How big is my parish?
I’m often asked, “How big is your church?” That’s a harder question to answer than you realize. Are you asking how many members we have? Or how many come to worship on a Sunday morning? Should we include those who are only in town part of the year? Do we include those who have moved away but still affiliate with us.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). Those words hold true for those of us who are ungdershepherds, too. My ministry includes
- Some I visit in nursing homes or hospital who have never actually come to our church (see “This is my pastor”).
- Some who used to attend, but don’t come for worship any more.
- Funerals and weddings for those who are not a part of our congregation.
- Unchurched spouses, children and parents of members.
- Families who have attended our Vacation Bible School or Preschool.
- A few neighbors around my home.
- Seasonal worshipers, whose main residence is elsewhere.
- Friends of my children.
- Friends of students in our youth group.
- Acquaintances I only see occasionally, at parties or special events.
A whole bevy of people who call me, “Pastor,” for one reason or another. The walls that previously delimited the church were replaced with chain link fences that you could look through, but now even those seem to have come down.
So what has really changed: the church or me? I’ll have to give that more thought.