After today, it is entirely possible that we will have 15 in the classes. Fifteen. Regularly. We had nine visitors in church today - including five fantastic kids! Since our worship attendance is normally about 25-35, the addition of nine people is significant and marvelous. There were 46 of us today. And I do think our visitors will be back. (I sure hope so!)
It's also fabulous in that there was a diverse group of folk who joined us for the first time - a mom with a toddler daughter, a mom with four kids, an older couple, and a gentleman who is planning to run for U.S. Congress in our district. Plus a larger-than usual group of "regulars," who are themselves a heady mix of families, widowers, widows, older couples, and same-sex couples of a variety of ages.
Conventional wisdom seems to be that church growth happens when that new and exciting minister comes to town, and I expect there are places where that happens. But in smaller communities, or at least in this one, even dynamic ministers really have to build trust in order to impact a community - and that comes with time. I think it also helps that over the past few years, I have built real friendships with a number of the people who've ended up coming to church in the past year. They have seen that I am their friend and that my relationship with them has nothing to do with church. They know that I will be their friend if they never come to church; and they know that if this church community is not for them, we will still be friends.
Of course, I will happily navigate the challenges of friends joining the church I serve, and if this is a good fit, nothing would make me happier than friends finding a home in the church I love so well. In fact, I rather like the way we've rather unconventionally grown and the ways that this growth is emerging and taking shape in the life of our church community.
This is a big of rambly post, I know - but I'm still riding the "high" from worship and fellowship time today - and I can't wait to start my work week! Thank you, visitors, friends and members!