The calendar year ending was not a time of reflection for me. I’m a bi-professional church starter, a middle school teacher, so the calendar year ending just meant I was halfway through the school year – a time of looking forward to finishing the school year strong. Plus I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions or “year in review” retrospection.
Even the end of the liturgical calendar doesn’t prompt me to reflect back either. (Hmm.. I’m kinda seeing a pattern here – guess I’m just not a hindsight guy).
The time for our annual reporting as CBF church starters coincided with another important event for me. Mosaic Fellowship turned a year old this past week – May 1st of last year we held our first public worship service. Two events that really made me turn back to look at the first year of Mosaic.
We started small, learning as we went. Through most of the year, I struggled with our slow growth, chafing at the need to increase our numbers. (I know, I know – it’s not about numbers. But that’s the measuring stick everyone uses to evaluate us, including some of our partners and sponsors).
In reflection, though, it was probably a blessing, oddly enough. This is my first call – I’m still learning how to be a pastor and not just a church starter; pastoring to a small group has allowed me to learn the job on a more manageable scale. I can’t imagine how crazy it would be if our growth had exploded early.
Not long ago I was setting up for an event at the biker church that is our primary sponsor. That church is only about a year and a half older than we are but they’re outgrowing their building, running nigh on a hundred most Sundays. I paused, looking around at all those seats and at the podium where their praise team plays, comparing them to the small chapel where our dozen stalwarts are led by our music minister on his guitar. And I was shocked to not feel any envy, did not compare their rapid growth with our glacial growth. Nope, I felt lucky to have been afforded the luxury of my small congregation.
I’ve written in this space before about taking pleasure in the small things; who knew that one of the small things I’d be thankful for would be the size of my congregation‽
It’s no secret to anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes with me that the words I use most frequently when talking church stuff is “community” and “family.” And those qualities are certainly much easier to cultivate in a more intimate setting.
In the first draft of my church start plan, some two and a half years ago, part of I wrote that I wanted my church to be was “…a loving and generous community, a safe place to wrestle with our faith, to share our triumphs and our tragedies.”
A family, in other words.
As I stood at the lectern during our anniversary service, I realized that the people in attendance who were there for that first service 12 months ago were myself, my wife and our daughter. That’s it. The rest of our congregation has been with us for less than 6 months. But in those few short months we have truly become a community, a faith family.
It’s been a rocky ride, with seemingly more lows than highs, if I’m honest. Halfway through the year, there were doubts we’ve even survive.
Standing there looking out at my small but loving faith family, it was every bump in the road. After all, weathering storms together is what families do.