Empty Lines

If there was a time in church life when “Time and Talent Forms” and Sunday morning appeals for new program leaders actually worked, those days are surely over.

No one is standing in line behind you to take your church role.

Congregations today find themselves with plenty of good ideas—or at least enough good ideas to move forward in ministry—but not nearly enough people to organize and participate in the programs that spring from those great ideas.

This is not the kind of blog post that will now list the five ways you can re-populate the line.  Nor do we have tips on how to automate the process of volunteerism in church. Rather, this is an invitation for church boards—your church board—to stop the endless cycle of planning, recruiting, budgeting, and implementing, in order to pause and consider what kind of church and what experience of ministry God is calling us to in the reality of ‘empty lines’ behind us.


  • Is this true in your congregation?  What is the state of volunteerism for your most important church activities?
  • If it is true, what do you think it means?
  • What do you think needs to change for your ministry to continue to grow and thrive?  


Poet Lucia Cherchiu was born in Romania and moved to the United States in 1995. In “The New Church,” she focuses our attention not on an empty line, but on an empty house. What is she calling us to build?


The New Church

By Lucia Cherciu


The old cupola glinted above the clouds, shone

among fir trees, but it took him an hour


for the half mile all the way up the hill. As he trailed,

the village passed him by, greeted him,


asked about his health, but everybody hurried

to catch the mass, left him leaning against fences,


measuring the road with the walking stick he sculpted.

He yearned for the day when the new church


would be built—right across the road. Now

it rises above the moon: saints in frescoes


meet the eye, and only the rain has started to cut

through the shingles on the roof of his empty


house. The apple trees have taken over the sky,

sequestered the gate, sidled over the porch.


  • What do you learn about the ‘old’ church in this poem?  What do you learn about the ‘new’ church?
  • Who and what are you hurrying past on your way to be the church you have always been?
  • What signs of yearning do you see in your congregation for something new?
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