I want your feedback and/or help on this. I’m still in the early stages of developing this, but am in the process of putting together a “dream team” for each of the two churches to which I am currently appointed. No, I’m not speaking of finding a way to bring the 1992 US men’s Olympic basketball team to Camden, Tennessee.
No, it’s not ^^that^^ kind of dream team I’m speaking of. Instead, I’m talking about putting together a group of 10-15 persons at each church to begin making dreams for the next 5, 10, 20…years.
Last week, 75 young clergy in the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences of The United Methodist Church met in Dickson along with our new(ish) bishop Bill McAlilly. The event was sponsored by the Turner Center for Church Leadership & Congregational Development, which particularly is honing in on training young clergy for leadership as the dynamics of our culture(s) continue to change. At the conference, we explored the tension between the emphases of mission laid forth in Matthew 25:31-46 & Matthew 28:16-20 and how we as leaders could assist our congregations in developing their own identities in relation to their own mission fields. (A lingering question I had but never asked aloud was about the nature of the relationship between the narrative content in between those passages and the missional focus of the passages we did explore. In other words: What, if anything, is the relationship between the Passion & Resurrection narrative and our mission as the Church? I like where that question could take a discussion, but I’ll have to explore that in more detail in another post at another time.)
Although the picture we’ve been given about the status of the UMC is quite bleak, I left the conference hopeful that God has greater things in store for the United Methodist Church(es) in the Memphis & Tennessee Conferences, even as I was unsure specifically how I would begin to steer the churches to which I am appointed in the direction of discovering our identities & visions and how those relate to the mission field around us.
On the day following, Carrie and I took a trip to Jackson to get some much needed household items. Instead of taking the usual way home on Interstate 40, we drove the scenic route of US 70 all the way to Camden. It was nice for a change and only took an additional five or so minutes to get home than the normal route. On our way home, I began to share with Carrie processing through the gist of the conference I attended at Dickson and seeing how I might begin to raise questions to the folks at Liberty & Post Oak about our future. Within minutes we were talking about what it would look like to bring several youth & young adults and an accompanying older adult or two together and dream big about what God might want to do through us.
That was Saturday and I already knew that a council meeting was set for the next day at Liberty, which would be the perfect time to officially pitch the idea to the key leaders. I also went ahead and started planting the seed to a few people before the service at Post Oak and got a council meeting scheduled for a couple of weeks from now where I’ll share more with them there (for those who won’t have read this blog post anyway 🙂 ). I got some good feedback there and then when I got to Liberty for worship, I pulled my lay leader and council chairperson aside to very briefly introduce it and ask for it to be on the agenda, which was warmly granted.
At the council meeting I introduced the seed ideas of what I was wanting to do and the initial questions that I’d like to be discussed in the group. The only question I was asked was, “Are you going to spearhead it?” I answered, “Of course! But I want you to know that I don’t plan on having all the answers. I just want to ask a series of questions that we will uncover together through prayer, discussion, study, and discernment what we perceive God asking us to do.” My desire is for the churches to come up with an answer to this family of questions: What do you want [name of church] to look like in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
And here’s how I need your help/feedback, which I asked for at the beginning of the post. To answer the main question, there are a number of other questions that will need to be considered. Some big questions that obviously need to be addressed are the theological & missional ones:
- Who is God?
- Who are we?
- How has God created and inhabited our story at [name of church]?
- Who are our neighbors?
But then there are some more specific questions. Here are some that I see as vital for my churches to be asked in uncovering a vision for how best “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (as is our mission as United Methodists) in our local context. You’ll notice that the questions provide the opportunity for the people to dream BIG dreams. And for a people who believe in a God of extravagant grace, why not push the limits? So:
- If you had no fear of failure, what would you like to see done in this church? in this community?
- If money were not an issue, what changes would you make or things would you add to the life of this church?
- Is there any unused space on the premises? If so, how can the space(s) be used again?
- What needs of the community are not being met well or at all?
- What ways, if any, can we work with area schools, like tutoring, backpack programs, etc.?
Those are just a few. Can you help me think of other questions? Comment below and let me know!