I don’t know what the weather has been like in Memphis, but we are getting a break in the heat in Alabama. It’s making me ready for fall, and not just because I love the colors, pumpkin patches, and football. I am also eager for the calendar to turn so that I can be with you all again – twice in September! The transition team training will be on September 14, and I will stay over to join you in worship on the 15th. And, of course, we have our first congregational conversation on September 29 from noon-2 pm.

I have received messages from a couple of leaders saying that the groups they lead have been working through either the gifts prayer calendar or the weekly reflection prompts I’ve been sharing through Table Talk. This is great news. It shows investment in the transition facilitation process, and those who have been engaging will be primed for good discussion at the congregational conversations. It’s not too late to integrate the prompts into your Sunday School class or small group!

Here are this week’s prompts:

Transition facilitation aims to help congregations between settled ministers think deeply about five different focus points. In the mission focus point, the congregation mulls what God is inviting it to be and do going forward. The church names the values on which it would never compromise and the reasons why it is important that this congregation exists in this community. It paints a picture of what faithfulness looks like in light of stated values, context, and the broad range of individual and collective gifts at its disposal. And it begins to name the first steps in living toward this picture.

A couple of questions are common during this focus point.

  1. “Isn’t our mission the same as it has always been?” At its root, yes. We are called to grow in love for God and our neighbors. The specific ways we go about that can (often must) change over time, however, due to circumstances, gifts, and constraints.
  2. “Shouldn’t we wait on our new pastor to discern our mission and take the first steps toward it?” Here it’s worth remembering that the church is the people, not the pastor. The vision is yours, and it’s the pastor’s job to equip and encourage the congregation in fulfilling it. Knowing what the church is aiming for over the next year or two thus not only builds momentum during the interim but also helps the pastor search team hone in on appropriate criteria for finding a great-fit pastor. Having a ministry plan in place when the new pastor arrives also gives that minister time to get acclimated before more big-picture work is required.

One of the biggest challenges during the mission focus point involves the church seeing itself (in the present) as it is, not as it would like to be. In order for vision to take deep root, the congregation must be self-aware and trust that God remains powerfully at work, no matter the current state of affairs.

Reflection question/prayer prompt: What are the gifts and needs of our larger community? Where might our congregation come alongside those already doing great ministry and/or meet unaddressed needs of our neighbors?

Grace and peace,

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