Partnership for Congregational Renewal
A description of the present period in western culture wherein the environment within which congregations live no longer provides the primary resources and support for making disciples of Jesus Christ. Instead of families, schools, and other public institutions supporting the basic tasks of Christian life, these same institutions are hostile or at best indifferent to the life of Christian discipleship. It is the time in which the church prepares for a new age of mission.
A characteristic and relatively unique aspect of the Partnership for Congregational Renewal, the members of the Partnership become partners in researching themselves. They are invited not only to do things well but to understand what they have learned and become able to share it with others.
GOD’S PREFERRED FUTURE:
While no one can claim to have a corner on God’s preferred future, the Partnership for Congregational Renewal risks on the promise of Jesus to give the Holy Spirit to maintain the church in truth. We believe this promise is not only to massive organisational and institutional structures of the Church but also and for us critically a promise to congregations in which people gather around word and sacrament. The Partnership for Congregational Renewal invites these congregations to open themselves to a process of spiritual discernment and expects the Holy Spirit to preserve them in truth as they seek to find what God is calling them to do in mission in their world. The Partnership invites them to think not just globally but theocentrically, a God-centered vision for mission, as they act locally.
LONG RANGE PLAN:
A single-page-per-year document that describe three to five focus areas for expanding existing mission of the congregation. The document distributes the activities that are designed to achieve the Vision for Mission over a three to five year period of time. Such a plan begins by asking, if this Vision for Mission is what we want to be reality five years from now, what must we do in four, three, two, one year from now; what must we do six months and six weeks from now to achieve it?
The congregations of the Partnership for Congregational Renewal are asked to share what they have learned from the Partnership. They will be assisted through a process of research and reflection in ascertaining what they have learned and how they might best share it with other congregations.
During the time of Christendom it was possible for congregations to take as their primary purpose the preservation and furthering of European culture, since it was so intimately linked to Christianity. Congregations still are trying to preserve and further the entire western agenda rather than focusing on the one unique mission of the Christian church: an explicit witness to the mission of God in Jesus Christ on behalf of the world. The Partnership for Congregational Renewal helps congregations wean themselves from their dependence upon a diffused attempt to maintain all aspects of the western agenda and focus themselves on God’s preferred future for their congregation.
A short sentence or two stating in clear terms for the congregation what they believe to be their core identity and purpose for being a community of faith .
PARTNERSHIP FOR CONGREGATIONAL RENEWAL:
A partnership of congregations, judicatory leaders, and the Church Innovations Institute for renewing congregations after Christendom. Its primary purpose is to assist congregations in discerning God’s preferred future for their congregation and providing a step by step process for achieving it.
A telephone support network that supplies bimonthly consultation with each congregation’s coordinator to troubleshoot problems, discuss progress, and attend to the spiritual journey of the leaders and congregation as a whole.
SMART PLAN OF ACTION:
A document that takes approximately one page for each focus area in the three to five year Long Range Plan. Each SMART Plan of Action page includes the following:
- Specific, Concrete Objectives (what will be done, accomplished)
- Mission, Outreach Focus (who will be served, actual numbers and persons)
- Authority, Authorization, Accountability (who is authorized to see the work done)
- Resources available and needed
- Time line for implementation
VISIONING FOR ACTING TRAINING:
Phase 2 of the The Partnership for Congregational Renewal in which congregational leaders will learn through an action/reflection model how to facilitate the process of spiritual discernment. There are two sessions in Visioning for Acting Training, one to introduce and launch the process and one to assist the leaders with the completion of the process.
VISION FOR MISSION:
A vision for mission is one or two paragraphs that describe the picture in our mind of a preferred future, given by God, based on an accurate understanding of God, ourselves, and our circumstances. Since it is to be mission focused, it describes activities over the next three to five years of members of the congregation carried on with persons who are not now members of any Christian congregation. These activities must grow out of the core values of the congregation and serve the perceived and depth needs of unchurched members of the community in terms that these persons being served experience these activities as adding value to their lives. In short, it’s a description of members of the congregation coring and caring; coring to the center of their own faith and caring out of that center for those unchurched other in their lives.
Luke 10: 1-12
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. (NRSV)
Dwelling in the Word
Whenever Church Innovations Institute staff meets, we spend the first 20 – 30 minutes, sometimes more, dwelling within the Word of God. For us, most of the time the passage is Luke 10:1-12. It is a story of mission, of being sent out with the most basic of instructions, dependent upon our receivers’ hospitality. As we consider our work, this passage speaks to us, sometimes moving us forward, sometimes making us think differently about what is happening and how to respond.
You can have this habit, too.
- Choose a passage – perhaps a text for this coming week, perhaps a story already meaningful to your group, and read it aloud.
- Sit together in the Word, in silence, in talk, sharing with one another where your imagination was caught or a memory or a question was triggered. Live in the Word.
- Bring the passage up when you’re trying to make a decision. See what it says to you then.
- Close with the passage and with prayer.
- Bring up the passage again during the next meeting in the same manner.
- Live in the passage for several months. It will bring more and more to you as you revisit it (at Church Innovations we have been living in Luke 10 for ten years now).
Let us know how this works for you. We love feedback, and we love collecting stories and insights. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.