New Gathering Schedule | From the Session

Greetings from Pastor Jim,

I am writing on behalf of our Session and its Worship Team with a very important report from our Session meeting last evening.

For some time now we have been evaluating our Saturday evening worship service and have realized that it is not accomplishing the things we had hoped it would when it was launched over fourteen months ago. We have seen a steep drop off in attendance despite efforts to invite people and to make it a meaningful worship service.

Staffing for our children's programs on Saturday evenings has spread our resources very thin. This has had a negative impact on the children's programs on Sunday mornings. Also, the hope was that Saturday evening worship would be helpful to our junior high, senior high, and college students. The reality is that there are too many other events and obligations that are conflicts for them on Saturdays. This has adversely impacted our Student Ministries.

Our Worship Team has spent several months studying worship in general and looking for a worship schedule that addresses the principles for worship that are cited below.

The Worship Team and Pastors agreed on a proposal to discontinue the Saturday evening service and offer two Sunday morning services - 9 and 10:45am. The earlier service would be the Classic (or Traditional) style and the later service would be a more Contemporary style. This is essentially a "flip" of our current services though each starts a little later in the morning. This proposal was approved by the Session on June 25th. The new Sunday schedule begins on August 4th. The last Saturday evening service will be July 27th.

We realize this impacts everyone to some degree. However, this schedule best supports Children's and Student Ministries and better utilizes our resources of time, finances, and staffing - both paid and volunteer - in order to carry out our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ who Connect with God, Grow in Faith, and Serve in Love.

Would you join with our Session in prayer that this transition will go well and that together we will become faithful worshippers - of all ages - together in a common bond in Jesus Christ?

The Session of Good Shepherd

Guiding Principles of Worship

  1. Worship will incorporate elements that reflect our Reformed faith
  2. Children benefit from being included in worship with adults. Adults also benefit
  3. from being in worship with children. We know that children and teens are more open about their relationship with God and they read the Bible more than their age-segregated peers.
  4. Worship leadership should include people of all ages. Reformed Christians emphasize the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. All ages are invited to participate in and lead worship in age appropriate ways. We are participants in worship not consumers of it.
  5. Worship includes reverence and can also be informal, warm and authentic. The style of worship is less important than, than the attitude of worship. We all need to participate together and encourage all family members to engage in true worship, which, is reverent and authentic no matter what the style.
  6. Music is most worshipful when it is done with excellence and is not a cause of distraction.
  7. We recognize GSPC is a multi-generational congregation – Worship should encourage interaction between all age groups for mentoring, encouraging and building relationships.
  8. Hymns and songs must have theological and scriptural integrity and reinforce the focus of worship and of the sermons. Although, two distinct worship styles are the best option for the us, this does not preclude introduction of a timeless hymn into Contemporary worship or newer songs into the Traditional worship.
  9. Worship is a place where all are welcome and made to feel welcomed. We should also extend invitations to others to join in worship.
  10. The important question we must ask in worship is not "What did I get out of it?" but "What did I offer to God?" Blessing comes from God in response to worship, if you aren’t blessed, it isn’t usually because of the style of music but because of a selfish heart that does not give glory to God.
  11. We must learn humility in order to have a strong, loving intergenerational church. The older members must patiently listen to the young, shed their “this is the way things have always been done” attitude, and adopt a posture of selfless maturity. The younger members must patiently listen to the older members, respectfully teach the older members about the way they worship, and find new ways to interpret our traditions for today’s context.

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Leroy D. Sanders on July 1st, 2013 at 3:19pm

My wife Joan and I joined this fellowship two years ago and you would have to tie me to the bed to keep me from coming to our church each Sunday morning. With me, church going was never that way in the past. Just ask Joan, ha. What I am really struct by here is that we are truly blessed to have three, not one ,but three great but humble Pastor Servants, each with a special gift delivering God's word of love each week. I told Pastor Curtis last Sunday that when I first heard him give a sermon, I thought he was a lightweight. I am embarrassed that I said that. But Joan and I are now Big Fans and really inspired by his messages and we love to see him in the pulpit. In fact, a couple of his messages would rate among the best we have heard. Paster Jim is amazing at bringing out so much from Bible verses in understandable terms relative to what we had read but did not comprehend in the past. He has a great way of placing us back in those times as observers . His sermons are as good as they come. We are also always happy if Paster Paul is in the pulpit. He is very loving and down to earth and if I was in a foxhole I would pray for someone like him him to be with me, along with God, of course. So as you can see, we are happy campers no mater who is giving the service. Any of the three could be the senior pastor at a large church and we are fortunate enough to have all three. I hope that the rest of the congregation feels the same way and realizes just how blessed we all are.

We were quite surprised when we received an E mail notifying us of the changes about to take place. The E mail was blunt and to the point. No reasons were given. I fully understand the reasons for eliminating the Saturday night service but the switching of the Sunday services and having the contemporary start at close to 11 makes no sense to me at all unless The Session wishes to eventually phase it out.

As we have learned in the past, church politics can run rampant over reasonableness at times. The Session certainly hit a sweet spot in moving the traditional service to 9 on Sunday since I assume most members of that body attend that service and it fits in perfectly with their schedules. On the other hand, most reasonable people would try to be as accommodating as possible to all church members. Naturally, there will always be those situations where some folks can't be satisfied. But it must be realized that there is also a contemporary gathering that meets each Sunday to praise and hear God's word in a great church setting. With the recent changes announced, I must conclude that our group is considered as of less important to church leadership. For now, we must wait until almost 11 for our service to begin.

The traditional service draws a much larger attendance each Sunday, however the Session could have kept everyone reasonably satisfied by having one service at 8 or 8:30 and the other at 9:30 or 10. But no, the Session in it's great wisdom knows best. As you can gather, we are certainly not happy with the time changes and are not pleased that the contemporary service is given such a late start

I doubt that you will believe me but there are some of us who actually prefer singing with the Praise Band to a choir and organ service. We love the casualness. The contemporary service is a wonderful place to focus on Christ's teachings and hear his Word. We can feel the electricity in the air during the service and are truly free to sing loudly in our praise of Him.

Working as an usher last Sunday, I asked three other ushers what they thought of the changes. One gave me a big smile and a thumbs up. One who goes to the traditional service does not like the contemporary but would prefer the traditional to continue at a later hour. The third felt just as I do and was very unhappy about the switch. This is certainly not a good random sampling of congregational feelings but the responses were interesting.

It strikes me as very strange that so much time and effort with the congregation has been placed on should our church leave the presbyterian umbrella versus so little effort to keep the church services harmonious. If one of the pastors had of said in a prior church service about the new changes church leadership was thinking of and explained the reasons why in some detail, I would have not been happy about it but would have probably accepted it and moved on. I certainly would not be writing this.

I have no desire, at my age, to ever be a deacon or elder but am more than willing to help where needed. I have seen what Church Sessions have done before with church congregations and know some pretty good stories. Admittedly, I can see only a small part of the total picture regarding these changes and am not privy to the facts and figures that you have. Also, I bring a somewhat negative bias toward church sessions. I am only commenting on what I see on the surface.

Coming here was a breath of fresh air but I question the latest changes and the way in which the congregation was notified. Mine is only one voice and I realize that it may be only a very small voice in the wilderness, but I dearly love this church and want what's best for all. With Love

Doug Sanders