Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Finding the Focus

Jonathan Lee

For our most recent meeting, the Spring Glen UCC working group and I had a conversation about our “non-negotiables”, i.e., those qualities, activities, and other general rules of life that, as our first visionary speaker Tyler Sit puts it, will help us stay focused and stay on task to the work that needs to be done. If you don’t know your non-negotiables, Tyler warned, then you will be find yourself strung out trying to do everything at once.

I’ll admit, I thought that the group had a generally good idea of why we were together and what we were trying to accomplish. In our first meeting after all, each person went around laying out their personal ground rules and expectations for our time together as a group.

As it turned out as the meetings went on however, while we each were well-equipped to talk about our expectations for ourselves and one another for the working group itself, we hadn’t clearly defined what our GROUP expectations for the working group PROCESS were. In that first meeting, we hadn’t named our focus. We hadn't named what makes Spring Glen UCC distinctly Spring Glen UCC and how to honor that.

So what were some of the non-negotiables that we named? After talking through Spring Glen’s various ministries, history, and community members, here are some of the areas of focus that the working group named as essential elements for any Spring Glen related project:

• Incorporating youth ministry and involvement
• Prioritizing artistic and creative expression
• Centering community giving and altruism
• Respecting each individual's membership and privileges to the church community

All in all, we came to the agreement that this initiative is something that Spring Glen, much less the broader "church", has not really seen before. This group is not simply, to the joy many working group members who have had extensive "church experience", a visioning group or committee.

As one working group member put it, they see this group as a jumping off point for conversations that Spring Glen will hopefully have for the next year, or even the next five to ten years. This is the beginning of a spiritual process of reflection, not simply an institutional one of structural planning and implementation.

The question that we need to focus on now, I believe, is, "how does group can move forward in this vision WITH the church rather than pulling it along our side?" Similarly, "what is the dream that we want to share with others? What is the dream that ENERGIZES US?"

I'm excited to continue discussing these questions, especially as we move into our winter time apart. We'll be meeting with our second visionary speaker Becca Stevens for our next meeting, and so I'm curious to see how she'll also push this group to dream big.