Pastor Matthew Finney
Pastor Matthew Finney was unanimously installed at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Sassamansville on Aug. 7 as the 21st pastor. Before receiving the call at St. Paul’s, Pastor Finney served a two-point parish in Western Pennsylvania known as Holy Shepherd Lutheran Parish which was a combination of Holy Trinity Parish in Lanse and Shepherd of the Hills Parish in Karthaus.
Pastor Finney brings many gifts to St. Paul’s. He received his master of divinity at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2010. He also has a master of science degree in 2003 from North Carolina State University and a bachelor of science degree in 2000 from Purdue University both in agricultural science.
Pastor’s January Message
The New Year is the time when it i common to reflect upon one’s life, and frequently use that opportunity to identify ways to improve upon it. Often this takes the forma of New Year’s resolutions. Now I have a question, how likely is it that a New Year’s resoltuions leads to a lasting change? Generally, New Year’s resolutions have gone be the wayside by Valentine’s Day.
I think that is because New Year’s resolutions are more likely to be generalized wishes instead of real goals. Wanting to “eat better” or “exercise more” does not tell us when these wishes have been fulfilled. Better than what? More than before? It is nearly impossible to know what that really means. Since it is so hard to know if the resolution is being achieved, then it is easier to abandon it.
To set real goals the experts recommend that they be “SMART”: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Instead of resolving to “exercise more” a goal following this framework would be to “run a 10k race in under and hour by the end of the year.”
Often our goals for the church are more like the typical New Year’s resolution. We want to see the church “grow,” “gain new members,” or “increase giving.” But these goals do not tell us much. How should the church grow? How many members? Increase giving by how much?
In the church we need to be better about setting good goals and then working to meet them. The process for determining these goals needs the input of all the people of St. Paul’s. It will take some time and prayerful discernment to even know what our goals should be. I would like, however, to get us started with a first goal for 2018.
Looking at our statistics that we report to the synod office in 2016 and 2017 our attendance has been flat. The average weekly attendance was 53 in 2016 and is on track to be the same or very close in 2017. I believe that gathering for worship is the single most significant thing we do as a people of God. As we seek to renew our life together at St. Paul’s, I would like us to focus on that single most important thing we do as a church, worship God. Therefore I propose that we work to having an average weekly attendance of 70 for 2018. This goal is specific, and easily measurable. I believe it is attainable. I know it is relevant, and it is most certainly time-bound.
The best part about this goal is that everyone can contribute, and it is easy to do. All you have to do is show up! Even those among us who are home bound or unable to regularly attend worship can contribute to this goal. It is important that the people in those circumstances pray for the church, and pray specifically that those who are able to gather for worship are inspired to do so. Everyone who is part of St. Paul’s (and perhaps even those not yet part of St. Paul’s) has an important role to play in meeting this goal for 2018.
This year let’s not let our hopes for the future of St. Paul’s be mere wishes that are easily forgotten. This year let’s set a goal, and let God form us and change us as we pursue it.