Past and Future

Posted by Jeremy Williams 0 Comments

Church, and pretty much every other thing, is always living in a tension between what used to be, and what’s going to be. Around church, we have lots of past to think about: the ways we do our rituals, the language we use, and the thousands of years reaching back into the Bible through all the centuries between then and now. And then there’s the more recent past: the songs we used to have, the way we used to do things, the pastors we used to have, and on and on. The past really matters, because it’s what made us who we are. So I like to think about it, and understand it as well as I can.

And then again, there’s the future. It’s pretty different from the past: for one thing, we have the power to change it, and for another, we don’t know exactly what it’ll bring. The future certainly deserves our attention, and especially in the church. That’s why we now have a Vision Team, because we need to take a sharp look forward, and prepare for what’s ahead. Only God know what’s ahead, but God also expects us to work hard for the¬†advancement of God’s will in the world.

There’s a process to planning, and you need to know about it, because it’s going to be with us for a long time. We plan to engage the whole congregation at every step along the way, for your input and your wisdom. We start with naming four or five values that are distinct to our congregation: things we’re not going to let go of. These core values will be the foundation of every vision and goal we set. So, for instance, if we decide that one of our values is youth ministry, then we have to keep planning for a youth ministry that can grow in its scope and effectiveness. That will say something about decisions to do with the building, with staffing, and budgets. The value setting process will probably take a couple of months at least. We’re discussing with capable leaders from the annual conference how to frame and share our values conversation.

The next step is to imagine what we want to look like as a church in five years or so. Do we want to have a bigger staff? Do we want more people in worship? Do we want a partnership with other churches and organizations in the area? We’ll be coming back to the congregation with proposed visions for the future, based on the values you help to name. Yes, it’ll take at least a couple more months to get through this process, to hear input, and to dream big together as church.

Once we have the big vision pieces in place, we have to figure out the steps involved in getting there. This is where so many planning processes fall down. We intend to get very specific about goals that we have to accomplish, if we’re going to get to our vision. For instance, if our vision is to have¬†two hundred people in worship, then we’ll have to design some steps to get there: improving the quality of worship, improving our hospitality, our welcoming space, our guest follow-up, and our personal invitation skills. We may have to get new leaders in place who can help with each of those concrete goals.

The next essential step is self-evaluation. We need to regularly ask ourselves how we’re doing at each of our specifics. If we’re going faster than expected in an area, then we can adjust our timelines. If we’re going slower than expected, then we need to improve what we’re doing, or adjust our timeline the other direction. I’m excited that we’re going to have some capable help with this step.

A big vision is accomplished through a lot of small steps. We intend to continue with the planning and execution process until we’re done. Our expectation is that by the time we accomplish our goals, we’ll have some pretty good ideas what our next vision should look like!

This is an exciting time to be at Community. There is a will and a desire to move forward. The future will not look like the past. But with God’s help, and the help of everyone in the church, it will help us to carry out the job of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Pastor Jeremy


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