"This is your captain from the cockpit. We're in a holding pattern over Houston." Not exactly the words you want to hear - especially after a long week of VBS activities.
It seems a plane carrying a VIP - in this case the Vice President of the United States - was preparing to land at a nearby airfield, and everyone’s attention turned to that plane. In fact, all other planes - even those landing at a completely different airport like mine - were ordered to circle until the VP’s plane had safely landed and the all-clear given.
Of course this backed up and delayed flights for the rest of the evening. Since I was changing planes in Houston this holding pattern meant I reached my final destination at 11:00 pm instead of 9:30. Not a huge inconvenience, but after seven days away from home an additional 90 minutes of what seemed like an unnecessary delay was not how I wanted to end the week.
These extra minutes in the air made me realize that many of our efforts to connect with unchurched families must feel like being in a holding pattern - for both the unchurched families and the congregation. We want to make connections. We know we should make connections. We can even see the possibilities and benefits, but for some reason we are stuck in a holding pattern. We keep flying around in circles and never make it to our final destination.
To continue the plane metaphor for a moment, we work hard to find passengers for the flight. We do everything we can to make our airline the most appealing. We serve snacks, provide entertainment, and work to make sure each passenger feels accepted and comfortable. We even make momentary connections with some of the passengers. And of course we invite them to come back next week and become a member of the frequent flyer’s club.
"This is your captain from the cockpit. We sure hope you enjoyed your flight today. We know you have many choices when you fly and we appreciate you choosing VBS Air. We hope you have a great rest of your day and come back to see us soon."
The flight ends. Crew members and passengers exchange pleasantries as they all depart for destinations unknown - most likely never to meet each other again. Then another captain and crew board the plane and hurriedly prepare for another flight and another group of passengers.
We know making lasting connections with unchurched families is not an automatic result of VBS. Making connections must be an intentional part of everything we do as we prepare for, execute, and follow up the week of VBS. A new year is time for new resolve - a time to begin again. This is the year to get out of the holding pattern and land the plane.