In October each year every Methodist Church in the land counts their congregation each Sunday. Then, in November, we look at the member changes over the last year. All this is used to put together what we call the statistics for mission for the Church. These figures give us a snapshot of how the church is doing. I have to say that nationally the figures are not great reading and in most churches across the connexion you can see a decline in membership and attendance. We in this church are bucking the trend a bit in that our membership is just about stable at the moment and attendances are just holding their own. This of course does not give us permission to be complacent. The truth is that there are a lot more seats in our Church which we could fill every week.
It seems to me that, while we are not growing, we seem to be attracting a few new people into the life of the Church here in Hartford. This is a good thing and we need to build on this so that we become an attractive church that people want to come to. It has been said to me by a number of newer people that, in general, we are a very welcoming church, which presumably is why these people continue to come. If that is the case we need to continue to build on that, remembering that welcome also means drawing people into the community of the church. This doesn’t mean that we give them a job, although if they want one why not? What it does mean is that we try and include everyone in the life of the church. I also think we need to do other things as well. Newcomers and indeed old stagers won’t come very often if our worship life is poor. We need to ensure that the worship in this church is as good as it could be and that it has a variety of styles that can enable us all to meet with God. What I am saying is that we need to think about what we do well and then to think about any improvements we can make.
Of course our primary concern isn’t about recruitment. We are not here to recruit more members of Hartford Methodist Church; rather we are here to “Show God’s love to the people of Hartford and the surrounding area” and “to make more disciples of Jesus.” The core reason for the existence of any church is to help people to get to know Jesus and continue to be his disciples. This is the most important thing that we do as a church. It is probably our biggest challenge, but if we get this right then hopefully more people will want to join us. The church should not be a recruitment organisation, it should be evangelistic in outlook.
These are challenging times for all the churches, but I do believe that w have to look to God, do what we do well and think about how we help others to come to know Jesus.
God Bless Chris.