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Gathering and Growing

Rev. Carol Bodeau, Minister

When I first came to Westside a year and a half ago, I began hearing the longing for our community to grow in numbers. Many of us believe that Westside is a place that offers a lot to those who join us, and that we have enough love and companionship to share with many more people. Also, many of us recognize that our current finances require some shifts: at present, our costs exceed our income. My salary (for a three-quarter time position) is being paid in part by a reserve fund, which will be gone by the end of the 2016-2017 church year. In order to be financially sustainable, some changes will definitely be coming to our community.

But what does “growth” really mean? It’s easy to think this is a simple process: get some attractive worship services and activities going, more people will come, they will join, and our finances will improve. This is a good basic outline, but doesn’t really tell the story of how churches actually grow. To put it simply: while great sermons and worship, and special events will draw people in, they will not convince those new folks to stay. Only the community as a whole can do that. In short, it’s up to all of us to make Westside a place that is attractive to a sustainably higher number of people.

Churches grow in four areas: organization or structure (e.g. policies, protocols, buildings, etc); maturity (i.e. how we interact, relate, treat one another, and respond to conflict and change); outreach (i.e. how we interact with the larger community); and finally, and perhaps lastly, numerically. If the first three types of growth aren’t addressed, our numeric growth cannot be sustainable. As we grow numerically, there are ways we will need to consider growing developmentally, as well. These developmental changes are more subtle, and challenging, than pure numeric growth, but are essential to new numbers being sustainable and lasting.

For the rest of this church year, the Board of Trustees, the Membership Committee, the Committee on Ministry, the Worship Committee, in fact all of us, will be focusing on learning about real, deep, sustainable growth. We’ll be thinking about how we want to grow and be transformed personally, in our own lives, and how we can become an even more open, loving, caring community. We’ll be talking about what we most value about Westside, and what holds us together. I’ll be giving a sermon on Sunday, Feb. 7 on growth, and then after worship we’ll have a congregation wide conversation about our experiences, concerns, and dreams for growing our community in the coming months and years.

Please save the date, and plan to join in. Sending you good wishes for a happy holiday for your whole family.

Rev. Carol

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