Interim pastor wants congregation to grow


Craig's First Congregational United Church of Christ may be without a permanent minister, but they're not without a leader.

Pastor David Barnes of Grand Junction stepped into the interim minister role May 1 and has been busy since.

It used to be that interim pastors just maintained the church at its current level until a permanent minister could be found, Barnes said.

"Anymore, interims are there to help the congregation with the whole process," he said, explaining that that could mean anything from helping the church grow to helping decide what areas the church wants to emphasize.

Barnes and his wife are trained in church growth, and one of his goals for his time here is to help make that happen, he said. Barnes wants to see First Congregational UCC grow, but he also is interested in working with other churches, he said.

"In addition to preaching, I have a real interest in social justice issues," Barnes said.

Next Wednesday, Barnes is hosting a meeting of area churches to discuss starting a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity -- a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian housing organization. The organization began in 1976 and has built more than 150,000 homes for people around the world, according to the official Web site.

"(Habitat for Humanity) is an excellent program. It's really mushroomed. They build nice homes at very reasonable prices," Barnes said.

Beyond helping the church to grow and building alliances with other churches, Barnes said he enjoys helping people discover their strengths.

"We all have gifts, and those gifts vary -- and it's important to recognize that we don't have to have all the gifts," Barnes said.

As humble as he is genial, Barnes illustrated his point with an example from his life. He said years ago he led children's time during an occasional church service. Then one day, he asked his wife how he was doing. She told him he wasn't doing very well. He asked another church member who had the same response. With relief, he stepped back from the task and allowed others more gifted with children to take over.

"I found I was talking to the adults, and the kids were overhearing. Instead, it should be talking to the kids and the adults are listening," Barnes said.

Another essential ingredient to his ministry is humor, he said.

"Faith and humor certainly go together. ... Humor helps ease burdens," Barnes said.

Barnes graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in education. After serving in the Army, he eventually attended seminary at Brite Divinity School in Texas. He is ordained through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which has a partnership with UCC to allow ministers from one church to fill in at the other. While in North English, Iowa, Barnes worked as a minister as well as the girls varsity basketball coach.

A favorite story Barnes shared was one he attributed to another pastor, Revel Howe, speaking to his congregation at the end of a sermon.

Howe asked his congregation to think about the door as they left the sanctuary. He asked them to consider whether it was a door of exit or a door of entry. If it were a door of exit, then they would leave all they had learned behind them. If it were a door of entry then they would take all the peace and lessons from within the church out into the world.

You can guess what kind of door Barnes envisions for First Congregational United Church of Christ.

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