Dear Church Family,
It is with a lot of excitement and joy, as well a little honest fear and trembling, that we are pressing forward into a new season of ministry at Lynchwood. While I took some time during the morning service to present to you our hope and vision for the beginning of the 2019 school year, I also felt it necessary to follow up with a letter to help clarify our reasonings for this major change in our Sunday morning programming. I hope the following will bring greater understanding, will help us identify and address unforeseen issues, and grant us direction as we humbly and honestly seek the Lord’s direction in prayer in the coming months.
Reasons and Purpose
Our Sunday Morning Worship service is our widest reaching and highest attended regularly scheduled ministry. By extension, this makes Sunday morning our primary opportunity to have the greatest impact on the most people each week. Along with this, it is important for us recognize that Lynchwood has become a heavily regional church, with regular attenders that populate an area which covers 60 miles in diameter. For many in our church, the drive itself is an offering of love to Christ and His Church, and we must make every effort to accomplish the greatest good in the Kingdom of God every time we come together.
With this in mind, it forces us to ask the question, “If Sunday morning is our greatest opportunity to minister, are we using that time to its full potential?” The answer is both yes and no. Yes, in that our Sunday morning worship service continues to grow and maintains a strong avenue of ministry for our church body. However, just because something is strong does not mean that it cannot improve.
In the traditional format of evangelical worship services, there remains a disproportionately small opportunity for response and application. We spend quality time in worship, we make special time for prayer, and we devote a sizeable portion of our service to teaching the Bible. Then we expect people to digest, respond, and make transformative life change from a 90-minute service, all while singing a 4-minute response song. On any given Sunday, the parable of Christ rings true. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away (Mark 4:15). How easy is it for us resist the leadership of the Holy Spirit when we know we are only minutes away from occupying our mind with lunch plans or afternoon chores? No seed is able to produce fruit lest it have the opportunity and resources to germinate. In honest assessment, our morning worship service is effective at sowing seeds, but severely lacks in the ability to help them germinate. Our only opportunity for germination is a silent declaration of the heart or a trip to the altar. Surely each of us has desired other ways of responding to the work of the Spirit in our hearts, let alone the ability to connect to our brothers and sisters in Christ in more meaningful ways.
Thus, rather than walking from our pew to the door, we want to walk from our pew into intentional Christian fellowship. Moving from our rows, we will move to circles and engage with one another in conversations that matter, prayers that are personal, and testimonies that encourage the heart of every believer and bear witness to the one seeking. With trained leaders guiding our discussion groups, we want to deepen what was planted during the morning service by cultivating an environment where we can grow with one another in Christ. It is important to understand, this isn’t a separate service that stands alone, it is the addition of a part of our morning worship service that we don’t currenly enjoy, responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the context of Christian fellowship.
While we are very excited to implement this, we know change always comes with it a cost. Simply adding more to a Sunday morning only spreads our energy levels and leadership resources thinner. In the words of Jesus, He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more (John 15:2). In this case, the pruning required to receive the new growth would be the sunsetting of our 9am Sunday School hour.
It may be hard to believe, but 25 years ago our Sunday School attendance was equal to, or even exceeded the attendance of the Sunday morning worship service. Unfortunately, since this time it has been in steady decline. When Sunday School participation is viewed in comparison to the Sunday worship service attendance, Sunday School has suffered a roughly 90 percent reduction in participation in the past 25 years at Lynchwood. This by no means implies that it is invalid or that it produces no fruit. Many of us, myself included, have foundational and formative memories of time spent in Sunday School classrooms. However, given that Sunday morning is our greatest opportunity for impact, that we are limited in time and impact opportunities, it means that pruning is required to bear more fruit.
All in all, we find ourselves both excited and saddened at the same time. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the faithful Sunday School teachers and volunteers who have invested their lives in the training of children and adults alike. Yet, we all know how the Lord writes stories... beginning... middle... new beginning. By God’s grace, it is time to step into a new beginning.
Desired Outcome (Offering, Receiving, Sharing)
With the implementation of the new Sunday morning schedule, it will mean that our morning worship service will have three equal parts. Firstly, through our worship and giving we will bring an offering to the Lord. Secondly, through the proclamation of God’s Word we will receive from the Lord. And thirdly, by joining in intentional Christian fellowship we will share in the Lord as a body.
The announcement concerning the coming change was made on June 9th during the morning service. Over the following weeks, the staff and select members of the Board of Deacons have scheduled meetings with ministry leaders in the church who will be affected by this transition. Some of these ministries included the children, youth, seniors, music, tech, ushers, and safety team. While we have thought about many of the implications for each ministry group, it is our desire to meet in person with our ministry leaders in order to identify potential difficulties and plan operational changes that will need to take place. Once we have collectively worked through the operational changes necessary, we will then send out an informational letter. We have an all church meeting to discuss the final details of our transition plan on Sunday, August 11th @ 9:15 am in the sanctuary. This will allow 6 weeks lead time prior to making any changes in the Sunday morning worship time. The launch of the new schedule would be during the first half of September 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is not a comprehensive document including every detail of the coming changes. This is an attempt to answer some of the burning questions you may have. Please be patient as we know in speaking with the various groups, we will encounter more questions and logistics we need to cover. We are confident we will be able to flesh this out together.
If I attend the morning worship service will we be required to attend the table group time?
• No, after the morning worship service dismisses, there will be a 15 minute passing time which will allow those who want to participate to make their way to the tables located in the Legacy Building. Everyone is invited, but attendance is voluntary and will fluctuate from week to week.
If people are expected to move from the sanctuary to the Legacy Building in 15 minutes, won’t that affect our social time after the service has concluded?
• Yes, however, we hope people have the fellowship time around the tables.
How long will discussion groups last?
• Our hope is to have our discussions fit into a 30-minute window. People are free to leave anytime they need to and those who would like to continue the conversations after 12:00 pm are welcome to stay.
Will I get to choose who I sit by?
• Yes, but we hope that you would take the opportunity to get to know new people in the church. We believe this will be a valuable resource to welcome and come to know our guests as well as deepen our existing relationships.
How will the discussions be guided?
• We will have trained leaders for each table group to help guide the conversation with specific points from the service where we will invite people to go deeper.
What will the children’s ministry look like?
• Our younger children (0-3 years) will continue in a similar program that they have now during the morning worship service. Older children (4 years-5th grade) will be dismissed for Children’s Church during the service as per usual. Once our main service has ended, the children, like the adults, will have a 15-minute intermission. Parents that are leaving after the service has concluded can pick up their child during this time. Parents that are staying to attend the remainder of the service can leave their children in Children’s Church and their lesson time will continue for an additional 30 minutes until service has concluded. Other children’s ministries will remain unaffected.
What will the youth ministry look like?
• Youth (6th-12th Grade) will be encouraged to participate at a table group with youth focused leaders to help them learn to flush out and apply the morning service. Our mid-week programming will return to our traditional Wednesday night program, including youth centered activities, worship, and teaching. Other youth ministry activities will remain unaffected.
Will we still be able to do Christian Education classes if we don’t have Sunday School?
• Yes, we will still schedule elective Christian Education classes. Some of these can happen during the week, and other short-term electives can even be scheduled prior to our morning worship service if desired. We also plan to have group prayer, communion, and other options regularly during the 9:00 hour for those that wish to participate.
Will we still be doing The Well on Sunday evening?
• No, as a result of this transition we hope to allow families more time on Sunday afternoons, as well as provide more flexibility in our church schedule for family activities and evening events.
Where do I put my questions and comments?
• We value your feedback and your questions. Please submit questions and comments to the office. There is a folder on the door to the main office we will be checking.