"Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Ephes. 5:2).
For music practice, we would gather after 10:00 p.m. We would close our windows so no neighbors could see or hear us and we would practice until 6:00 a.m.
Our Youth Department worked hard to prepare a monthly solemn worship service for our church members. The Church looked at us as the future of the Church. They expected us to deliver on our commitments and because they trusted us, we took our mission seriously and did not fail in our responsibilities. In spite of interdiction of the government authorities, we had meetings on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and other days when possible.
My church from long ago was very successful in making its members feel needed. The church was the center of life in our community. These days, many churches meet only on Sabbaths and members return to their "work-day" lives each week. Sometimes with such schedules, it is difficult to build genuine relationships. Thus, it is important to survey church members and learn of their interests and needs. Determine the capabilities and talents of members and organize groups according to interests. When this is done, work hard to schedule meetings at convenient times. Such programs will draw church members closer together. As more and more people take ownership of a church, the church will grow and word will spread of the wonderful activities taking place at the church.
Several programs that have worked well in my church are listed below. Perhaps one or two of them may spark an interest in you. If so, pray about what God wants you do to. You may be the one He wants to take leadership of such a program. Work with your pastor and fellow church members and create some groups that fill the needs of some in your congregation.
Organize your church members for a special praying ministry. They can meet at any time convenient for them during the week or on Sabbath one hour before the morning worship. Let this group include only volunteers whose hearts are full of intercessory prayer. Material study on a particular subject should take about 15 minutes, then let the members share the problems of the church members as well as their relatives and friends. After telling God of their needs, the members should thank Him for the blessings received,
Quite often, aged people become irritable when children are being playful. Sometimes those of age beyond 60 can't cope with those who have not yet reached 12. Is it possible to solve this problem? Yes! Children can prepare a special program (Bible verses, songs, a short sermon, if possible), with their parents' help, They can present the program to the older congregation members and afterward, take time to greet each adult. Children can make cards for their older friends and show they care. The older folks will then get to know the children and look forward to visiting with them. With a little effort, bonds between the two age groups can be strengthened.
Bible Study Groups
Most churches have active Bible Study Groups. After the Scripture study, just remember to discuss the necessity of visiting those who are spiritually weak. Make it a point to invite new members to the studies.
Classes of Special Skills
Classes can be organized by interests: mending, darning, quilting, gardening, preserving of fruits and vegetables, identifying crab plants, etc, (Don't forget to invite those children 10 and above; they often get forgotten in such groups.) As the group members learn new skills and get better acquainted, they look forward to working on projects together.
These classes are designed to study the art of a healthy lifestyle. Members can share their experiences and carry their messages about health to those in need, This class can be open to non-believers.
God has given the special gift of charity to some sisters and brothers. Such people provide a tremendous ministry. Whether it's helping with someone's garden, doing apartment maintenance or simply taking someone to the grocery store, these acts of kindness are priceless. When organizing such a group, choose a leader who is familiar with the abilities of the group members. This will help when it is time to assign people to different tasks. Of course, this group closely interacts with the whole church and is open to help wherever help is needed.
Gather your friends and several church families together and organize a group dedicated to assimilating new members into the church. Prepare special Sabbath luncheons celebrating the baptisms that take place. Introduce the new members to others and make them feel like part of the church family. Make this a special time that will never be forgotten.
New Church Members in Role of Salutators
Ask some of the new church members to help those who are greeters. Church members will not he offended if their new bothers and sisters do not remember their names at once. But the new church members will be pleased to realize they are a part of the church family.
Many congregations have successfully tried out this program. The results have been excellent. Each participant is given a name of another participant (men are partnered with men, women arc partnered with women). They are to keep that name a secret. Throughout the year, each participant gives his! her "Secret Friend" anonymous notes of encouragement and small gifts delivered through the elected postman. Most importantly, they are to pray for their secret buddies. At the end of each quarter everyone joins together for lunch. Each person finds out who their secret friend is.
The mystery fills this program with joy because no one knows who is sending little gifts, notes, etc. Friendships are formed even though the identity of the friend is not known! This program can be repeated endlessly by changing pairs. It is especially affective in big congregations where people know very little about each other. Every participant can get at least four new friends a year.
Family Prayer Groups
Praying together as a family is very important. It sets the stage for prayer in public. One family prayed for a musical gift. Because they felt so strongly about God answering their prayers, they began to sing together. As their confidence grew, they began to participate in the music service of the church. Now they are strong pillars of the elm rch.
Family Sabbath Evening
Opening and closing the Sabbath is an enriching experience for all those involved. The place is not as important as the spirit. Take the time to enjoy playing Biblical games together. Fellowship by sharing stories of Christ's blessings. Build memories by creating an atmosphere of love and worship.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that from my own village church where I grew up, four organized new congregations were formed in the surrounding villages. Each church has created a loving and welcoming atmosphere for the members. The young people actively participate in conducting worship services. They are like flowers that beautify a garden. The serving aroma of these churches exhale fragrance to the glory of God, not only inside the church, but also to the surrounding area.
People get to know about Biblical truth though relationships. About this our Lord has said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples. If you have love for one another" (John 13:35). People see this love when we care about each other. When one church member rejoices, rejoice with him. When one church member cries, share her burden in prayers and care for her. And if one church members suffers, all church members suffer. If one church member is honored, all members are honored.
"Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Eph 5:2).