Where we are at the end of July in terms of Transition Process

In a post last October I laid out what the Transition process steps most likely would be. You can reread it here: https://stmatnobleford.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/where-we-are-in-the-stm-process/

Basically, steps 1,2 and 3 are done. I adapted step 3 into a presentation of what I became curious about and thought I saw as I visited the congregation members who signed up for a visit. I also observed a lot from what we call a ‘balcony’ perspective. I did that instead of a history review. The Transition Team then created a report that summarizes what they all together recognized among themselves as the five most significant areas we could work on as a congregation. That report has already been presented to council and explained, and will soon be in your mailboxes. We welcome your input on it. Letters with written feedback would be awesome! Does it fit? Is it true? Do you have ideas for addressing some things? You need to know that it is neither a theological/spiritual report, nor a technical report. It is a report of what your Transition Team sees as areas we would do well to grow in and learn more about so we can continue to become healthier and we can avoid some of the issues of the past repeating. It does not give the answers to how to deal with the issues (that would be a technical report) nor does it give short sermons on each of the issues. It merely states areas of congregational dynamics that could use some improvement.

The next step for council is that they need to process and take ownership of the contents of the report. Since they are the only group with power to make changes and power to set direction, council will then have to consider these five key items and plan some kinds of action or response. They will next consider the report in September.

Next for the Transition Team, planning has already begun for an evening or two of “interview nights” (The academic name for this is “Appreciative Inquiry” or AI but we think promoting a couple of evenings of “congregational AI” would confuse people who are used to AI standing for Artificial Insemination [joke attempt]). In these evenings members of the congregation will be asked questions that search for ‘bests of the past.’ We don’t have a lot of detail clear about this yet, so I don’t want to say more about how it might actually go. What we do know is that people who work in the field of church revitalization have found again and again that doing such a session of inquiring about things people have appreciated about the church and how God worked through it in the past has somehow not only given good ideas for what to do in the future, but has helped to further improve the ‘atmosphere’ in a congregation.

I need to admit here that when I first heard of this method I was very suspicious and skeptical. The whole “power of positive thinking” is what it sounded like to me which I saw as too much of an artificial hype. But the way it works is that it in fact identifies real positives, not artificial ones. In Iowa the team and I saw some astonishing results and had new and clear awareness of what future steps people were most likely to appreciate. I am hoping for something similar here.

After the results of that have been compiled, distilled and reported (it is a fair bit of work), including possible suggestions made as to the direction all of this seems to be indicating God leading us toward, which again council will have to decide on, then the only question to deal with is “Besides any changes we need to make individually and collectively, what kind of a pastor will the CRC of Nobleford need to fulfill that, to help that happen.” At that point, which, if all goes really well, will be around the turn of the calendar into 2015, a Calling Team will need to be shaped, and one of the last things I will do is train and equip them for their task using a booklet Pastor Church Relations has created. At that point, again, all having gone well, I will be getting ready to finish and take a break before moving to my next contract. My own aim is to be completely finished by Easter 2015. We shall see. This is not an exact science and more of an art. Already other churches are contacting me looking for when I can be available, and I’ve had to turn some down because they want me well before then.

Everything so far may feel like it is taking long. It does so for me, anyway. I imagine that for those who don’t understand the reason for the process in the first place it is very very long. Let me tell them that to do a real good job of this, I actually believe 3 to 5 years of a transitional pastorate is needed. So, many corners are being cut to try keep this down to two years. What this is about is what I call “Culture Change.” Culture only changes when hearts are freed from bondage or false comforts or idols or laxity. This happens when God’s grace is realized anew or known for the first time.  When hearts are renewed in passion for the Gospel in Reformed packaging, then the habits and actions of a congregation begin to follow. And change. That is not an overnight thing. Your accumulated culture as a congregation led to the outcome you had several years ago. That culture took over 100 years to take shape, and if it moves even slightly in just 2 years, that will be a sign of God’s mighty action in our midst. There was a lot of good to the culture of the past, and that is what we want to identify next in the Transition process, so that we can carry it forward with joy and excitement for God’s glory.









4. Next, it is likely the TT will seek information from the congregation on ‘best experiences and practices’ from the past. This might be done in an ‘interview night’ where you come in and are asked a set of questions like: “When, in your experience, do you think God’s Holy Spirit was most active in Nobleford Christian Reformed Church (NCRC)? What was happening that showed it?” or “Of all the pastors you have known, what about them most helped you grow spiritually? The answers will all be pulled together into a profile report of what NCRC likes to see happen.

5. This may be the hardest part, or it may be self-evident after steps 3 & 4, but it will be the task of the TT — with the agreement of Council — to identify who God is calling the Nobleford CRC to be right now and going forward, and how that might be accomplished. It will likely be referred to as our “Congregational Calling” and should be something almost everyone can agree to.

To be fair, I need to say that this is a point at which some people might say “I can’t subscribe to that” and may begin to talk about not being part of the future of NCRC. That may be hard. But having too many contradictory ideas of the the church’s calling operating in one congregation also will prevent movement in any direction at all, and will only continue conflict at a level that is not helpful. More on all that in another blog someday…

6. Once the “Congregational Calling” has been processed and agreed to by council (the TT is a committee under Council’s authority), the next question they will address is “What kind of a pastor do we need to accomplish what God is calling us to be?”

For instance, if the Congregational Calling becomes “We are a place to raise only our own children and grandchildren in a safe environment where they learn the foundations and traditions of the Reformed faith” you will need a differently educated and experienced pastor than if it becomes “We are a church with a mandate to reach out to all those in Nobelford who do not yet know God’s love in Jesus Christ and to help them become Reformational disciples of Jesus.” I’m hoping that the different needs are self-evident. This information will be turned into the ‘calling profile’ of what kind of pastor NCRC likely needs next.

7. At that point we can begin to form a Pastor Search Team, providing Classis has been asked for and has given the go-ahead to extend a call. I will then train the search team using new materials Pastor-Church Relations has just published. At that point I usually begin to look for where my next contract will be, but I promise that my intent is to not leave until the Search Team is adequately prepared and equipped.



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