This Important Discussion Begins
For the four Sundays on which we will have a single combined 9:30 am worship service (Sept 9, Sept 16, Sept 30 and Oct 14) we will remain in the sanctuary after worship but everyone will move to the front. Comfortable chairs, including the red chairs from the back of the sanctuary, will allow people to sit in front of the pews, so we can all be present with each other and participate in the group discussion. We will come together in a covenant of presence to help us focus on the future of our congregation.
Our first session will focus on the “why” of our congregation. This might at first seem obvious but over the years it becomes easy to focus on numbers (people and/or financial) and forget the specific things that make us different from every other organization to which we may belong. So we will examine the “whys” of our membership in First Christian Church of Independence and why it even exists.
Hope Partnership (www.hopepmt.org) has provided resources and discussion questions to help keep us focused and on track. We will collect everyone’s input and then ask individuals to continue praying and thinking about our conversation in the following week. Small notebooks will be provided so you can record any additional thoughts you might have and bring them back to the group the following week, when we will consider the marks of a vital and missional congregation.
How do we know if we are doing what we are called to do? The Bible does not call us to have a minimum number of people in the pews; we are called to be God’s kingdom here on earth and His kingdom is not measured in numbers but in mission.
At the close of our second session, everyone will receive a copy of the updated assessment report prepared by Hope Partnership. It includes LOTS of current data about our congregation and community. It is not a small report so everyone will have two weeks to go through it, noting questions for clarification and/or discussion, considering what it says to us about our future story or presence in our community.
When we return for our third session (Sept 30), we will go through the information as a group, asking that everyone share what they discovered in its many pages and how that knowledge applies to our previous discussions. We will present potential future stories to help pull together the “why” and vital mission(s) of our specific congregation. Through continued prayer, our group imagination will be encouraged and we will be able to see the possibilities and begin to think about our future in a different way.
In our fourth session (Oct 14th), we will discuss what we have learned and what we now see as our best future story. The goal is to determine what our congregation considers most important and to make a recommendation for our future that will then be put to a vote. The recommendation will probably not include all of the tiny details about how to accomplish our future, but will have enough information that a plan of accomplishment can be worked out in the coming months.
These conversations may be difficult because we will have to be quiet and listen while others are talking, even if we don’t agree with them. We will have to put aside our assumptions and snap judgements in order to truly listen to the stories of others. There will be no right or wrong, but a time of sharing our personal gifts and graces in a safe space of respect. This congregation is and has been much loved and it (i.e. all of us) deserves respect and time to determine its best future.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” (George Bernard Shaw). So let us clearly communicate with each other as Christian brothers and sisters so we can find our way to our unique future plan for our ministry, whatever that may be.