Thank you for another great congregational conversation on Sunday! I am grateful to the transition team for its planning and hard work, Jason Sullivan and Scott Malone for greatly improving the sound in the Fellowship Hall, the Women of Faith Sunday School class for making final preparations, youth for handing out items for the table conversations, and Bridget Ellis, Holly Hatton, and Kelly Street for invaluable staff support. And, of course, your willingness to share delights and challenges around the topic of connections moved us from thinking about the church’s history in September to the present day. Beginning next month, we will shift our focus to the future with a discussion on mission. Mark your calendars for November 17.
Here are some of the themes that emerged from the congregational conversation and from the transition team’s reflection on it:
Participants were interested in creating more formal and informal ways for people to get out of their comfort zones and connect across small groups. Ideas included a churchwide Christmas party (which is in the works!), home gatherings, midweek prayer services, men’s and women’s groups, mission activities, short-term Bible studies, book clubs, and dance nights.
More means of intergenerational interaction emerged as particularly important. Everyone gains from being with fellow church members of different generations, and there are currently few venues for this kind of contact.
Being intentional about noticing who is and isn’t here, extending invitations (particularly to constituencies other than families with young kids, which seem to get assimilated more easily), and setting up care networks is key. Some people are falling through the cracks, including college students, single people, people without children, and church members who aren’t connected to a Sunday School class.
Weekend activities might be a good initial target for new activities. Adding events is tricky (even though the desire is there) because of the need for more person-power and the schedules of working adults and young children. During the week, it is difficult for those who work to get to church before 6:00, and young children typically have early bedtimes. In particular, mission projects might hit several of the targets above: connecting people across groups, engaging intergenerationally, and catching people who aren’t engaged at the church in other ways.
Church members would like a forum to discuss tender subjects. While the congregational conversations have been productive for getting people talking and generating ideas, there continues to be a need for sharing and listening to past hurts. The transition team is planning such an event for January (date TBD).
The church can make first-time visits easier. Increased signage (inside and outside) and sanctuary and outdoor lighting (particularly at night on the Parkway side) and more greeters who are informed about goings-on and willing to walk newcomers to classes could be helpful. One suggestion about the sanctuary was to pay attention to how church members talk about it. If it’s referred to something like “the Cathedral on the Parkway,” that honors its large size and changes newcomers’ expectations of its capacity.
It would be helpful to build in regular assessments of ministries the church is already doing, particularly newer ones. For example, how is First Cup meeting the needs it was designed to address, and how does it need to be tweaked so that it can be even more effective?
Communication is key, and it’s important to note that not everyone has the same communication preferences. Table Talk, Together, and the worship guides are very effective communication pieces. How might the church make it easier for those who are homebound and/or less inclined toward technology to participate as fully as possible? What are ways to promote less formal communication, particularly across groups? How do we make it easier for leaders and committees to share essential information in a timely way?
Look for transcription of every table’s notes soon. And remember, you can still access the September conversation’s full notes and summary of themes. (If web links are not your thing, contact the church office for a printed copy of either document.)
Grace and peace, Laura