AYER - The message board outside the little church on Littleton Road read simply: "We are a Facebook church; we seek His face and read His book."
The Ayer Church of God may have a small congregation, but it is a close one and growing with big plans for the future.
Plans, said children's church leader Beth Condon, that depend on the energy and exuberance of young people to keep the forward momentum going. For that reason, she and the rest of the congregation are delighted with the church's new pastor, who took over the local ministry some weeks ago.
"I think what the new pastor will bring to the congregation is a new spirit, a spirit of youthfulness, community, and family," said Condon. "He's younger than our previous pastors and has modern ideas. He's going to help the church move forward into the Facebook age!"
At 40, the Rev. Ian Smith (a former resident of Brooklyn, New York who is still loyal to the Jets ... but that's on the QT) does seem to capture the youthfulness that his congregation had hoped to find in a new pastor.
"I couldn't ask for a better reception," Smith said. "They're a great group of people."
Wasting little time and understanding what the congregation expected of him, Smith has moved quickly to lay out an action plan for the coming months.
"We're looking to get a youth pastor," Smith said. "You need someone to be able to relate to a lot things that young people are going through. I do deal with it when it comes
It wasn't that long ago that Smith himself made one of the most important decisions of his life.
"I came down here and started to go to Northeastern University to complete my B.A. in electronics and in the middle of circuit class, I heard the word of God," he said of his decision to enter the ministry. "It asked that I walk away from electrical engineering and that was hard."
Born in the Bahamas and growing up in Brooklyn by way of Jamaica, it was as a younger man that Smith eventually found his way to Massachusetts and Northeastern, where he did indeed graduate with a degree in electronic engineering.
But following the call he received from God, Smith entered the ministry and went through a four-year training period with the Church of God before being assigned to a church five years ago for real-world experience. That church turned out to be the Ayer Church of God.
"He was appointed rather than elected," Condon said. "But he was at the top of our list for choices and we would have chosen him anyway. He's a dynamic speaker and his sermons are very down to earth. He makes scripture applicable to people's day-to-day lives."
Condon was among members of the congregation on the autumn afternoon when the church held a special picnic to officially welcome Smith to the church.
"The picnic went really well," Condon said. "We had lots of new people and old members came too. They main thing was we wanted to introduce the new pastor and ourselves to the community. Because we're located in a little blue-sided building, lots of people around don't even know that we're a church."
Smith replaces the little blue church's former pastor who left the job to go to Germany. In the two years since, the congregation has been served by an interim pastor.
Although small with a congregation of about 60-80 people, the Ayer Church of God has an active ministry that, according to Condon, includes "a great music team."
"We're also trying to build up a youth group because we want our church to be a good children's church," said Condon.
With that foundation to build upon, Smith has had something solid to begin with when he took over as pastor.
"I think the difficult part of it was understanding where everybody was and to get them to understand where we were going as a church," he said.
"When you're going from one kind of leadership to the next, it helps to have everyone understand where we're going as a church ... To do that, I spent time sitting with the congregation and with people individually discussing what their expectations were and if there were any struggles that they were dealing with at the time. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to bridge the gap and help them focus on achieving our main goal, which is the dream and vision of the church to reach out to the rest of the neighborhood."
For information about the Ayer Church of God, go to www.ayerchurchofgod.com.