There are several dynamic, growing churches in British Columbia and we have heard from two churches in the Presbytery of Westminster that have 'good news' to share and encourage the whole church.
1. St. John's Presbyterian Church, White Rock
(Sheila is a joyful member of St. John's)
Like many other churches, St. John's Presbyterian Church in White Rock suffered a steady decline in attendance. Faithful members moved into nursing homes, and many passed away. The youth in the area were attending more "vibrant" churches. The congregation prayed for renewal and growth. God heard our prayers, but answered in some unexpected ways.
Recently, a small Lutheran group asked for space in our building and began worshipping in one of our halls. After worship the two congregations join for coffee and fellowship. They also join some of our other activities: Alpha, the Women's Missionary Society, and Proclamation. We welcome them with open arms and they add fresh vibrancy to our gatherings.
God also brought a day care to our building. Not only do they add life to our building through the week, but they have transformed our Sunday School space. A support group for moms and tots has also started, using our space for a time of sharing and advice from a nurse.
We opened our hearts in prayer, and we opened the doors of our building. God has filled both and continues to take us on new adventures. Praise God!
2. St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church, North Vancouver
(Bob is a retired minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada)
Another church in the Presbytery of Westminster, St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church, North Vancouver, also decided to make some changes. Commencing about 24 years ago the elders became really concerned about reaching young people with the Good News. Realizing the need for different service and music styles, they inaugurated an early service, making it less formal and using some of the old lively gospel music. This eventually grew into music led by a praise team with song leaders, drums, guitars, piano – the whole bit. The second service remained more traditional with the use of organ music and the hymn book.
This church has for many years employed a full- or part-time youth pastor – a necessity, not a luxury – so there are well-led youth groups and summer day-camps for children. The Senior Pastor chairs the Presbytery's summer camping ministry which is promoted.
It is not surprising that the early service has a full house with many young families, and children who hear a great message from one of the ministers before going on to Sunday School.
Members of the church are also "freed up" to do their ministry, so there are committees that specialize: one that prays for and promotes missions, another whose concern is evangelism, and the list goes on.
The April Presbyterian Record has an excellent article, Trusting and Trying – Weighing What Works at Westminster, by the Rev. Matthew Ruttan about Westminster Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ontario, that has risen from the brink of extinction to becoming a vibrant, growing church. This is because they called a minister who "believes in the gospel" and "courageously" preaches it; a church that "realizes it is all about Jesus"; and a congregation that specializes in getting to know the names of, and in warmly welcoming, newcomers.
This North Vancouver church likewise loves the good news of Jesus, and Sunday by Sunday at both services, they have a teaching and evangelizing pulpit. And here is a little word for interim moderators and search committees: as a friend of mine says, "strong churches are not built around weak pulpits".