Memories are important in our lives. All the pieces of our past make us who we are currently. The good, the bad, the painful, the fun, the humorous, and the heartrending....all of those memories help make us who we are. While some are more pleasant than others to remember, none are more or less important because without even one of them, we would be different than we are now.
Memories are important in the life of the church as well. I have been in literally hundreds of churches throughout my life and all of them have their own stories and their own history that brought that particular church to where it is today. However, just like in our own lives, our churches can not live in the past if they want to keep moving forward. That being said though, we never want to forget what brought our churches to where they are today. And it is a great idea to find ways to highlight special memories in the life of our churches.
We often have members in our churches who have been a part of the congregation for dozens of years longer than the current pastor. They like to share what it was like in the church when they first arrived or the changes they have seen take place over the years and it's important that those perspectives are not lost. So, how can we celebrate the past without clinging fiercely to it? Here are a few ideas:
Create a memory video to share on a special anniversary or other celebration of the church. This allows members to share memories and pictures as well as allowing new people to see a brief history of the church. For me it's always fascinating to see the changes in churches over the years. Plus seeing the fashions change as well as familiar faces from days gone by is sure to bring smiles to the faces of all those who watch it.
Make a small church history display in the building. Many churches have gone through building changes or additions over the years. A small display of pictures that shows how the church has changed is always an interesting way to remember the past. My home church in Middletown, IN has gone through major physical changes in the last 30 years. Since the current building began construction around 30 years ago, there are few people who attend now, who also attended when it was in it's previous building. (I remember loving to ring the church bell in the old church. The rope would practically lift us kids off the ground when we rang it.) Then that new building was added onto twice over the next 20 years and there are many people who attend now who didn't begin attending until after the 2nd or 3rd addition was built. So seeing the visual changes over the years just in the building itself is an amazing testament to how God has worked in that church over the years.
|Current Middletown Church of the Nazarene|
|Original Middletown Church of the Nazarene|
Highlight a long term member on the church website. Most churches have a website now (and if they don't, they should) so why not use one page of it to highlight the memories of those members who have so faithfully attended and supported the church over the years. You could choose one person or couple every month and interview them. Allow them to share how they have seen God work in your church. Their memories can be such an encouragement to others, but they are rarely asked to share what they have seen God do. Then sadly, so often, the stories of those who went before us are lost after they pass away. This gives your church an easy way to record their thoughts and memories so that they can be shared for many years...even after they have gained their heavenly reward.
Seeing how God has moved in the past can be a great encouragement to us today. While we never want to "live" in the past, we also never want to forget it. If you have other ideas for celebrating the past in your church, I'd love to hear about them, so feel free to drop me a line and tell me about them.
Till next time...