A couple of weeks ago I participated in a sort of reunion group with other pastors celebrating significant milestones in ministry (it was my 15th anniversary as an Elder in the church). We talked about our approaches to preaching. I said one of my guiding principles in preaching is simplicity. That when I prepare a sermon, I try to bring one person one message. When I am thinking/writing about Sunday's message, I try to envision how one person would hear what I am trying to say. What would I want that one person to contemplate throughout the week?
One message. One person.
The other night Grace's Administrative Council voted unanimously to participate in the North Texas Conference's Healthy Church Initiative. We were invited to go through this process, not because Grace is unhealthy, but to help us better focus on reaching our community for Christ. Grace has an amazing ministry that reaches many people through various avenues, but it's hard to point to a unifying direction for where we are going. This process will hopefully put us on a good track going forward.
This effort will not replace other learning/goals/core values/etc Grace has adopted in recent years. We are not reinventing the wheel here, just trying to bring focus. So thinking about the ministry of the whole church: How might it look if we had one message for one person?
The HCI process has been used by churches from forty different conferences since 2008-- so it is not just a North Texas Conference deal. It is not led by a single out of state consultant. Our church will join other churches from the various districts of the conference. As we continue in the process, we'll pick up new resources and strategies for doing ministry. Or we may decide that Phase One was all we need for now. Here's a timeline for HCI:
January - June 2017. 10-12 layfolk, plus Pastor Leon and myself, will meet with others from different churches around the conference. We will all read the same books, then meet to discuss and learn best practices from each other. These meetings will be once a month for 3-4 hours. We'll read a total of six books. At the end of Phase 1 these leaders will meet with Grace's Administrative Council to share insights from the process. A decision will be made to move on to Phase 2 or not. We are not obligated to continue.
Assuming we do continue, we'll partner with Dr Jim Ozier of the conference, who will be a consultant. We'll also be assigned a coach, most likely a retired pastor. We'll work with those individuals for a deeper study of Grace: finances, vision, goals, conversations with leaders, etc. The conference will send a "mystery guest," an unchurched person, to join us for worship and check out the website to get an idea of how our church speaks to those beyond its walls. This phase culminates in a weekend seminar led by clergy and laity from across the conference. We'll receive a report, which among other things will highlight five strengths and weaknesses. Phase 2 is held during the Spring of the year following Phase 1, so early 2018.
If we continue past Phase 2, and every church that has participated in this process has done so, we'll have a time of implementation of whatever learning we have received. This takes about a year.
So the HCI process is sort of nebulous at the beginning. It's a handful of people from Grace learning from/with a handful of others from different churches. As we go further in the process, we tailor it to best fit Grace's needs. This is not a generic approach to revving up ministry. I'm excited that we enthusiastically agreed to go forward with this. I invite you to pray for Grace UMC, as we seek to better serve the needs of our community by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
If you are interested in serving on the HCI team, or in another leadership position in the church, let me know. Or click here to complete a ministry survey. And don't forget to sign up for our new picture directory!
All grace is amazing!