I was sitting at a conference with some friends and the speaker kept lifting up the decline in membership of the United Methodist Church.
One of the reasons cited was United Methodists were having less children than we used to.
And the four of us all stole a glance at one another.
The speaker was talking about us.
We represented three couples that were intentionally choosing not to have children.
Of course, making babies isn’t the only way to make new Christians.
And, even if we had babies, that doesn’t mean when they grew up they would choose to carry on our faith.
So what does “reproduction” really look like in the faith?
One of the first things I thought of was the “each one, reach one” campaign in my district about 10 years ago.
The idea was simple: Every person should try to bring one person to church in the next year. If everyone took the time to bring one friend or family member or neighbor to church, we would quickly double in size.
Which is essentially the process of mitosis.
We learn, grow, build our own faith, and then we pass it along to another person.
No, we don’t actually split ourselves in two, but the “each one, reach one” concept has the potential to multiply the church in the same way.
There is another important reproductive parallel here.
Because our role along the way, as we nurture someone into the faith, is to act like a spiritual midwife for them.
Midwives today are there to support during the entire pregnancy, but also provide care and advice months after a child is born.
And we can help guide someone into faith in the same way.
We can first make the invitation to church, but we have to be prepared to answer whatever questions they have in a non-judgmental way.
We need to not just invite them, but be there in a real and incarnational way: offering to pick them up, walk with them through the doors, sit next to them at whatever worship or church event or small group it is.
If we are taking ownership for truly nurturing someone into faith, then we can’t forget about them as soon as they have shown up once. It’s a continual process of support and encouragement.
As a pastor, I am actually probably more like a doctor who is called into provide medical assistance when necessary. Most of the work of bringing someone to the faith is done by the lay people, the midwives, who actively support and care for people as they become Christians.
(and, parents, this is how you help nurture your babies, too)
In my own church, I’m watching as our confirmation students go through the process with a mentor. And what I’m discovering is that the personalized attention really impacts their growth, and the mentors are growing, too. They are building new relationships and becoming stronger and more confident in their walk with God.
What if every one of us took on the work of inviting and mentoring one person in the faith?
We’d become a completely different church.