As neighborhood school kids head into a summer of fun and frolic, they are accompanied by a report card, the measure of their year’s success. As PUMC heads into mid-year I thought it might be interesting to venture a poke at evaluating our ministry for the year so far.
How do you measure risk and joy? If someone could figure that out, we might be able to come up with an appropriate report card. We started the year, not with measurable goals but with these mission-defining questions:
- How can we create a faith environment that is relevant to the un-churched and the marginally churched?
- How might we engage with neighbors, many of whom are low-income and/or homeless?
- How might these practices help us open our church further to the community?
We’ve managed to bump our way along the path in pursuit of answers. Here are a few… Monthly community dinner: averaging probably 50+ folks each month. We opened a small food pantry in January of this year. There have been many lonely nights with few or no “shoppers”. We changed hours a little and stayed with it. We’re in our third year of community garden. It’s full. Mostly community folks. Great ethnic and economic mix of folks. This will be our 5th summer offering a Music and Drama Camp, 3 to 4 dozen 3rd graders to 8th graders.
The numbers, by themselves, are not particularly outstanding. Other congregations have bigger and better, no doubt. What excites me is that all of these efforts are developing “regulars”, folks who return… and return again…
For dinner, we have 12-15 families (many are formerly homeless, some still are) regularly matching up with a similar number of “volunteers” (OK, many of them volunteer to come, eat, and visit – a tough job, but someone has to do it.) Food Pantry leaders are seeing similar numbers, mostly neighbors. Regulars from the Music and Drama Camp call and register early.
In all these efforts…we know their names! We have shared stories with them!
We never intended to be a service organization. These efforts are bridges to community, across ethnic lines, crossing language as well as class barriers. These bridges turn sacred when sojourners (from all walks of life) risk opening themselves to each other to share a meal, a song, a laugh, a tear, a story, and maybe a prayer. The squeals of joy are contagious.
I haven’t yet figured out how to measure all this. I know there is much work to be done, both externally and internally. There are systems that keep families in poverty that need to be confronted. We’ll work on that, too. But it’s enough right now just to be a witness to the fact that God is in the midst. Lives are being transformed. New community is being formed.
Thanks be to God for bridges!