Memories are some of the best gifts life gives us. Memories, especially good ones, like good restaurants, are places we return to over and over because of the pleasure they give. When we gather with family, good friends, long-time work colleagues or childhood neighbours conversations somehow revolve around memories of the “good old days”. Memories become cherished things, especially in the later years of life. Since memories are so important it makes sense for congregations to carry out the ministry in such a way that good memories are created.
I would venture to say that it is a missional imperative for a congregation to create good memories for its members as it engages the ministry. The church has the unusually good privilege of being invited into peoples’ lives at critically important times. These times include births and death, baptism and confirmation, marriage and divorce, illness and healing, crises and celebrations. In these circumstances people look to the church for spiritual and other interventions. At these times the pastor especially, as shepherd and spiritual leader, but the congregation as a whole, have opportunities to so minister to people with care, compassion, love and presence. People will know why they belong to that congregation. God and God’s people are there for them. People are not likely to forget such good experiences of the church.
Then again a congregation touches the lives of its members at important events that have a social element to them. For example, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and social events such as BBQs, dinners, camping, fellowship times after service etc. are occasions that bring the whole congregation together. Here people chat, talk to someone for the first time, get to know someone in a deeper way, make friends and generally socialise. Children and young people play and mix, giving these events a real family flavour. These things give members another experience of the fellowship of believers. The church is experienced in a rounded way; spiritually and socially. Through these activities, and the compassionate exercise of the ministry the congregation has good opportunities to create good memories for its members. These memories last a lifetime They may not only keep people in the church now, but may also motivate them to want their children and future generations to have these same powerful, positive and life-shaping experiences.
Unfortunately, too many people have bad memories of the church. Those memories and the experiences that lie behind them account for many people leaving the church or being only nominally connected with the church. It is time we as church consciously engage the ministry of the church in such a way that we not only meet peoples’ spiritual needs, but we also create good memories for them as we do so. The two are by no means mutually exclusive nor is it impossible. So Bethesda let us continue creating good memories for our members, especially the children.
– Pastor Roy