God knows that I have been given the best mentors a wanna-be pastor like me could learn from. Last week, I had the opportunity to catch up with one of those great people. Our conversation circled around one particular question she had asked.
The question was “How can we tell if the people we serve are growing deeper in faith?” This past weekend as I was out mountain biking among the birch trees of northern Minnesota, I wondered about how I might answer this. Here are my top 5 thoughts:
Vibrant Conversations. The other day, I challenged the congregation in my sermon on something that I called 60 Seconds Storytelling. It’s a process I developed to help people learn and practice their story in the midst of God’s story. People loved the chance to swap stories about God’s love in the sanctuary. The energy and enthusiasm from these conversations was so contagious that someone had to whistle to get everyone to stop talking.
Take away? Congregational vibrancy speaks of people’s willingness to talk, step out and go deeper in faith.
Hand-Holding Process. As a Director of Children’s Ministries, I am on the frontline for receiving new families. Sometimes the people I receive are so new to church that I have developed a hand-holding process. It’s not enough to just point to where things are or assume that they know church-speak. But if I want to see them again the next week, I must hold their hand by answering their emails promptly, by being their first church friend or by showing them around. It’s a time consuming process! But when families do come back, it’s because of the hospitality that they have received.
Take away? Hand-holding enables people go deeper into their faith knowing that someone will be there to help them navigate through it.
Straight Up Stories. Sometimes people will send me straight up stories of how their children or themselves are growing in their faith. For example, a mother of one of my Kindergarten Sunday School students sent me an email last week. Her story shared about her son at age 6 is writing in his journal at school about how he loves church. The youngest son at age 4 shared in a card about how his mother tells him everyday that God loves him.
Take away? Personal stories about growing in faith sums up the question.
Power of Invitation. One thing I have focused on the last 20 years in ministry is to never turn down a volunteer. As parents or caregivers register children for Sunday School or VBS, I invite them to volunteer as they are able. Even if I have never met them! (Pending background checks, of course.) But I have volunteer positions available to help meet the needs of what people have time to do: teach Sunday School, prep materials at home, pick up supplies, lead puppets or join in the Wednesday prep crew.
Take away? Sometimes it just takes a small invitation that people need in order for them to take their next step in faith.
Number Line. Numbers, while they don’t tell the whole story, can give an indication on what is happening. They can tell us how many people were in Sunday School or worship on a given Sunday. Even in Bible stories, we read about numbers. Take Acts 2. In one day around 3000 people were baptized! Jesus said that when two or more are gathered in his name, he will be there.
Take away? Numbers – big or small – help quantify that the Holy Spirit is up to something.
So to enter my mentor’s question, these are my top 5 thoughts on how I see people growing in their faith. I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to post in the comments.