Many churches today desperately need to fall in love with their communities again. Increasingly, congregational life and community life spin in different orbits with little connection. That is not how it started for any congregation. Churches began with a mission to address the needs of people in a particular place. They survived the early years and into maturity precisely because they understood the needs of the people around them and responded through worship, education, facilities, and outreach. Once a congregation reaches a critical mass, with enough people and resources to support the church, the tendency is to turn inward with increasing time, energy, and resources devoted to serving only those already in the church.
Rick Morse has provided a valuable resource for churches wanting to connect or reconnect with their communities as they develop their ministry plans. Morse, a church extension executive with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), begins with two valuable chapters on exploring the culture and “exegeting” your community. Then follow resources for assessing congregational readiness. In the readiness chapter he discusses a “line of sustainability” that, unfortunately, many churches have fallen below and thus require even more serious review of their readiness and even viability. The remainder of the book guides readers in developing and writing a ministry plan that fits their church and their context.
Remaining vital in changing times has always been hard. Today brings its special challenges, such as Morse’s observation that for the first time in history “churches are trying to serve six different generations at one time.” Continuing to do things the same way is not working and has never worked in actuality. Change needs to be congruent with the past, but mere replication of the past leads inevitably to decline and stagnation. Rick Morse understands the importance of tradition and change and is a helpful guide along the way.