We were just told, to our utter surprise, that the entire '55 building will not be habitable during construction of the new building this next school year. That's the building where the offices are and where almost all the Sunday School happens – plus a hundred other things. This message came from the contractor on the basis of how torn up the building will be. For example, the roof comes off in order to build the new fourth floor, and much of the Fellowship Hall gets ripped up as they move the bathrooms to different locations.
This means that there will be no children's Sunday School onsite on Sunday mornings next year, until we are in the new building on (Lord willing) Labor Day, 2003. It also means that all the other events that usually happen in the '55 building will have to cease or move out of that building – including children's programs for Wednesday nights. In other words, it will be a radically different year.
We are devoting a lot of time and energy these days dreaming about what we should focus our energies on next year. Our attitude as a staff is one of hope-filled expectancy, because when God evicted his people from Jerusalem it was because he wanted the gospel to spread in new ways (Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19). We are an inveterately optimistic staff (because of Romans 8:28).
Yes, we must find office space offsite for about 30 people. That is a given. No, it was not budgeted for this year. But God will provide the space and the funds. And with them, great blessing in ways we cannot now see. We will keep you posted on what we find. Little has been decided at this time with regard to children's ministries. Pray for us and share your ideas.
My own confidence is that God is up to something good. Whatever else we plan for next year, it seems very likely to me that a tremendous new emphasis will fall on small groups and home meetings and parent-based children's ministry in homes. For many of us, this looks very healthy. Not that we think programs are wrongheaded. Rather we believe that there is so much more that can be done and should be done in homes and in small groups.
Everyone knows that in a large church to build and maintain friendships requires effort. A healthy network of relationships does not happen without some intention. Is God pressing us to work harder at this? For example, if you do not have Sunday School on Sunday morning, what will you do with the extra time? God forbid that you will go home and watch TV! What about families doing something creative together that would be as good as Sunday School? What about couples and singles (and couples with singles!) doing brunch together in a "sermon-discussion-setting" and praying for each other. What about bringing an unbeliever to worship service and then going out to lunch? What about calling your own family together before worship and having a time of prayer for the service before you come?
We are not sure what the ministry will look like during the week. So I ask again, please pray for us. Let's live out our theology of confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God. That means: "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14-15).
Steady with Christ at the wheel,