Summary of 2018 Vision
Shared on November 1 @ 6:15 p.m.
After our board meeting last Tuesday night, Dave Warren and I agreed that it would be a good idea for me to share with you some of the things that I shared in our meeting. As you know, in that meeting we were to discuss the budget and staffing plan for 2018. So, before we got into the staffing plan, I talked about where we’ve been, where we are now, and where I see God taking our congregation. And that’s what I want to share with you tonight.
It’s not really a state of the union address, but it might help you to think of it that way. The difference is that here in a few minutes, I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond with questions or comments. I do want to be clear that this isn’t a business meeting. There won’t be any voting, so there wasn’t anything you needed to read or do before you came tonight. Just as we’ve done pre-council meetings in the past, I thought this would offer space for feedback.
The board will meet again this Monday night to finalize some of the details of the 2018 budget and staffing plan that will be presented at Congregational Council, and we agreed that giving you an opportunity to hear from me and speak into the process is important.
Is something wrong? No, nothing is wrong. We had a great board meeting last week, and the plan that I’ve submitted has their support. We just want you to know that we believe this is a family affair. As I said in my message a couple weeks ago, I want you to hear my vision, but I also want to hear what you see God doing in our church, where he may be leading, and be encouraged together about the future. We’re in a good place as a church, which is why it’s important that we acknowledge those good things and join the Spirit in moving forward.
Does that sound good? Before we go any further. Would you pray with me?
Where We’ve Come From
I think the best place to start is by sharing with you what has happened since I arrived in July of 2016. I want you to be aware of stuff that has happened “behind the scenes” because I think it will help bring some perspective, and help us all to see a narrative that has been unfolding. Some of you have probably heard bits and pieces, but it’s hard to see the full picture unless I share it in a meeting like this. So, I hope that it will assist in giving us a shared understanding of the story and our experiences over the past year and a half.
When I first arrived at Grantham, it was clear to me that the church was ready to move into a new season. Through Pastor John Yeatts’ leadership, the church had been pastored to recover and heal from some hard times. I’ve tried to be careful how and when I bring up the past, only mentioning it when I felt it was necessary. But having said that, I hope we all understand that it’s important that we let God use those memories for the good. It’s a part of our story.
And as time goes by, God heals and uses those things for the good. He promises to do that.
Why do I bring this up? Well, for good reason. I’d like for us to keep in mind that Pastor John’s task was to lead the church through an intentional process of healing. Therefore, and John will tell you this, it became clear that his work wasn’t to rebuild the church administratively and bring on an entirely new staff in that revitalization process. In fact, things were scaled back during that time, which is common for churches when they go through a crisis of some kind.
I’m saying this because if you’re going to understand my role in the past 16 months, and the priorities of the office, you need to know this. My first priority, beyond getting to know you and understanding the history and culture of Grantham Church, was to bring administrative stability to the office and begin rebuilding the church staff. This takes a great deal of time to do.
You know I’m thoroughly Anabaptist, but the best way to describe it is that a bomb went off in the office a few years ago, so there have been lots of pieces to pick up to begin again.
And as I just said, all of that takes time to sort out, if it’s to be done in a pastoral way and I’m being sensitive in how we move forward. So, I appreciate your continued patience with this process and the changes in the office. I hope you’re encouraged by what you’ve seen.
In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve encountered and where we’ve been:
Since I became Senior Pastor, I’ve encountered various challenges, particularly with deciding on what comes next administratively and how we get a step closer to where we need to be, from hiring staff with limited resources, to improving upon our avenues of communication, to helping lead us in much-needed updates to our 20-year-old facility and grounds. How do we operate effectively and efficiently as a large church? We’ve been working at this by hiring new staff, creating a healthy culture and smooth processes in the office, creating/revising policies, adjusting governance, reordering commissions, and by establishing a new vision for the future.
And as we look back together, I think we can see that there has been a great deal of progress since I began serving among you. We have been rebuilding, restructuring, and positioning ourselves for an exciting season of church life. We’ve actually come a long way in a short period of time. And I think the best is yet to come! I really believe that, and I hope you do as well.
Our Current Status
As for ministry in 2016-2017, it’s good for us to reflect on how we’ve seen God at work. He’s moved in our worship services in powerful ways, through Doug and now Pastor Dave Perry’s leadership. Our worship attendance is about 400 on average. I’ve received countless emails from you telling me how the Spirit has used my sermons in your life. Thank you for that.
Last spring we witnessed God answer our prayers and heal a church member. This past summer we brought on two new staff members, who have been a great addition to our team. We saw over 150 kids at VBS and we baptized 6 people in the Yellow Breeches. We’re now preparing to introduce you to about a dozen new church members who recently completed the Discover Grantham Church class. You’ve heard me say we currently have 14 small groups and more involvement in personal spaces. And so much more. I’m encouraged by those things.
I am also encouraged by how the giving of our church has increased, though I have noticed that some of our members could be giving more, and that 40% of church members do not give at all. While that is a concern I have, we have an intentional plan to address this throughout 2018.
For example, our new Ministry Support Commission, that we plan to get going this coming year, will offer stewardship and fundraising assistance. We have a few folks in our congregation with fundraising experience to help us with that. Also, a rep with Everence will be coming in the spring, and then we are hosting a seminar in the fall called Creating Congregational Cultures of Generosity. Many churches in the area will be invited to attend.
So, because of the increase in our membership and the current giving trend, and because we have a strategic plan to address giving as a spiritual discipline at Grantham, I’m extremely hopeful about where we will be in the coming months. We are poised for significant increases. And the church board is hopeful about that as well. We’re expecting positive changes. And because of what God has been doing, with our current trends, we’re planning with that in mind.
Developing Vision for the Future
As I said a couple weeks ago, Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” That makes sense. While we’re not always aware of it, most folks live their lives in response to some sort of vision and understanding of our ultimate purpose and where things are going. When we don’t, we wander aimlessly, even hopelessly through life.
Therefore, it’s critical that the local church operate with a congregational vision and calling for their community. But how is vision discovered and implemented? Whose job is that? Well, in short, you’ve hired me to help lead in that, but if I’m a responsible leader, I don’t lead without knowing how God is speaking to the church and how his Spirit is already at work.
Frankly, while I do think God has equipped me to be a dreamer and visionary, I also believe that part of that role is to have those dreams and visions shaped by frequently checking the pulse of the church and listening to what she is saying, and then discern where the Lord’s voice is in all of it. At times, the pastor and board may need to lead boldly when they see what others may not see, but for the most part, if we’re leading well, I think that people should discover God’s will together. Of course, it’s important for us to be walking with the Lord and seeking his will in order to know it. Churches experience conflict with vision when this isn’t happening.
Coming in to Grantham that was important to me, and has continues to be so. As I have been patiently listening and looking at where God might be taking us, I have also tried to encourage us to join him where it appears that he’s already at work (e.g. our translating the services into Spanish or by reaching out to international students). This can help us develop vision. Where is God already at work? And where are the needs? What potential do we have to meet those needs? Are we living up to that potential? Also, what are we lacking to faithfully respond? In short, vision is discovered together through prayer and time with each other. And since we’ve been doing that, I believe we’re beginning to receive some vision from the Spirit.
Discipleship & Spaces in the Church
As I tried to make clear in our Brick by Brick series, I think our highest priority should be to root our congregation into the person of Jesus Christ, and to make disciples who make disciples. I hope you’ve seen that coming out in my leadership. If we’re not doing this, we’re not being the church as Jesus intended. All kingdom concerns and ministries must flow from this, as Jesus reveals in the great commission (Matt 28:18-20).
Remember the visual from the series that I used to talk about the various spaces in the church? I want you to know that that graphic guides my thinking in how we make disciples at Grantham. This is part of the plan. And part of my calling is to see that each of you are growing up into Christ and becoming a healthy functioning disciple in these spaces. When we’re working those spaces, and growing as a church through them, we can feel confident that our plan is working.
Working all of these spaces is vital for your own spiritual health and for the future health of Grantham Church. Therefore, I think we must work this into our vision and our church culture. I’d like it if “working the spaces” became a part of our language at Grantham Church.
Church Size Dynamics
Something else that I’ve been sharing with the church board that is critical in my understanding of the church and how I’m to lead as a pastor, is keeping in mind what is often overlooked in the Body of Christ. And that is the reality of church size dynamics. I’m personally operating according to the wisdom and insight of Tim Keller’s article, Leadership & Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes with Growth. I can send it to you in a PDF if you’re interested.
What are church size dynamics? It’s about your church organizational and ministry structure operating according to the size of your congregation. It means that just as the church spaces are a sociological reality of life together, it’s also true that there are organizational realities that come with your church size. In other words, based on the size of a congregation, the way a church is organized must change or it will not function smoothly or grow in healthy ways.
Keller would say that we fall in the category of a “large” church. Therefore, if we’re trying to organize and operate like a small church, there will be frustration, confusion, heartache, and burnout due to competing mindsets at work. This happens all the time in churches.
For example, in a small to mid-size church, which is anywhere from 50 to 250, a senior pastor might be expected to do all the preaching, teaching, pastoral visits, attend all the meetings, perform the weddings/funerals, and cast the vision. And mow the yard!
But in a large church, the senior pastor’s role must change and become more focused. Unless you’re prepared to plant another church or lose people, you have to bring on more pastoral staff and delegate out responsibilities. If you want a healthy church and not kill the senior pastor, we have to operate according to size. And there’s so much more that changes with your church size. You can say that those changes are good or bad, but mostly… it’s just change.
Therefore, I’m continually asking, “Are we thinking and operating as a large church?”
Balancing the Workload
Having said that, it will come as no surprise that our greatest challenge at the moment is balancing the workload among our current staff, and of course, me protecting my time to prepare sermons, which takes anywhere from 10-20 hours a week, and be at home most evenings. In time, I feel that I need to be devoting my time less to administration, and more to preaching, investing in staff and lay leaders, and having time to plan and cast vision for the church. We’re moving more in that direction, but we need to hire an associate pastor so that we can give adequate attention to important needs of our growing congregation.
This brings us to the most significant addition to our budget and staffing plan for 2018.
Here is what I have proposed to the board and you will see at council. I would like to see us add a full-time Associate Pastor. I’m committed to our affirmation in the BIC of having women in ministry, and in this case senior leadership, and I want to honor a Grantham tradition by hiring a gifted and qualified woman in this role.
Her primary responsibilities will be in congregational care and community life, though there may be some fine-tuning to job responsibilities based on skills, experience, and interests. Shifting these tactical responsibilities to another staff member will:
a. Provide a better work/life balance for me
b. Enable me to work more strategically and less tactically (where appropriate)
c. Provide additional time to invest in congregational discipleship
d. Provide additional time to invest in staff development
e. Allow me to spend more time casting vision for the church
The board will decide on the timing of all this in our next meeting.
Finally, as I’ve made reference to a couple times tonight, in my final message of the Brick by Brick series, I shared other ways I can see us growing as a church. If you were there, you heard me say, imagine what we could do if the 40% began giving regularly. Think of the possibilities.
I said, what if we were able not only to meet our congregational care needs with a full-time associate pastor, but we were able to give greater attention to the raising up of leaders in our church and the strengthening of our ministries. What if we were able to have a greater influence on the lives of college students and the faculty of Messiah College next door? What would that look like? I found out later that Kim Phipps was in the audience when I said that.
What would it look like if we became a church for our community, for the poor, for the exoffenders, for the refugee, and the foreigner, meeting spiritual and physical needs of those who 6 are lost and have no hope without Christ? What if we became known in this area for serving our neighbors with no strings attached? What would that do for the kingdom?
And what if the historic Grantham Church helped to be a catalyst and an inspiration to our denomination and other Brethren in Christ churches who have forgotten that our best kept secret, our greatest gift to the world today, is our core values, and how these values can help shine light in the darkness today. What if we modeled a “third way” through the politics?
I could go on, but what do you see? What can you imagine? What dreams and visions are we receiving as a congregation? What is God saying to you? That’s what I’d like to hear from you.
Now, at this time I’d like to know if you resonate with what I’ve shared, it you have questions, or if you’d like to add some encouraging words as to where you see us going as a church. We have microphones so that everyone can hear what you have to say. Just raise your hand and we will come to you. So, please share. What is God saying through the Body of Christ?