When I started at Centerville UMC, I got some great advice from a bunch of friends who are pastors. I took the parts of their ideas that I liked the best and turned them into an idea that is going to change our church for the foreseeable future.
The first month before I preached my first message, the church set up events called “Dessert with the Pastor.” Each event was held in a person’s home and we talked about everything and anything. I let them ask any question they wanted and then I asked them two very specific questions: What do you love most about our church? and What do you think breaks God’s heart in our community? I recorded every response. Through the month of October, I went to eight events (putting on seven extra pounds) and recorded 108 responses from our church family.
In December, I reached out to some of the church leaders, who varied in age and gender. I asked each of them to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis for our church. When they sent those in, I combined them with my notes from “Dessert with the Pastor.”
At that point, I did the smartest thing I could with all of that information: I gave it to someone outside of the organization. I needed someone who wasn’t emotionally attached to the church to lead the rest of the process. I care too much and my ego is too big for me to think that I could ever give this a fair look.
Jay Meyer, from Eaglelaunch Consulting, came in with all the data and guided us through a transformative journey that resulted in God’s vision for our church. In one day, we were able to articulate vision, mission, guiding principles, and strategic objectives.
Towards the end of that day in January, the team asked me to do an entire series on what God had done that day. They said, “Tony, we think this needs to be more than one day, it needs to be a series.” I replied, “I don’t know if I’ve been here long enough to go that deep into the vision.”
Their response was my favorite part of the whole day. “Tony, this isn’t your vision, this is OUR vision.” Through the dedication and hard work of so many it had truly become just that – a vision for the church, inspired by God, and owned by the people.
What are you doing to hear God's vision for your life?
I’ve included the compiled results from the “Dessert with the Pastor” for your reading enjoyment:
What do you love most about our church community?
People – 63
Worship/music/Sunday morning – 14
Attitude of the church – 10
Discipleship Groups – 9
Missions – 8
What do you think breaks God’s heart in our community?
An empty church – 25
Negative attitude of the church and community – 17
Poor pastoral leadership – 16
Lack of youth/young families – 15
Lack of evangelization – 13
Lack of openness to change – 10
Lack of communication – 8