Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Encouragement, Caution, Suggestions, Enthusiasm!

Lois Pabst

Six members of our Visioning Team were privileged to attend the Visionary Leader Workshop sponsored by Yale Divinity School. After having read Rev. Tyler Sit’s book, Staying Awake, some of us wondered how this presentation could be relevant to our context. He plants new churches; UCCT is over 300 years old. He works in needy communities; ours is an affluent community. However, we were struck by how much of his talk hit home with our team.

We were encouraged to look at our non-negotiables and must-be’s. For us, that means needing to acknowledge the strong connection to tradition in our church and being creative in how we can appeal to those looking for a fresh approach.

Tyler cautioned that those churches that wish to be welcoming to all may ultimately have problems with retention of members due to unclarity with what happens when unwelcoming behavior happens. Some of us wondered: since UCCT has decided to be an Open & Affirming church that broadcasts “all are welcome,” is this an inevitable consequence for us?

A warmly received suggestion about trying something new is to make it a one-time experiment. We were invited to picture the world that we want to create, position this as a one-time experiment, evaluate, persevere and pivot as needed, always with an end date for the experiment. That way we are not stuck in an expectation loop with a program or event we don’t want to continue.

In our community of affluence, we still have people with needs. We got the chance to wonder aloud: How can we discover those needs around us and identify ways to reach out to the greater community? Our team discussed the possibility of asking the Human Services personnel to meet with our team and help us discover what may be happening that we don’t see.

We are enthusiastic about continuing our conversation with Rev. Sit at our next Visioning Team meeting to discuss some of the questions and challenges that are particular to UCCT and to benefit from his experience and guidance.

Submitted by Lois Pabst, UCCT Vision Team Co-Chair