Parish Scheduling

We had a good turnout for our forum on parish scheduling on February 20. The meeting was held at 1:30 PM, as we settled down from Bethany’s anniversary potluck. This issue can be a bit contentious, since each household has its own habits, desires, and commitments to accomodate, and many of them are inevitably in conflict with each other. However, our attendees worked hard to understand and accomodate the needs of the others, so that we were able to make some progress in figuring out what might work best.

We narrowed down the alternatives that we may be interested in, considering several different ideas from the start. Included in our considerations were:

1. The current schedule, which has worked for a while, but seems to limit the potential spiritual and numerical growth of our congregations by making it inconvenient for members and prospective members to benefit from regular time with the pastor beyond the Divine Service.

2. A schedule that separates an entire block of time to each congregation on Sunday, with time between for travel and a meal. Within each block, an hour or so would be scheduled for the Divine Service, an hour for Sunday School, and perhaps another hour for an extra Bible class, an occasional meeting, a social activity like a potluck, or whatever. By grouping all of these things into a single block when the pastor can be present, each congregation would have the full benefit and convenience of the pastor’s work in all of these areas. That’s good not only for the members, but also for visiting prospective members.

An unknown factor is how a congregation would fare with a Sunday afternoon worship, class and social schedule. Our current household weekend activities have been set to leave us time for church on Sunday morning, so an adjustment would be needed for church on Sunday afternoon. However, there are often other activities on Sundays that do not allow time for people to attend church. We have already had families missing many weeks of Sunday morning worship for children’s sports. Would that effect be any better or worse if church were in the afternoon? Is it reasonable to expect our members and prospects to prioritize eternal life *before* live football?

3. What if we had a weekday service schedule for one church, and a Sunday schedule for the other one, so that those who wanted to could attend a divine service twice a week? One difficulty noted about this option were that a weekday block of time would have to be after “working hours,” so that it would be hard to fit enough time in to allow for a Divine Service, “Sunday” school, Bible class, social time, etc. If we could address that issue, it seems we’d end up with something quite unusual, and not necessarily in a bad way.

4. We could possibly use Sunday evening, Saturday evening, or even Monday evening, as some of our sister congregations do. A serious objection was raised to Saturday evenings in particular, because of other obligations at this time. Also, daylight hours end rather early in the winter season, so much of our evening church activity time would be done in the dark. That makes it harder for many people to venture out and back.

5. We could use a trial period for different ideas to see how well they work for us. One suggestion was to do this over the Summer months, but since our Sunday School doesn’t run in the Summer, it wouldn’t really give us a very accurate picture. So if we use a trial period, it was suggested to do it after Easter, in the month of May, and maybe into June.

As our discussion hour drew to a close, the group decided to meet again for another forum on this topic, in two weeks, at Concordia. Major items for consideration at that time will be items 1, 2, and 5 above. (With sufficient interest, we could certainly also reconsider 3 and 4, or raise a new idea for consideration.)

It may help for each participant to examine the possibilities above (maybe counting 2 both ways, Concordia or Bethany first) as we prepare for the next meeting. A suggested method of considering them, which would allow us to obtain an “average” perception on several aspects, is to rate each possibility according to the following questions, with a number between 1 and 5 (inclusive).

1. Is it reasonable to expect members to attend at this time?

1 = No . . . 5 = Yes

2. Is it reasonable to expect guests and visitors to attend at this time?

1 = No . . . 5 = Yes

3. List forseeable side effects. (Just list them.)

4. Are the effects overall positive or negative?

1 = Negative . . . 5 = Positive

5. Would this provide new opportunities for the Gospel?

1 = No . . . 5 = Yes

6. Would this threaten or hinder the Gospel?

1 = No . . . 5 = Yes

7. Does this seem to meet the will of our Lord?

1 = No . . . 5 = Yes

Notice that these ratings are not votes. They only serve to help us understand how the rest of our group sees the possibilities. You are welcome to evaluate the proposals another way, too. The final recommendation will have to be something all of our forum participants can live with, and it will have to be approved by each congregation.

A forum like this is an opportunity for *everyone* to speak up for himself, and to learn how his own ideas may fit together with the rest of the group. While we respect the opinions of those who may not wish to attend a forum, the forum’s recommendation is decided by those who are interested enough to participate. So thank you to everyone who participated on February 20! We hope to have an equally good *or better* turnout [on March 6, 4:30 PM, at Concordia][next].

[next]: http://www.bethanythedalles.org/calendar/eventdisplay.php?id=4254

Divorce Rate Among Christians Lower than Previously Thought

Well, it’s a complicated thing to figure out. The difference seems to be how seriously the couple practices their faith. And this apparently applies to religions other than Christianity, too.

Should it surprise us? Does it surprise you? The less regularly a couple attends church, reads their Bible, prays together and separately, the more likely (statistically) they are to end up divorced. If nothing else, married Christians can take this as an encouragement to be diligent in their faith, and unmarried Christians can take it as an encouragement to find a spouse who will help, rather than hinder, devotional faithfulness.