The second Flourishing Congregations Conference on November 26th all about sharing stories was a huge success. Carla Leon and Don Moore shared some of their reflections at the end of the day providing some of the highlights.
Throughout the day there were great conversations and great stories shared that came to life with over 150 people in the room. Four themes emerged throughout the day.
1. Location, location, location!
Place is important. We need to know our neighbours and their needs! We were surprised to learn that 50% of congregational members are within 5 km of their parish or congregation, counter to the running narrative that people are driving of upwards of 20 minutes for church.
Part of neighbourhood is also the diversity of your community which needs to be reflected in your congregation. It’s important to consciously consider who is not in church, who might not be invited or who doesn’t feel welcome. This was illustrated through a story by Rev April Yamasaki of how a German speaking congregation transformed into one that welcomed their English speaking neighbours.
We often wonder how this information impacts rural congregations. When it comes to the priority of neighbourhood, we reflected that rural congregations already know their neighbours. And as change happens at the speed of relationships, the rural church has this in spades.
2. Know your ‘why’.
It is hard to do community engagement well without knowing yourself. There was a lot of conversation about ‘why you exist?”, “who are you?”, “what do you do?” and “why you do it?”.
Getting to the deeper ‘why’ is critical and was reinforced by Pastor Jeremy Duncan. This allows the congregation to focus on the bigger goal of Kingdom.
This was further illustrated by Rev John Pentland who encouraged people to define their core values. This can prevent an oversaturation of programs and activities.
3. Leadership looks different.
“People look for strategy when what they need is character” was called out by Rev April Yamasaki. The importance of authenticity was reinforced by Father Jerome Lavigne as he shared in the context of what the leadership of the Catholic Church is facing these days.
The best practices of dialogue and listening, learning and leading were emphasized by the Archbishop Don Bolen as their ministerial united around the issue of church property taxation.
The fact is that leadership looks different today as the Archbishop explained that ‘we live in turbulent times.’ There is a need for leadership to move their congregations out of our comfort zones which was highlighted by Rev John Pentland and supported through stories of experimentation.
4. Spiritual experiences that lead to evangelism are needed in the world.
Spiritual experience in transcendence can result in renewed spirituality was described by Father Jerome Lavigne. While “horizontal transcendence,” the evidence of God among us, was emphasized by Rev John Pentland.
While the stories of these spiritual experiences and our ‘why’ needs to be told. As Rev April Yamasaki, said that “this is the best kept secret” and “we should have billboards shouting this to all.”
We learned through Dr Joel Thiessen that the top reasons evangelism doesn’t happen is a lack of confidence and a fear of rejection. This raises the questions of how do we support our congregational members pf need. As the research indicates, a critical part of a flourishing congregation is that members speak about their journey of faith experiences and invite other to join them in church.
At the end of their reflection, Carla & Don challenged the people in the room to form covenants with each other on ways that they could work together. By the time Carla got back to her table, Archbishop Don Bolen had already sent an email to collaborate.
What a day! Hope to see you next time!