This summer, we are inviting leaders and participants from the 2012 gathering to share what they’ve been thinking about or working on since Dallas. Where are we seeing seeds of the NEXT Church? What ideas are taking root?
The following was submitted by Andrew Taylor-Troutman:
Emily, one of the elders at the church I serve, took it upon herself to design new and updated welcome cards to be placed in the pews for the benefit of Sunday morning visitors. These stylish index cards included a picture of our small sanctuary nestled in the middle of farmland and listed a few of our activities. But Emily did not stop there. For everyone in attendance, there is a “Pew to the Pulpit” card that serves as a means to alert the pastor and elders about pastoral care needs, such as hospitalizations and deaths. There is also space to indicate a desire to volunteer for a committee or request a pastoral visitation. Finally, there are blanks spaces to ask questions about the service and indicate preferences for worship, including sermon topics and hymn selections.
In Dallas, I led a workshop about best worship practices based upon what I’ve learned from the input of my congregation. Through our discussion, we moved beyond the tired, old “worship wars” and shared ways to make the experience of worship reverent, joyful, inspirational, and thought-provoking. The key discovery was that changes in the service should come from the bottom up, rather than from the top down–from the pew to the pulpit. As preachers and worship leaders, we fill our sanctuaries with words week after week. But it is also instructive to listen: to let the people speak and be intentional about offering opportunities for feedback. It seems to me that the NEXT movement is about promoting such investment by congregations into the daily life of their worshipping community.
Andrew Taylor-Troutman is a teaching elder at New Dublin Presbyterian Church, a congregation founded in 1769 in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Virginia. He has written a book about his first year as their pastor, Take My Hand: A Theological Memoir. More information about the church and the book, including his blog, can be found at www.takemyhandmemoir.com.