Monday, 2 May 2016

Tradition and Change

(This first appeared as an article in our church magazine, "The Grapevine)

Since Nancy and I got married we have gone to my in-laws the weekend before Christmas for what we call ‘little Christmas’. Nancy’s parents said it would give us the chance to all get together without us having to plan to all be in the same place at Christmas or New Year. Nancy’s two brothers both have partners so there are multiple family commitments to juggle. It is now a lovely family tradition.

Last year was the first year at Nancy’s Mam and Dad’s new house. On little Christmas morning, Nancy was horrified to be told that there was no duck with morello cherry sauce for dinner! (This had been the mainstay of ‘proper’ Christmas day dinner in the Howell household for as long as could be remembered). A major tradition had changed! There was outrage! It’s a wonder Nancy didn’t have a heart attack.

All joking aside we had a great couple of days together despite Duck-gate and the point is that traditions are precious to us and for good reason. They bring enjoyment, a sense of belonging, organization where there might otherwise be chaos and so on.

But, the question we must ask ourselves is, are we in danger of allowing traditions to get in the way of positive and necessary change?

Some people just like change because it’s all shiny and new. Change for the sake of it is pointless, especially if the thing you’re changing is working perfectly well. On the other hand change that will make something better or replace something that is no longer fit for purpose is a good thing, no matter how long it has been a part of our lives or our church structure.

Often when a new pastor arrives in a church people expect change. A new person often has new ideas or preferred ways or working.

So far, nothing has been radically overhauled, and for good reason, nothing really needs a radical overhaul.

For example, I’d never seen or experienced anything like Discovery for Boys and Girls Adventurers. They are an unknown to me. I could have been looking for a way to make them into something I was much more familiar with.

But, each group is thriving numerically and we are pretty much at capacity in each one. To have almost 80 kids through the door each week is wonderful. It is a huge testimony to God’s goodness and grace, something we should be constantly thankful for.

As I mentioned in a sermon recently, we need to always be auditing what we do, seeking to tweak it make it as effective, efficient and excellent as we can. This is why we have suggested a major change to the midweek meetings from its current format to a home group set up. Not because the current Wednesday fellowship does not work at all, but because we think it could be better.

For some, home groups hold negative experiences. For others, it is an entirely new concept, so it is unknown and therefore a bit scary.
The reason we think they are the best way forward is because church members have expressed three desires for the midweek meeting, as well as the men’s and ladies’ prayer meetings.

Some people want lots of prayer, some want a longer Bible study and discussion, others want deep shared fellowship and support. These are exactly the things that home groups provide when they planned and lead well.

At New Year some people make resolutions, personally I don’t usually bother because they are out of the window within a week. Making them for the sake of it, without the heart to see them through, is no use.

It would be the same if we start home groups but give up on them after a couple of attempts. We need to go into them with an open mind, we need to commit to them and contribute to them. That way they will be the best they can be, a thriving, beating heart in the life of the church. They will be a place to:

·      Learn more of God, grow in love for Him and apply the truth of His word to our lives.
·      Pray more, not only for ourselves but the world around.
·      Develop deeper friendships where we can care for one another really well.

If after 6 months or a year they flat-line then we can hold our hands up and say we tried but it didn’t work and go back to the drawing board.

Traditions are wonderful, but change is sometimes better.

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