Several years ago during a Next Step group, a woman made the most interesting observation about Good Shepherd:
This is not a big church. It’s a church where a lot of people belong.
And I did what I always do in a situation like that: exclaimed “that will preach!” and then wrote it down to keep for future use.
But I so love that sentiment. She meant that in her experience GSUMC does not feel large and impersonal; it instead conveys warmth and intimacy in spite of the numbers of people who call it home, both pre- and post-Covid.
Whatever size we have is possible because we go to great lengths to feel small. That’s why:
- Our band, choir, and Sunday teachers don’t spend the moments before the service begin in some sort of Green Room. Instead, we’re out among the congregation, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. That way, when the worship service actually starts, it’s clear that whatever leadership is on the platfor is first and foremost part of the community.
- We send a lot of hand written notes. A lot.
- People in the church make and deliver meals for one another in times of both sadness and celebration. A few years ago a couple in church suffered a miscarriage — and approached me two Sundays later to express their astonishment that someone they didn’t even know brought a sympathy meal to them.
- We try really hard to learn and remember names.
- We try just as hard to return phone calls and emails on the same day they come in.
- We have a full-time employee who has the job title of “Congregational Care” — some churches our size and style have opted not to staff such a position but rely on small groups to handle care. Both methods have strengths and weaknesses; we have simply chosen this route.
We get a lot of things wrong here and I make more than my fair share of mistakes.
But with my new friend’s definition in mind, may gain strength by never getting big. But may we always be a place where a whole lot of people belong.