Updated: Sep 25
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11
It started with a conversation. The pastor of Maumee Presbyterian Church, Clint Tolbert, reached out to me with an opportunity for our congregation here in Norwalk. In the months prior, I had gotten to know Clint. I appreciate his faith and his perspective. I am glad to call him a colleague in ministry.
He told me about the difficulties facing the Maumee church when he arrived in 2010. The congregation was divided and faced an uncertain future. The church leadership received the help of Leighton Ford Ministries to discover where God was leading. Leighton Ford had worked for decades with Billy Graham in evangelism but found his own calling in mentoring and developing pastors, leaders, and congregations. This assistance came at a great financial cost for the Maumee church, but in retrospect, they felt the expense was worth every penny.
Clint told me that Leighton Ford Ministries had recently received a Lily Foundation grant of one million dollars to provide their services to smaller congregations without the huge price tag. Clint invited our congregation to work with him, Leighton Ford Ministries, and a cohort of churches to discern our future ministry. Representatives from our session and staff met with Clint and Leighton Ford Ministries, and they were impressed. One elder reported to the session, “I think we all were looking for reasons not to be a part of this, but we came away convinced that this could be helpful to our church.” The session concurred, and in March, we agreed to move forward. Meetings are now beginning. As the process becomes clearer, we will let you know.
The timing is right for us. The last time we reviewed our ministries was in 2017, when we began the search for a new pastor. Since then, we have seen the turnover of most of our staff. We have seen the birth of new ministries and outreach. We also experienced a global pandemic. Spending some time in prayer and reflection about God’s future just makes sense.
That doesn’t mean everything will change. We are a healthy church. Congregations in crisis can’t take advantage of a process like this. They are too busy bailing water to concern themselves with where the ship is going. In contrast, we can lean into who God has called us to be while seeking new opportunities to love, serve, and care. Stay tuned. God has a future in mind for the First Presbyterian Church of Norwalk.