New Dreams For Our Church:
The Christian Academy©
September 19, 2010
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1 Timothy 2:7
7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
This morning, let's talk about New Dreams For Our Church.
Oh, it was a powerful evening. The brand new Friendship Hall was packed. I walked in and was amazed to see that beautiful room made even more beautiful by the presence of all the people that were there. Filling the tables, talking with each other, celebrating with one another, it was a remarkable time. There was singing, there were speeches, and there were blessings and dedications. It was a great, great evening. At the end of that beautiful evening, one of our dear members came to me and said, “Pastor, that was great! What is our next big project?” (Congregation laughs)
Well, I confess to you that at that moment, I hadn’t quite had time to think it through. However, since that time, I have thought about that challenging and wonderful question. What is our next big project?
I want to talk with you this morning about the future of our church in the coming year and also about the future of our church in years to come. I have some ideas for our next big project. I need these to be our ideas. What I am presenting to you today is in draft form, they are directions. I need your help. I need you to come to me, and I need you to talk to me and tell me what you think of all of this. Please let me know of any ideas you may have to modify or tweak this draft.
Let’s talk together this morning about New Dreams for Our Church.
The image that comes to my mind is that of the plow of Isaiah. There is a wonderful quote in that powerful Prophet’s words. He said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.” A plowshare is a farmer’s tool that goes through the hardened earth to break it up and make the ground fertile, so that plants may grow.
It seems to me that the analogy is that we have fields to plow. We have missions to accomplish and our plow has two blades. One blade is teaching and the other blade is blessing.
In short, our next big dream is all about people.
The dream that I am suggesting for us this morning is that we go forward to the future knowing that we need to be teachers and blessers of people.
We need to be teachers of children, teachers of youth, and teachers of adults. We need to be blessers of many people. Blessing people with opportunities, blessing them with joy. We plow our mission field with a two bladed plow - teaching and blessing.
It seems to me that our next big project ought to be all about people and sharing the joy of Christ with people. We need to make people feel welcome in the house of the Lord. I am thinking particularly about our children.
We have a fabulous Sunday School. It is filled with dedicated teachers and has a great leader in Reverend Marion. We have a wonderful traditional set of lessons that we prepare so that children will learn the stories of Jesus. I also think there are ways in which we can expand and enrich our children's Sunday School experience, and I'd like to tell you a little about them today.
I also deeply want to reach out to our youth, and our teenagers. I need us to dream together and work together to make that happen.
I also want to reach out to folks who are brand new to us. I want to make entry to our church family very available and accessible, I want us to reach out to adults. Sometimes, people come to the church and say to me, “You know, Pastor, I enjoyed the service, but to tell you the absolute the truth I don’t know much about faith. I don’t know much about the Bible. Can you help me out?” We have to meet that need! Maybe we need to do it through the Internet. At the same time, we will need to retain the human connection, the one on one connection, as well.
Friends, we have an opportunity to help the triumphant women of the Crawford House. For those of you who are new to us, there is a halfway house for women in recovery, nearby on Sunset Rd. This is a main mission focus for our church. They are here with us every Sunday morning, these brave, triumphant women. We have to help them. Some of them went to church as children and just don’t know much about the Lord, or how to be part of a church or how to be a Christian. Some are brand new to church and grew up in homes that had no faith at all, but something draws them here. There is an opportunity for us here to teach and to bless
In today's scripture, St. Paul talks about three "badges"
that he wears, badges I believe all of us are called to wear: herald;
apostle; and teacher.
Paul is saying, “I am these three things.”
My friends, it is not just Paul. It is you and me also. We wear those three badges: heralds of Christ: We make the way to Christ safe for those around us.
We are called to be apostles, friends of Jesus, followers of Jesus.
We are all called to be teachers of the gospel in our own way.
After the first service this morning, one of the women from the Crawford House said, “I am so glad that I was here today. I have always felt that I need to be a witness to the other girls at the house, for Christ. I feel more courageous about doing that now.” We all are called to be teachers and witness for Jesus.
I would like to tell you about an idea that is in the development stage. It is something that I think we can implement here at the church, especially for our children. I am calling it the Christian Academy©. It runs along side of our Sunday School. I envision it to be something like scouting but under the auspices of the church school.
Children would be able to demonstrate abilities and earn stars and ranks, similar to what the scouts do. They would earn awards, certificates that they would put in a three ring binder. This is their Faith Journal, which would live here at the church. For example, if they could sing three hymns, they would receive the Golden Singer Award. They would demonstrate this knowledge to a Shepherd, a special congregational volunteer assigned to them. We will need volunteers from the Congregation to be Shepherds.
Another example of an award they could earn is that the child could recite the 23rd Psalm and then say it to their mentoring Shepherd or parent and receive a beautiful certificate for doing so. This could be the "Good Shepherd Award". The certificate would be added to their Faith Journal.
When Grandparents and other relatives and friends visit the church the child could show them the Faith Journal and say, “These are things that I have earned and learned.” This is all part of the Christian Academy© program.
Another part would be special projects for each year of Sunday School. For example:
· the first year could be aimed toward the presentation of a Children’s Picture Bible.
· Second grade would be Holy Communion.
· In Third grade, the children would be exposed to great religious art and be able to tell stories about what is happening in the picture. I once saw a movie scene that absolutely shocked me. Children were being interviewed and shown pictures of political leaders, world leaders and different figures in history. Few of them could recognize a traditional picture of Jesus, but all could recognize Ronald McDonald. I want the children of our church to do better than that.
· Fourth grade could be Methodist Heritage year
· Fifth grade, grown up Bible
· Sixth grade, the New York trip to see St. John’s and Riverside churches, there can be an award for that.
· Seventh grade could be Christian Service Award and
· Eighth and Ninth grade, confirmation. I believe confirmation should be held later as the children need some more time to grow.
Here are some other things the children could be rewarded for: knowing Psalm 8, knowing the organization of the books of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, singing in the choir, participating in the Christmas Pageant, taking part in the Youth Group activities, doing service for the Food Pantry and helping with church youth activities
After Confirmation there could be the Golden Cross Award. The Golden Cross is like Eagle Scout for a special project.
My dear friends, the future is bright and we have lots to do. I would love to make a big part of our future the project of the building up of our children, our youth, newcomers to the church and the faith. Let’s work together to make it happen.
God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week.
© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski