-date loving community where people feel safe and welcome.
We had two of our most successful March Break and Vacation Bible Camps, including a free community BBQ. They included so much prayer, blessing, and hard work that it’s difficult to even put into words!
We took pictures for a new photo directory (which should arrive in 2016).
Oh, and we just got a new coffee set-up with a more, shall we say, enlightened coffee experience. Yay!
We continued strong with over a dozen weekly or monthly ministries that focus on worship or caring or learning or fellowship.
I asked our youth coordinator, Julie, for her thoughts on the past year and this is what she said:
“This year at Westminster our family and youth ministries have grown with new friends who have joined us on exciting adventures, overcoming challenges, learning of God’s love and making a difference.”
I would definitely agree.
We also added a 2nd service on December 24th: A (Super) Family-Friendly Christmas Eve. It went really well and helped even more people worship God on that special night. All told, 315 people were blessed by Westminster on Christmas Eve through our two services.
Numerically, Westminster continues to grow. Right now about 250 people call Westminster their church home. Given the fluctuation of modern schedules that translates into an average Sunday worship attendance of 122.
That is an average number that takes into account the low summer months when people are vacationing and there may be 70 or 80 people in worship, and also the busier ones in Lent and Advent when there may be between 150 and 180.
As I’ve said before, numbers aren’t everything—but they are often be an indicator of vitality and trends.
And just so you get a sense of context, that is a 4.27% increase over last year, and a 36% increase from just 5 years ago.
And as the congregation grows we’ll have to ensure we’re proactive about being welcoming, especially since not everyone knows who everyone is anymore.
In worship, the song we sang the most was “Cornerstone.”
“King of Heaven,” “The Same Love,” “Here I Am To Worship,” “Whom Shall I Fear” and “10,000 Reasons” were close behind.
About worship, our music director Jenn, said: “Led by a faithful and dedicated choir, we continued to learn more modern worship songs to enhance our blended worship services.”
Other favorites were songs like “Seek Ye First,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
When I asked Jenn about the year in general she said: “To me, 2015 at Westminster was a year of growth – growth in faith, growth in numbers, growth in discipleship, and a growing desire to learn more about the love of Jesus.”
Financially, we also did well. Our budget of $168,000 was the most aggressive in several years. And guess what? I just talked to Mary, our treasurer, and… You did it! That’s no small accomplishment.
Personally, I feel really encouraged. I continue to feel strongly that Westminster is evolving as a family-friendly church who loves Jesus. This means we’re a relaxed-but-reverent, increasingly inter-generational group of real, faithful people who seek to love, learn about, and live the way of Christ today.
In worship we’re continuing with a “blended” style; and I like the idea of using sermon series to help us focus on related biblical themes and how they connect to our lives in practical ways.
I feel very certain that what God does—and what we do—on Sunday morning continues to be the most significant thing we do.
This year I also started “Up!” a 1-minute daily devotional, and continued to write several blogs a month, and publish some articles. Leading elder meetings, worship services, and providing critical pastoral care also take my attention. It’s good for you to know all that because the pastor is the biggest price tag in Westminster’s annual budget!
Our online presence continues to grow. In December our website even shut down because it wasn’t used to handling the volume (so we had to bump up to a new size to accommodate higher than expected downloads and visitors). The use of Facebook “events” and the weekly emails dramatically expand how we share information.
Given our trajectory, the elders have invited a consultant to speak to us in February to help us as we transition to the next size of church. This will include streamlining decision-making, formalizing a few of the things we do, and focusing on our key priorities.
In 2015 we welcomed and baptized several people, confirmed the faith of some of our young people, and also celebrated the lives of a few from our midst who passed away. I am so exceedingly thankful for all of them.
So there’s a bit of a look back. And remember: We look back to look ahead better.
Perhaps my biggest impression of 2015 is this: Each Sunday sensing the aliveness of Christ in our midst. And it feels great to be a part of.
I love what Wayne Gretzky said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Part of what I love about Westminster is that we honor the past, and root ourselves in Christ, but continue to be open to where God is leading us in a spirit of humility, grace and truth.
God always wins. And we’re on his team.
God is incredible and full of wonderful surprises. And so are you!
Here’s to an awesome 2016.
June 13, 2018
May 31, 2018