Task Force Edition

If there is one thing that separates vital churches from dying ones, it is clarity.

Vital churches know who they are, why they exist, and whom they are for.  

Vital churches have a clear sense of their unique purpose in their unique context, a mission (think the Blues Brothers) and a vision of who they will become if they are true to that mission. (Ok, now stop thinking about the Blues Brothers, because I really need you to pay attention).  

As a congregation we’ve been putting in a lot of time lately talking about who we are and who we are becoming, and there is still more work to do.  At our annual meeting, (which incidentally was the largest of my tenure here with (69?) souls present), we voted to form three separate task forces: a visioning task force, an Open and Affirming task force, and a task force to explore the feasibility of hiring an associate pastor.  We are looking for 5-7 members to serve on each of these teams and after you’ve read a little about them, I would ask that you contact me, Randy Izer, or Rick Ward if you are interested in serving the church in this way.  


Vision/Mission Task Force  


This task force will be commissioned and blessed to review our current mission and vision statements and will then create opportunities to listen deeply and intentionally to the members and friends of our congregation as we reflect on how we do church together. They will ask lots and lots of questions about what we love about church, what we would change if we could, where we would like to see the church in the next 5 years, and where we feel the Spirit moving and leading. They will consider our role in the larger community by talking with people outside of the church. And as all these conversations are taking place they will be listening for common themes, signs of new life and renewed enthusiasm, as well as signs of lifelessness and low energy.  


The Vision and Mission Task Force will communicate with the congregation through the newsletter, special events, and our worship time together. They will try out new ideas and language, gather feedback as they go, and - after much prayer and discernment - we trust a clear vision and mission for our church will emerge.  


What’s the difference between the two? Well, our mission will be how we describe what we do best from day to day. It will speak to why we are here and whom we are called to serve. Our vision will articulate who we hope to become if we are faithful in carrying out our mission.  

And one last, but very important note: it is commonly understood that the vision and mission that emerges from this kind of work is not to be regarded as a proposal for the congregation to vote on, but as a gift from God. If you want your voice to count than your voice needs to be heard all along the way, so please make your thoughts known, participate in the process, and pray for the church and members of the task force.  


Open and Affirming Task Force  


A congregation is recognized by the U.C.C. as Open and Affirming if it has adopted a public statement/covenant offering a full welcome into the life and ministry of the church to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Before making the commitment to offer this welcome to all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning people, churches enter into an Open & Affirming process, beginning with a time of study, prayer, and discussion which then leads to an official congregational decision to declare the church Open and Affirming.  

This task force would begin by educating themselves more about the process and then create opportunities for education, prayer, and conversation around what this designation would mean for our church and the larger community we are called to serve. They would communicate regularly with the congregation through the newsletter, special events, and our worship service.  


Associate Pastor Feasibility Task Force  


While working with Paul Nickerson we learned about the rule of 150, specifically that a pastor can only cultivate relationships with about 150 active parishioners before they max out.  We’ve hit that point in our growth cycle and have been blessed with a significant monetary gift to help us bring on a ¼ time associate pastor. This task force will review materials about the needs of a growing church, the terms of the gift, and our current budgetary needs.  They will engage in conversation with the pastor and congregation about what duties an associate pastor might perform.They will keep the congregation apprised of their work and create opportunities for discussion before reporting back to the congregation with a report about the feasibility of hiring an associate pastor.  


As you can see, we have a lot of work ahead of us and we would especially love to see some of the newer members of our congregation join in this work at a leadership level. But what is most important is that we all participate in the work regardless of who is leading, make ourselves available, and our thoughts and prayers known. We are Congregationalists after all, and our strength is located in our ability to congregate together as we listen for the voice of God in our midst. So please sign up, come out, and be a part of the future of First Church as we discern together who we are, why we are here, and who we are for.


Peace be upon you all, 

Pastor Sarah