Five elements make up the “work of a congregation during an interim period,” according to the Center for Congregational Health. What better way for me to say goodbye than to provide fodder for your reflections about an interim period --- what has been, and what may continue to be your journey forward, at least for a little while longer.
The first two elements, Heritage and Leadership, were written about in the March 2016 newsletter. Below are some reflections about the other three elements (see the January 2016 newsletter for my thoughts about where Welcome Table is in relation to each of these five elements).
Mission is another way of talking about the purpose and direction of the church. There are a number of ways that Mission is named. Mission can be characterized as a succinct statement conveying why the church exists, helping to prioritize the church’s activities. Vision statements articulate in one sentence the affect the church will have as a result of its activities; usually the affect being long-term, like five to ten years. Finally, often churches find it helpful to articulate its Values, or its core beliefs. Usually there are three, four, or five core values. The Mission, Vision, and Values closely align with the question of “Where is the church in its Life Cycle?” There are a number of theories on Life Cycle of a Congregation (one example can be found at the following link -
http://www.stpaulsgb.org/filerequest/2448 – page two is a chart that provides a nice image). Critical to a Mission and Vision are the RELATIONSHIPS, because RELATIONSHIPS bring programs into existence and sustain them – incarnating the Mission and Vision. Equally critical to a congregation being vibrant is its living into its mission and vision – when that sense of purpose wanes, so do the programs.
Connections is the fourth element of an interim period. While many focus on the Connections that the congregation has with the denomination, the real focus is on whether the congregation is attending to relationships beyond its own members. During this period of transition is a great time to ask yourselves about your connections with other congregations in the community, other Disciple congregations, other non-profits or businesses in your neighborhood, etc. And, to honestly assess what those Connections are like – how would you describe those Connections? Is there a spirit of partnering? Is there an openness and vulnerability that provides for new insights, and a willingness to explore possibilities together? (For instance, here is a link to a story about such partnering that was recently published in The Christian Century: https://alban.org/2016/03/15/lisa-g-fischbeck-a-place-at-the-table/). What purpose do these Connections serve? Are the Connections helping you to live into your Mission, Vision, and Values?
As you journey into the fifth, and final, element to be considered during an interim period, your Future, I wish you the best, and pray God’s blessings for each of you. It is my hope that the four elements described in the January 2016 newsletter, and this article, will provide a lens through which you can decide your future direction, and the next steps to take in sharing your gifts with one another, and with the broader community.