As I have been serving this church since January, many needs and priorities have surfaced, all feeling important, urgent, timely. I myself have identified needs and priorities that feel important, urgent, and timely. But we know that our work, as people of God, is not about just ‘doing’. We do not build community by having a perfect to do list and checking it off with ruthless efficiency. The Realm of God is not a place where we replicate a capitalist system of Hurry, and Urgency. In the Realm of God there is space for the right timing. For consensus to slowly build. For rest to be a part of the work.
Our church has been through the world-altering pandemic. At the same time, and prior to the pandemic, it has not had a settled multi-year pastor since 2015.
This means that many systems, and committees, and practices, are needing to have fresh life and energy breathed into them before they can begin to function again.
This also means that to reconstruct them — or begin them anew — takes careful building of energy, starting from the ground up. It’s important to do this well, the first time around, being sure to loop in the people who contributed to earlier efforts and who may still have things to offer today, while also including the fresh ideas and energies of folks who didn’t participate in its previous iteration.
During my study week in August, in prayerful discernment and in conversation with the books I was reading, I began to develop a sense of priorities… an order to our focus together that would allow us to do this “building anew” work that would be steady, thorough, and careful.
Realizing that everything couldn’t happen in the first year was a first, and essential step. 🙂 I kept my epiphany star word at the forefront of my thinking: “Enough.”
Once I allowed myself to think beyond the first year and stretch our work together into the future, things began to fall into place.
I emerged from that study week with a draft of priorities for my time for the first three years. It’s important to note that these are my work and time priorities, not necessarily the church’s priorities… although clearly there is significant and meaningful overlap. I based them on the three top priorities in our Church Profile, congregants’ expressed needs and desires during the 2022 year to date, and my own sense of pacing, timing, and order of priorities.
The priorities from the church profile were:
- Meaningful worship
- Attracting younger members including families and children
- Community engagement
Helpful feedback and responses shaped this final version, which was approved by the Church Council in their September 2022 meeting.
YEAR ONE: 2022
- REGULAR IN-PERSON WORSHIP: Establish and lead weekly worship, experiencing yearly cycle at Suquamish Church; get worship team and lay leaders established; work with tech team, office manager, musician and choir.
- PASTORAL CARE: Establish relationships. Pastoral Care visits to each active member and those homebound; tend to those hurting or experiencing difficulty; welcome new folks.
- CHILDREN: Nursery care up and running(!); YAH! moment; create activity baskets and movement space in worship. begin to explore theological formation and welcome for our youngest members.
- COMMUNICATION: Consider what is needed and effective. Evaluate weekly newsletters, letters from the Pastor, use of facebook, reader-board. Consider “lawn ministry.”
YEAR TWO: 2023
- ADULT SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Ideas and possibilities: Book or Bible study; “pub theology”; Gospel-reading retreat; adult classes, explore lay leadership.
- RICH, SENSORY, EXPANSIVE WORSHIP: Partner with an active worship committee, engage lay preachers 4 times a year, artistic sanctuary and chancel, quarterly seasonal honoring, guest musicians and more contemporary music.
- NEW PEOPLE WELCOME: Identify welcomers, greeters, and their roles; consider signage and communication, spaces, and barriers; think through the “first five minutes” experience; new member integration into community life; coffee hour considerations/expansion?
- LOCAL SUQUAMISH ENGAGEMENT: Ideas and possibilities: Lawn ministry, host community-wide event, prayer requests in pantry or elsewhere, participate in community events as church.
YEAR THREE: 2024
- CHILDREN’S SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Start in earnest, train and equip leaders, clear and prepare space, establish community welcome and norms.
- CHURCH RETREAT AND VISIONING: Begin intentional time away together. Relax and enjoy, as well as explore for the future: who do we want to be? where do we want to go? what is our mission in the world?
- WIDER COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Identify our primary communities. Identify events we should be participate in. Explore how to let those communities know we are here.
- STEWARDSHIP: Focus more strategically and deeply on stewardship efforts.
Being mindful about choosing what we do means we can give each item its proper attention. It also means saying no to other things, or setting them aside for their proper time. That can be hard.
I hope that seeing this order of priorities, and engaging in it with me, will allow us to live into our church life intentionally and joyfully as we practice BEING the Realm of God together: cultivating a world in which rest and action, reflection and decision, joy and focus can all co-exist together as we build a church we are all proud of.
Grateful to be in ministry together with you,