In the time leading up to my annual report, I asked God to give me a simple, “one word” summary for this year of church life. I have since chosen the word “headwind.” A headwind blows against the direction of travel. A headwind decreases an object’s speed and increases the time required to reach its destination. In sailing, a headwind may make forward movement difficult, necessitating tacking into the wind. We have charted a course toward Jesus’ mandate… inviting neighbors to find a home in Christ together. But when we look at our effectiveness in receiving outcomes and measures from God in this ministry year, our results have been mixed:
The first of our measures we describe as “SEEK.” We keep track of our average weekend attendance and our total number of healthy small groups. Our average weekend attendance for this year of ministry is 330, and our total number of small groups in all areas of ministry is 55.
The second of our measures is simply “SERVE.” We observe the percentage of attendees who engage in church life and ministry; further, we count the number of service projects in our community. We are grateful for many who serve “one another” in the family of God, and we have 75% of our regular attenders involved in a small group and/or ministry. We also celebrate 20 service projects in and toward our community.
The third of our measures is “SHARE.” We seek to elevate the number of outreach events our church hosts and the number of faith commitments and baptisms. We have had 9 intentional outreach events this year, marked by 47 faith commitments and 12 baptisms.
Financial giving is another indicator of our faith and generosity. We are on pace for some $615,000 to come into the general fund this year, with an additional $57,000 given to our Live It Out initiative.
In the sovereignty of God, we were pleased to say “hello” this year to some important kingdom workers. Our church family called Kreg Kastelz into our Director of Student Ministry role; further, our church leadership has recognized Debbie Stewart as Interim Director of Children’s Ministry. These individuals have been elevated from places of ministry within our church family to these new places of responsibility. It appears Aspen Ridge Church has begun to generate leaders from within, and for this we are grateful to God.
Alongside of these wins, it seems clear that we face opposition in the spiritual realm from forces that are analogous to a headwind. We have seen a decline in our average weekend worship service attendance (down 11%) and a similar decline in the number of small groups. While the headwinds may appear to be resistant to our progress, they do provide an opportunity. For example, in aeronautics, a headwind may be favorable. One occasion when a headwind is favorable is takeoff, because greater lift is possible than with tranquil air or a tailwind. As a result, aviators commonly turn their aircraft toward the wind to gain the advantage of such lift.
The headwind provides us with an opportunity to face our challenges with trust in God, building on our strengths and shoring up our weaknesses. We have a measure of strength and grace showing up on our “SERVE” and “SHARE” areas. God willing, we will develop this strength by providing church-wide training in learning how to effectively SHARE our faith. This will come with two fall small groups (entitled “Becoming a Contagious Christian”) and a Spring church-wide initiative using the same curriculum. Further, I have a prayerful determination to initiate a series on the Acts of the Apostles that will build on the idea that we are sent so our community may come to know the treasures of the gospel. May God use these initiatives to bear fruit in average weekend attendance. Further, we have additional Live It Out plans, including local service projects and (God willing) the identification of a Director of Small Groups.
In sum, I call Aspen Ridge Church to prayerful dependence upon God. We have an opportunity to face into the headwinds and really take off! I exhort you to connect with Jesus Christ through corporate worship and small group life. I encourage you to team with your small group toward service projects in our community. I invite you to receive instruction on how to build relationships in your neighborhood and community for the advance of the gospel in faith commitments and baptisms.
Carried Along by His Spirit,