February 12, 2013

Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 4

The highlight of the consultation weekend was the reading of the Weekend Report which gave us five different prescriptions to vote on as a church after highlighting five strengths and five concerns. I have shared the noted strengths and concerns here and will post the prescriptions in Part 5 of this blog series. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts or ask any questions.

1. People. – Both campuses affirm that their most valuable resource is their people. There is a strong sense of community and commitment at each individual campus. Sunrise is a friendly church with a strong sense of community. Castleton campus has a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers. Both campuses are known for their caring and authenticity.

2. Kids/Youth Ministry. – Both campuses have excellent leadership and ministry for ages 0-18. Sunrise has great opportunity with families of infant and small children. Castleton has excellent ministry offered to children during the 9:40 service, middle and high school students throughout the week.

3. Worship/Preaching. – Both campuses are blessed with the leadership of their Pastors. We heard repeatedly from people how Pastor Frank has encouraged and brought a spirit of unity. Sunrise deeply values Pastor Matt’s biblical life application preaching as well. Each church has talented creative musicians and worship leaders.

4. Outreach. – Both campuses have opportunity for outreach in their communities. Both have initiated programs and ministries to better connect with their communities. For example: pre-schools; adult day care; VBS; Trunk or Treat; Fish Fry; Chili Cook-off. Both campuses expressed a desire to reach out more into the community and to better connect people to the church.

5. Location. – Both campuses are strategically placed in their communities. Their buildings are attractive and suited for ministry. Demographic materials reveal that large populations of people are present, and there is a great opportunity for extended ministry in their immediate areas.

1. Lack of Clear Unified Vision Based on the Mission of the Church. – We affirm your efforts to be a vital force as a multi-site church in your respective communities. However, these actions lack a unified vision and a clear, direct connection to the mission of the church. The results are a silo effect of ministries, committees, staff and the two campuses. Attempts to unify the campuses has been done through “programming and structures” instead of a unified mission, vision, and values.

2. Connecting to Community. – The Consultation Team heard that people have a heart for their communities. They desire greater impact and outreach. However, some ministries do not consistently connect people from the outside with the church body. There is a lack of clear invitational follow-up, and thus many opportunities are lost for community presence.

3. Discipleship Path. – Both campuses have opportunity for spiritual growth, biblical learning, and ministry involvement, but lack an intentional plan to help people become deeper disciples of Jesus Christ. For adults, both campuses offer classes on Sundays, Wednesdays, and other times without any coherent plan. The model now being used is to “inform” people of opportunities and randomly offer a variety of choices. No system exists to encourage a person grow from one step of the spiritual life to the next. No measurements or marks of maturing exist in terms of what we would hope a disciple becomes. Leaders desire to be in spiritual growth classes or groups but are too busy attending meetings. Only 30% of regular worship attendees participate in some kind of small group.

Follow-up process for first time guests to both campuses needs attention. Castleton has a process in place but it quickly breaks down after three visits. Nothing exists to connect guests with a discipleship path. Castleton received 200 visitors last year while Sunrise attracted 50. Both campuses will benefit from reading the Mystery Guest report and implementing needed changes.

The Children’s ministry at Castleton campus was rated high by the mystery guests at 9:40 but lacking at 11:00. Children’s ministry at Sunrise campus is taking root for the very young. The rooms were not all age appropriately equipped. Youth have many opportunities to grow as disciples at Castleton campus. But, very little is done to combine the ministry to youth for both campuses at one location.

4. Communication – People expressed communication is poor primarily between leadership and the church body, committee to committee, and between each campus. There is an overall concern for lack of transparency, especially surrounding the finances and capital debt. Poor communication has created rumors, speculation, and misinformation which undercuts trust and ultimately impacts the level of involvement, giving, fruitful ministry, and the willingness to serve and lead.

5. Capital Debt – The consult team affirms the efforts being taken by the Generosity Committee to address the dark cloud of capital debt which hangs over virtually everything in the church. This has been consistently shared with the consult team during the interview process. The issues surrounding the procurement of this debt, the viability of repayment, and the lack of transparency in reporting the current status to the congregation has had a negative impact upon the church. This has created a “spirit of scarcity” which has resulted in the repeated squelching of creative ministries due to a resultant lack of funds (i.e. Family Life Center and sports fields). Therefore the capital debt is negatively impacting overall stewardship.