Ryan Braught is the founding pastor/church planter with the Veritas Community in Lancaster, PA. We had a few questions for him!
How would you describe the area your church is in?
Veritas is based in the city of Lancaster, a city that is growing.
How would you describe the journey of pastoring Veritas? What have been some of the milestones/different seasons?
One of biggest milestones over the last almost ten years, both for myself but also for the community was my sabbatical in the summer of 2017. It helped me rest, rejuvenate, and reconnect with God and family. But more than just what it did for me, I believe it truly grew our community- People saying “this is our community,” people taking ownership, stepping into leadership roles, and become active participants in the mission and ministry of Veritas. Another milestone or series of milestones relates to our connection with our denomination (the Church of the Brethren). They have a process of planting where plants start as a project, move to fellowship status, and then become a full congregation. We have been able to walk through this process becoming a fellowship in 2016 and this summer will become a full-fledged congregation within the Church of the Brethren.
Looking back, what do you know now you wish you had known when you first started Veritas?
Just the amount of turnover that happens each year, especially as we have connected with a younger generation. And to look at that turnover as a blessing- that we get to disciple them for a season, then send people to other places around the country and the world, and commission them as missionaries from Veritas. Also something that i wish I had known is just how slow missional church and missional church planting can be. And how much patience I need to trust Jesus, rely on him, and really lean into the belief that He grows the church- and not succumb to the latest church growth fad to try to numerically grow the church.
As you think about what you’ve been able to do so far in ministry there what are some things you have done/tried that have worked well?
I believe there are three different parts to our ministry that have worked well. First, I believe our engagement with the arts community within Lancaster has been going very well. We have been able to connect with many different artists and are building a reputation within Lancaster. We have been doing a lot of social justice/awareness shows and been able to bless many artists and get behind their work. One of the neatest things related to this- is asking the artist that we feature each month to come to our worship gathering for a 5-10 minute Q&A and have them share about their work, and allow them to find a supportive faith community that is interested in their work and wants to encourage and bless them. I believe the second thing that has gone well for Veritas is related to the development of the community within Veritas. We have a tight-knit community and we have built it through many different ways- including our Veritas community What’s App, something called Conversation Project (where we do some intentional relationship building by pairing people from the community together, get them to meet up, and have them talk through questions and get to know each other), and just regular engagement with each other outside the “confines” of Sunday morning. Thirdly, I think our value of participation has been hugely beneficial to our community- in regards to building relationships with each other, but also in relation to discipleship. This value of participation while multifaceted, has led us to have interactive discussion as part of our sermon- where people dialogue around tables during and after the message, and to talk about how they will seek to apply and live out what we are talking about each worship gathering. The value of participation has also led to the creation of a teaching team, which includes myself, but also a few others- who help develop the teaching series, and also take turns in preaching and teaching throughout the year.
What hasn’t worked so well? What have you had to rethink/reimagine/rework?
One of the things we struggle with is the role of Children within the life of the community. Do we provide a nursery and children’s ministry and have the separated from the community for the entire worship time? Do we provide a nursery only? Do we provide a nursery and children’s ministry for part of the worship gathering? Do we act more as family- and assume infants and children will be in the service for the entire time? Or a hybrid of some of these? This is something that we struggle with- especially with not really having any children for children’s ministry (but having a growing number of young babies/infants/toddlers). We are in the process of also rethinking and reworking our leadership structure and how to develop a leadership pipeline, that grows and develops leaders, gives them the permission to begin and develop ministries, and develop leadership team and ministry team structures that fit our community (our vision, values, etc.).
What is one failure you experienced and what did you learn from it?
The day after Easter in 2018 I hurriedly set up a ladder against my garage, and hurried up the ladder to clean out a gutter. The ladder slid out from the garage and I came down with it, landing on my driveway and fracturing my wrist. You might ask what does this have to do with the church and ministry? This failure- 1. to take my time. and 2. Having someone holding the ladder, taught me those 2 valuable lessons in church and ministry.
First, in ministry I need to take time and not hurry though things. Planning events, preaching, visiting people, etc… takes time and I need to not hurry through those things and move on, “to more important things”. In planning events, I need to be diligent about the details (something that I struggle with), writing out the to-do list, and steps to making the event a “success”.
Secondly, I can’t do it alone. If I try, I will experience a fall. I desperately need others- both within my church and outside my church. I need a team of leaders within my church- those having different gifts and passions than I do- in order to make the church function as it is supposed to- as a body. If I try to function alone- the body is broken (just like my wrist was). I also need others outside my community who can pray with me, walk with me, and support me (as I also support, pray, and walk with them).
What is something you’ve been hearing from or learning from God in this last season of leading?
I feel that God is speaking to me about what leadership-like-Jesus truly looks like: a dying to the self, washing the feet of others, servant leadership. This is not an easy process- and I have to continually ask God to help me lead like Jesus- which means not always going in the direction that I think we should go in, not making all the decisions, trusting the leadership of others, and seeking to build consensus.
What do you dream/hope/pray Veritas looks like in five years?
My hope and dream for Veritas is that in five years we will be looking at planting a church out of Veritas. I also hope and dream that our church would be a strong family who are pursuing Jesus together, and following Him into the world and being about His mission.