When you serve a congregation for 28 years, you are granted the privilege of baptizing the children of the children you baptized in the earlier days of your ministry. Rev. Scott Winkler, Pastor of Old Union CC, located on Russell Cave Road in rural Fayette County, knows such a privilege. For much of those 28 years, Scott served as co-pastor with his spouse Susan. Susan remains an active part of the life of Old Union CC.
Recently, I sat down with Scott over morning coffee to hear him reflect on the fruits of long his ministry at Old Union.
Clearly moved by the blessings of his ministry, Scott was eager to share the role of the children in Old Union’s life. On the last Sunday of every other month, the children grab buckets and go throughout the congregation to collect the Children’s Loud Offering. The members joyfully bring loose change for those special Sundays to drop in the metal buckets. Scott reports that the offering makes quite a joyful noise to the Lord! In 2017-2018, to date, over $3600 has been raised through the Children’s Loud Offering.
But, it is not just about having some fun around the offering.
Scott reports that the offering is used as a way to educate children and adults about various non-profit services. Knowing what these organizations do determines who will receive the support of this special offering. It allows the congregation (young and old alike) to decide what organizations most closely align with the vision and mission of the members of Old Union. Support for these non-profit service organizations is not limited to financial support. Many of Old Union’s members become volunteers as well.
This intergenerational model educates and brings together all ages in common cause, models the joy of giving, connects the church to the world beyond its walls in tangible ways, and stirs a growing passion for doing good works as an expression of faith and in glory to God. The children discover the joy of giving and are shown by the adults in their lives how the giving of time and money as an expression of faith is vital in one’s relationship with God. The children’s participation inspires the adults to do more. This intergenerational cycle is powerful and beautiful. While not exclusive to smaller membership churches, this sense of belonging and meaning is one of the great gifts smaller membership churches offer to the people around them.
Scott was excited to share a couple other meaningful aspects of Old Union’s life together.
Some of the young people who grew up at Old Union have returned to their roots. They love the diversity of age, the warmth, and the sincerity of the congregation. These young families are inviting other young families to be part of the simple but vibrant faith, intentionally inclusive of all ages, so characteristic of Old Union CC.
The Elders and pastor have agreed to operate out of a unanimous consensus when making decisions. No votes are taken. They commit to work together until all are united in a common commitment to whatever decision is required.
New Elders and Deacons must agree to go through a seven-week course in order to serve in these roles. The topics include discussions on: What Do You Want Old Union to Be? Dealing with Conflict; a New Testament overview; an Old Testament overview; and, Spiritual Disciplines.
Old Union CC testifies to the vibrant and meaningful ministry of smaller membership congregations. The members do not wring their hands over their size. They claim the size of their church as a great gift to share to with all.
Rev. Kory Wilcoxson, Senior Minister of Crestwood Christian Church in Lexington, focused on long-term pastorates on his sabbatical in 2016. My summary of his report is that long-term ministries are: grounded in prayer, both the prayers of the people and the pastor for each other; built on a mutual love and respect between pastor and congregation, intent on deepening everyone’s faith in God; and, a biblically grounded ministry that is outwardly directed, flowing through the congregation into the neighborhoods and communities around them.
Rev. Scott Winkler and the faithful of Old Union Christian Church, for twenty-eight years now, have grounded their outwardly focused ministries in prayer and attended to ever-deepening their faith out of mutual love and respect for one another and all God has made. Praise be to God!