Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Big Tent Experience

Fifteen hundred Presbyterians gathered in Louisville August 1-3 to worship, learn, and enjoy fellowship together at the Big Tent Conference. I was blessed to be one of them.  Worship was uplifting, preaching inspiring, workshops stretching.  The gathering concluded with a grand street party under the Second Street bridge, right next to our General Assembly office building on Witherspoon Street. We celebrated 25 years in that space.  Our move there supported the beginnings of a renaissance and reinvestment in downtown Louisville, which is so evident today.  We also celebrated 30 years since the church reunion in 1983 when two streams of Presbyterians walked down the streets in Atlanta to announce our reconciliation. We are not the same church today.  Nearly every preacher, speaker, workshop leader named the hard realities we face today in the church.  If you loved the past there is so much to grieve. One workshop leader, Stan Ott, stated it in broader terms than the church, "The 20th century is the name of a train that no longer runs." However, the Big Tent gave witness to God's promise of a new day, the young families down front and center on mats, bean bags and rocking chairs during worship; the many racial ethnic church leaders; the new mission coworkers commissioned to service in countries around the world;  and 126 new worshiping communities of faith since last summer igniting a movement toward 1001 such new communities of faith by 2020.

I focused my time at the Big Tent on the Evangelism and Church Growth conference offerings.  I became familiar and impressed with the General Assembly Staff persons called to assist us in learning again, how to make disciples, who provide a discernment process for how to start new initiatives, and refocus the ministries of existing congregations, how to exegete/study/read a community and connect with it.
With Labor Day week end arriving and the beginning of our fall schedules, remember to focus on the end outcome of all your efforts, making disciples of Jesus Christ.  It begins with each one of us experiencing God in ours lives, meeting Jesus in the faces of persons we encounter, learning from them, and intentionally identifying a couple of persons to walk along side of to help them grow into Christ.  May God bless your ministry these coming weeks.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thriving Congregations Project

I hope you’ve had some re-creation time and space this summer!   My summer vacation is August 5-19.  Looking forward to this program year, the Presbytery of Lake Michigan's Mediation Team and Church Growth Committee are co-sponsoring a Thriving Congregations Project with a Deep & Wide Presbytery Grant.  We are partnering with a group who works with individuals, corporations, organizations and churches in challenges of transformation and continuity.  Our project is based on Roy Oswald’s and Barry Johnson’s Alban Institute book  “Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys to Thriving Congregations.”  Barry Johnson, an organizational development expert, will be our main support person. 

Sessions are invited and encouraged to join this initiative.  To participate church leaders and some members simply fill out a short survey this October, which will focus on two key elements identified by Oswald and Johnson in thriving congregations. The survey will be done online at home or perhaps at church where there is a computer and internet service.  The results of this assessment survey will be shared at the November 9th Presbytery meeting and discussed in small groups.  It will give us a picture of each participating congregation and a composite of presbytery, concerning two key elements of thriving congregations.    
Also as part of the project, 10 to 20 persons in the Presbytery are being recruited and trained by Barry Johnson.  These trained leaders will then serve as an internal resource in the presbytery for assisting 10 to 12 congregations, who want to go deeper in learning healthy practices, and to explore the ramifications for future planning. The grant will pay the cost of this training.  If you or someone you know is interested in this training please contact one of the Design Team members listed below. 

We hope and pray that this project will assist participating congregations in their faithful living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.  More information will be forth coming in September.  

Those on the Thriving Congregations Project Design Team are:
Doug Petersen, 269-501-9227
Ray Kretzschmer, 616-485-0384
David Milbourn, 616-443-1690
Karen Kelly, 517-784-9796
John Best , 269-381-6337, ext. 1