What does it take to get a church “unstuck” so it can connect with its community?
by Rob Allen
Director of Communications
A man and woman step on an escalator and halfway up to the next level the escalator stops abruptly. Annoyed, they shout for someone to help. Eventually, a maintenance person comes to help, and his escalator stops. They are stuck and helpless until the escalators starts moving again. For in their world, stairs always move. Nothing else is possible.
“Do you know who I think the workman is? We as pastors,” said Ann Philbrick, Associate for Church Growth and Transformation for the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC(USA).
“Let’s get a new pastor. They will help us fix it. We dive in with all kinds of energy doing the same old thing. We think if we get the right pastor who can preach or teach or do those classic things that everybody will show up. Guess what? We are just as stuck as the rest of the church trying to do the same old thing,”
Philbrick works with presbyteries and their churches to help congregations make concrete decisions about their ministry and future. On a beautiful Saturday, April 26th morning, 143 leaders from 31 churches were introduced to the New Beginnings, a program of the that Presbyterian Mission Agency.
New Beginnings is not strategic planning. Instead, New Beginnings is a short, deliberate process designed to help a congregation to make decisions about its future and in what ministries it should be engaged.
- on-site assessment: Meet with pastor, clerk, & a group from the congregation; tour community; review finances and church calendar, tour church building
- leadership training retreat with other participating churches
- small group meetings involve 50% of the congregation in analysis, discussion, and prayer that leads the church to a decisions about its future.
- making a decision about the church’s new beginning.
“The churches which turnaround can only do it because they have the spiritual and emotional ability to make hard choices. . .If you can make choices that you don’t like, your church will probably thrive. But if you can’t make choices that you don’t like, you probably won’t. Because the only way to begin reach new people is to do things that aren’t our cup of tea but might be theirs,” said Philbrick.
Grace Presbytery is making a significant investment in New Beginnings. The program costs $2800 per congregation. The presbytery will pay most of the fee.
“We believe so much that this program offers the possibility for you to wrestle with the possible – that Grace Presbytery is prepared to invest $2,300 for each one of your churches – so that the total cost of the program to you is $500. ” said the Rev. Dr. Janet DeVries, general presbyter.
Each of the congregations which attended New Beginnings preview have until May 26 to sign up for this excellent opportunity to discover new things.
To date, 2 congregations have already signed up and 11 other congregations expressed their intentions also.