Saturday, January 01, 2022

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

In my work in higher education circles, one of the buzzwords I’ve heard regularly is “persistence.” In that context, it refers to students’ ability to make it from their first year to their sophomore year and eventually on to commencement.

The extensive research around this area—tied in to the all-important “retention rate” of colleges and universities—has found a combination of factors at play. Some students are more naturally inclined to press on through hurdles and to be more motivated than others, for example. Some campus settings have more to offer geographically or culturally. And the education system itself can provide things such as support services, greater equity, and community-building. It can be a rather complicated stew.

“Persistence” occurred to me again recently as I was mulling all the challenges that the church has faced over the past few years: difficult demographic trends and—in many places—shrinking attendance; budget concerns; a limited supply of pastors and other leaders; and, of course, a global health crisis that has often significantly altered our ways of being together.

It has been hard for pastors, in particular, as they have faced a whole host of added responsibilities, frequently changing protocols to navigate, and new ways of ministry, It has taken a toll on congregations as a whole, too, as the pandemic has brought various degrees of isolation, fragmentation, and struggles with identity.

There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s not easy. Some places have fared better than others, and some new tools and creative possibilities have emerged from this time, but the stress and strain are universal. The district stands ready to offer encouragement and resources wherever we can, and the denomination has worked to support churches and pastors, as well. If you see additional ways we can help, let us know. In the meantime, please know you are in our prayers.

As the apostle Paul, who was no stranger to challenges, writes in 2 Corinthians 4: “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up” (4:8, ERV). Like Paul, we “press on.” Persistence.

Whatever the road ahead might hold, may you, too, “not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:16, NIV).