Book discussion: “The Agile Church”

As we continue to explore what God is calling us to do at FHC, the Crossroads Team has planned two opportunities in September to discuss Dwight Zscheile’s book “The Agile Church.”

Zscheile writes:

We come to recognize leadership as less about managing people into the plans, programs, and visions leaders create, and more about accompanying people on the Way of Jesus as we help them reinterpret their lives and world in light of the gospel. In order to understand this movement more deeply, we must reenter the biblical narratives and trace how God meets people where they are and calls them into the adventure of God’s mission.

The two discussion series will be:

  • Sundays, Sept. 8, 15 and 22, after First Hour
    Wednesdays, Sept. 11, 18 and 25, at 6:15 p.m.

We hope you’ll join us for the “adventure of God’s mission.” Let us know if you need a copy of the book and look for the signup for the book discussions soon.

Vitality-building projects underway

In recent months, the Crossroads Team has been discussing ways to build on the vitality of our congregation. We’ve looked at reaching out to the community, meeting people where they are, and sharing our space with other organizations.

Here are some innovative examples of that process already in action:

  • Sarah Wright, Susie Risher, Nancy Duffrin and Rev. Rick canvassed the neighborhood prior to the Community Swap Meet June 15. They recruited 25 neighbors to attend, far exceeding their hopes (see “Top News: Healing the Earth builds community ties” elsewhere in the TAB).
  • Outdoor Painters of Minnesota now has its offices at Falcon Heights Church. The group exhibited members’ work at Art Night on June 12.
  • Crossroads team members will be reaching out to community leaders in July. We hope to learn from them and discuss possible collaborations between church and community.

–Larry Schumacher

Survey: what’s next?

The Crossroads Team wants to say thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our survey on what relationship we want to have with the surrounding community and what we want to preserve as a congregation.

We’re compiling the results and hope to learn from your responses. In the meantime, we’re lining up meetings with community leaders over the summer to discuss what kind of a relationship the community would like to have with us.

Stay tuned for more ways you can get involved in planning what our faith community will look like as we grow, evolve and change in the future.

–Larry Schumacher

We need your views

The Crossroads Team needs your views.Crossroads meeting

Thanks to the great group of people who stayed last Sunday for the team’s presentation on the faith and demographic trends we’re examining as we look ahead to our congregation’s future.

During the presentation, we asked the congregation to respond to a short five-question survey to help discern how to serve God’s people and express God’s love for all of creation. This survey is available at church in a printed format but also online here.

We need you to give us your views in this survey by Sunday, May 19, so we can analyze your responses and help us chart the way forward through the next phase of the Crossroads effort.

Questions? Talk to one of the Crossroads Team members: Cor Wilson, Carol Holm, Conee Biggs, Margee Fabyanske, Mary Gaasch, Brian Knapp or Larry Schumacher for more information, and thank you! — Larry Schumacher

Congregational survey

A congregational survey will be part of our Sunday, May 5, worship service.

The Crossroads Team is exploring how Falcon Heights Church can survive and even thrive in an increasingly secular culture. One of our first tasks is to determine who our neighbors are, their needs and interests, and how our church might be the best neighbor possible to them.

Join us Sunday after the communion service, when team member Conee Biggs will share data found in demographic reports prepared for the Minnesota Conference and the implications of that data. We’ll ask the congregation to respond to a short five-question survey to help discern how to serve God’s people and express God’s love for all of creation. The questions are:

  • List 3-5 things that matter to people here. (What energizes people?)
  • With changing times and faith cultures, list 2-3 things you hope we don’t lose sight of.
  • In what ways do you think our church will be different 5 years from now?
  • List 2-5 pressing issues facing our local community.
  • List 2-5 hopes and dreams you have for our church (What would you like to be different 1-2 years from now?).

Don’t answer the questions now – you’ll hear information Sunday that might prompt some new thoughts about these issues. We look forward to seeing you there.  –Larry Schumacher

Church at the crossroads: report, survey

Crossroads Team update for April 25:

Today’s cultural environment presents churches with complex challenges for which there are no easy answers. Churches face dramatically changing cultural surroundings in which established patterns of Christian life and witness no longer connect with many people in the neighborhood. Forming and restoring community with these neighbors for the sake of Christian witness and service requires learning new ways of embodying and communicating the gospel. –From “The Agile Church,” by Dwight J. Zscheile

Our culture is increasingly secular. The Crossroads Team is exploring how Falcon Heights Church can survive and even thrive in these times. One of our first tasks is to determine who our neighbors are. Even more important, we need to know their needs and interests.

On May 5, team member Conee Biggs will be sharing some demographic data prepared for the Minnesota Conference. She will also discuss the implications of that data. We will then be asking the congregation to respond to a short 5-question survey. We invite you to join us in discerning how to serve God’s people and express God’s love for all of creation.

Gathering input

By Larry Schumacher

Now the Crossroads Team needs your input.

A small but plucky team of Falcon Heights UCC members began a year-long journey this winter to understand where we as a congregation might be going and how to prepare for our future.

The Crossroads team, led by Cor Wilson and including Rev. Rick King, Margee Fabyanske Conee Biggs, Larry Schumacher, Brian Knapp, Mary Gaasch and Carol Holm are working this spring on understanding the demographic trends affecting our community and revisiting our congregational road map from the pastoral search process.

We plan to bring the findings of our initial steps to the congregation and begin gathering input from members about their hopes for the future of Falcon Heights UCC and its relationship to the community at a presentation and discussion on May 5.

Crossroads: the work ahead

By Rev. Rick King

(This column is part of a series on church vitality.)

The work begins. Last Saturday, our church and team hosted the first of four Crossroads retreats for church revitalization. Tonight, our church’s Crossroads team will have our first meeting. [Editor’s note: The meeting will be rescheduled due to bad weather.] Team members and I are excited at what’s possible for us as a church.

But it’s going to take all of us working together.

Jim LaDoux, our consultant from VibrantFaith, LLC, and Associate Conference Minister Anita Bradshaw, led the teams from the three churches in our cohort in understanding that church renewal doesn’t just happen because of one or two things, but strategically.

In my years as a leader, I’ve come to identify three types of planning and three types of change in congregations:

  • There’s problem-solving planning and the changes that resolve difficulties.
  • There’s developmental planning that addresses how to do what we currently do, only better.
  • Adaptive planning changes the way we embody our vision and mission and shapes what priorities we embrace, and how we look at what church is and how it works in the world. It also means discerning a new vision to guide our work, in response to the changes in our community, our individual and collective lives, and religious life.

In the Discovery process, our church took really crucial steps during the interim period to develop a new vision and mission to guide us into this new chapter in FHC’s life. Interim Pastor Anne may have discussed with you the concept of “adaptive work”—work that adapts an organization such as a church to be more effective in a changed context.

Crossroads will provide us a partnership and the expertise to help us live into our vision and mission in ways that transform us as a church. We’re in a cohort of three other churches this year: Robbinsdale, Parkway Minneapolis, and St. Mark’s Bloomington. We will learn from each other, pray for each other, and celebrate victories big and small together.

But YOU are the crucial part of whether our plans get legs and become reality!

A compelling VISION for ministry is not imposed on a congregation by one person or even a team; it has to bubble up from the people. Crossroads requires everybody in FHC to engage in this process of change.

NARRATIVES—the story or stories we tell ourselves and others—powerfully shape our lives and how we live them. Jim LaDoux, our VibrantFaith consultant, speaks of identifying and articulating a “preferred future” for FHC; it’s another way of saying, you and I and our Team together are writing the next chapter in FHC’s long story. What will it tell?

Nobody, not even our Team, can give us a magic formula for revitalizing our church; we have to work together.

Can I have your agreement that you will embrace this process in 2019, and try?

About church vitality

By Rev. Rick King

(This column is part of a series on church vitality.)

It’s surprising, but current data shows about 80 percent of churches today are stuck or in decline—liberal and conservative, mainline or evangelical Protestant, and Catholic.

It usually takes time and a great deal of prayer, skill, and hard work, but churches do indeed turn around. People in the Minnesota Conference can point to “miracles” like the turnarounds of St. Paul’s UCC and Olivet Congregational UCC in St. Paul as evidence that inexorable decline and death are not a given.

But, how do churches turn it around? What really needs to happen for a dying church to experience revitalization? It’s not simply a matter of doing what we’ve always done, better. Without addressing three questions first, no church can make the shifts necessary to come back from the dead:

Why do we exist as a church?
Where is God calling us to go in the future?
How do we get there?

FHC addressed these questions in the interim period, and our work in the Crossroads program builds on this important work.

One of the most significant shifts a church can make in its thinking is from being inwardly-focused to being outwardly-focused. It’s the natural pull of churches to become more and more inwardly-focused over time. The relationships in congregations become close because you share life’s ups and downs, milestones like births and deaths, marriage and divorce, illness, career shifts, you name it. We’re on the receiving end of such love and support that at times, it can seem like church is primarily here for US.

But is church really only here for those who are already part of it?

What of those who’ve never experienced community like this? Or those who were hurt by a church and are taking tentative steps back, and we’re the first church where they’ve felt acceptance? What about reconnecting with our immediate neighborhood? What are their needs?

Above all, the jaw-dropping question is this: If our church closed or moved away tomorrow, would people miss us?

At the same time as we experience the love and care we receive as insiders in this congregation, we need to be asking, “Who else needs this who is not already a part of the congregation?”

Of what help can we be to the neighborhood?

So, if you’re not already doing so, may I invite you to begin asking questions like these in 2019?

An invitation from the Minnesota Conference

The Minnesota Conference UCC has invited our congregation to be part of a new program called Crossroads. Building on the work of our Discovery Team and pastoral search process, and as part of a consortium of other UCC MN churches, Crossroads is designed to help us answer the question: What is God calling us to do and be…TODAY?”

We will work with Vibrant Faith, a Christian research-based organization that provides training and coaching. This is a one-year commitment consisting of four full-day retreats (Feb. 2 and three other dates to be determined) and monthly team meetings supported by a consultant from Vibrant Faith and a representative of the UCC Conference. We will be “looking inward” at who we are and also at how we can “turn outward,” what dreams we have for the future, and where we go from here.

Vibrant Faith will prepare participants in the Crossroads Program to develop new forms of ministry and leadership in response to the changing ways people approach faith and religion in our society. We can expect coaching on ministry models, leadership skills, and supportive learning communities.