Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

From Her First Holy Communion, to Reimagining the Future of the Church


Once upon a time, there was a little girl all dressed in white walking down the wide aisle of Christ the King Catholic Church to receive her first Holy Communion.

It was a special moment with the church filled with families to watch this special occasion. ​

And then…. This little girl became a teenager and began questioning, well everything, about the Catholic religion her parents followed so devoutly. Before long, this teenager began skipping mass with her older brothers and slowly drifted away from organized religion. ​

And then….an event in her life made her give organized religion a second look when she was in her thirties. She eventually returned to the Catholic Church and remained there until both of her parents passed away. ​

And then…. She began questioning the Catholic Church and some of its rigid positions on social issues and did not feel she belonged there. Off she went in search of another faith community that may provide the ‘family’ she yearned for that shared her beliefs. ​

And then…. One Sunday morning she entered a United Methodist Church and was welcomed by the Pastor and all of the members within her reach. Captivated by the friendly environment, she began attending this service regularly. Soon she became a member, joined the Worship Team, and took Bible classes. ​

And then… She moved away and was in search for a new United Methodist Church and she happened upon SUM. What a lucky woman!

~ ​

Now…. I am blessed to be part of the Yale Divinity Study to Reimagine Church in the 21st Century. As part of that process, we listened to Tyler Sit, author of Staying Awake, as he provided the following five steps, he used to set up a new church that he believes may also be used to implement change and to re-imagine the church in the 21st century:

1. Research – pray, read, experience

2. Conversations – message, interpret

3. Hunches – identify non-negotiables and hunches, rating hunches by risk

4. Experiments (one-time) – evaluate, persevere, pivot (change strategy), always have bookends

5. Rhythms – iterate, be consistent, scale ​

As I reflected on Tyler Sit’s presentation, the two steps that resonated with me were Research and Conversations. With a master’s degree in Organizational Communication, I try to view a situation from several angles when assessing it:

• up close and personal

• 30,000 feet

• as a member

• as an outsider, etc. ​

As I did this applying Sit’s concepts of Research and Conversations to SUM, several items surfaced that I believe we can consider and improve upon…


• Participants – reaching out to others – I see the same people on committees; need to reach out to others in our church family to get them involved and active

• Transparency – there is no mention of this project on our website (calendar meetings); we need to be more transparent about what we are doing – write a story about it, have someone speak at the services

• Identify the gifts - Deacon Deb mentioned a proposed mission in 2022 to find out the gifts hidden in our church family that may be shared with others. This process would identify people not actively involved, who may want to be, but were never asked. Conversations

• Newsletter – this should be available as a pdf so it can be printed and saved; this could also be mailed to folks who do not have computers and/or printers.

• Singles Group – this ministry originally drew me to my last church – I always felt left out at the Catholic Church because it is so family oriented; not everyone has a family, even extended family. We met once a month – singles, divorced, widowed from 25 to 95.

• Speakers from other religions – educating the church family, have a cantor come and sing or a Muslim present part of their service. ​

All these items may be used to enhance our current church family but also to entice new members who are looking for “something” and may not know what that “something” is. And that is how the little girl in the white dress continues to look to the future and a reimagined church.


Photo by Jeffrey Keenan on Unsplash