Last night we had our annual Charge Conference which is the annual business meeting of the church as required by the United Methodist Book of Discipline. It is a rather mundane meeting, but it is one of those things that has to be done. One of the things that I am required to do is present a "State of the Church" report. I have included that below.
Just a side note: we had been told by a number of churches that we should expect the meeting to last two or more hours (it shouldn't be more than an hour!). To my friends chagrin, we completed the task in 45 minutes. God is good! (As if God cared!)
It is hard for me to fathom that I am in my tenth year as pastor of Ridge Church. When I first came to the church, everyone wondered how long I would stay; and I would reiterate the promise that Tom Rough and Bishop White made, that I could stay at least thirteen years to see my children through school. Now that I am getting close to that magical number, people now ask, what about when Haley graduates. My answer has never changed, I will stay as long as Ridge Church desires me to serve as pastor.
Ridge Church has been very good to my family and me. Every now and again, I have to wonder if my Renewal Leave wasn’t just a wonderful dream, but all I need do is look around at my life and see how I have grown, and I know that it was a reality.
You have surrounded me with a wonderful and talented staff who are able to facilitate ministry here in the community. You have allowed me to reach out into the community, helping to bring recognition to Ridge and our ministries. Ten years ago, Ridge was an unknown commodity; today, Ridge is known throughout the community. You have allowed me to serve on the Board of Directors of the Munster Chamber of Commerce, and be actively involved in the Munster Rotary Club. Because of those connections, I also serve on the Munster Education Foundation, and was asked to organize the Community Thanksgiving Service during the Munster Centennial celebration. I was shocked when I was honored as "Citizen of the Year" last January by the Munster Chamber of Commerce, but I believe that it is an honor not simply for me but also for Ridge Church.
Challenges abound at Ridge Church. Of our three primary priorities, (Leadership Development, Missions and Education) the area that we have not achieved success is in Leadership Development. This will be my chief priority in the coming year.
With the formation of the four-part mission team (local, national, international and environmental), we are moving toward being in mission as a part of our culture and not something that we need to do. We live missions, because it is who we are!
Our education program for adults is really growing as we provide a variety of opportunities for people to grow in their faith. This will only expand as our WWE Ministry (Wonderful Wednesday Evenings) continues to grow. Currently we are reaching about 40 adults with this ministry, which is amazing!
But leadership development continues to be a difficult situation. One area that we know needs to be addressed is the role and function of the Administrative Council in the life of Ridge Church. For the past couple of years the council has been floundering — trying to understand its purpose. Dick McClaughry is organizing a task group to evaluate and re-invent this important team for Ridge Church. Hopefully, as we come back together after the first of the year, we will begin the re-invention process. The Finance Team is the strongest it has been in years, (despite having a challenging year financially) and are looking toward a successful 2008. And as I shared earlier, Missions is leading the way in creating a structure more conducive to getting the job done. Education is re-organizing itself along this same model and I hope for a similar outcome.
Overall, 2007 has been a fantastic year. We have touched more lives with God’s compassionate love than ever before. I look forward to the opportunities that await us in the coming year as we continue to make disciples by offering Hope, Unconditional Love and Meaning for Life to all that we meet.