Christmas, it seems to me, is the perfect time to share good news of great joy. The story that follows is not Gospel-level good news. It certainly doesn’t rival the world-changing announcement that the angels made to the shepherds on that first Christmas night. But I believe it’s still worth sharing.
When we launched our Ministry Plan a little over two years ago we took a big risk. We’d worked hard on the plan — many people spent many hours developing it.
And we had set some ambitious goals for ourselves. Our ability to meet these goals would ask a lot of you, the congregation. Your investments of time, talent and treasure were essential to the process.
It would also depend on the strong, ongoing support of our lay level leadership — the Forward Planning Team that worked so hard to develop the plan, the Session that would oversee its implementation, and our Ministry Team Leaders who would help realize it.
The success of the plan also depended on having a full complement of capable and dedicated staff in place to support our teams and provide their own energy and leadership. And it happened that Steve Williams left us shortly before we launched the plan, and Beth left not long afterward.
So it could have gone either way. All the effort we invested in imagining and envisioning and planning for our future could have been for naught.
But it hasn’t been. And that’s the good news I want to share. Our plan is working! It is bearing exactly the kind of fruit we hoped it would, and it’s fruit that anyone can see.
For example, this fall we have repeatedly seen our fellowship hall (and in the case of Trunk or Treat, our parking lot) filled with people sharing food and music and fellowship.
Some of these people are regular members here but by no means all of them. We’ve had students. We’ve also had faculty and staff — and their children.
We’ve had members of the wider community, too–people we’ve never seen before, but whom we may see again. In fact, as I’ll explain below, we have seen some of them again.
So it is fair to say — indeed, it’s important to say — that we have already deepened our engagement with and service to the wider community, the college community in particular (Goal 2 or our Ministry Plan).
Another example: In early November, we convened our Liturgical Arts Ministry Team for the first time. Since then, if I may say this, our services have been more creative, more interesting, and just richer, musically and visually. It should be noted that Vivian’s steady work to revitalize the choir is also an important part of this new depth and richness.
So it is fair to say — indeed, it’s important to say — we have already enhanced the quality and richness of our Sunday morning worship experience (Goal 3 of our Ministry Plan).
All of that is good and valuable, and an end in itself. But there’s another piece of truly good news in play here, news that is at least partly rooted in the work we’ve done to meet these two goals.
And it’s this: we have welcomed a steady stream of visitors to our worship service on Sunday morning, and some of those folks are turning into committed members of our church family. This is also partly due to the ongoing efforts of our communications team to build out presence on the Web and on social media.
But the bottom line is the same: Attracting and welcoming new members into our own community is obviously crucial to our ability to achieve a sustainable future (Goal 5 of our Ministry Plan).
So, as I read the current state of our congregation in the closing days of 2017, that’s all very good, very exciting news. But there is still more. Since she arrived in October, Grace has been actively working with our Congregational Life and Spiritual Nurture Ministry Teams to help them realize their goals.
So, to repeat my earlier refrain, it’s fair to say — and important to say — that our Ministry Plan is already bearing the kind of fruit we hoped it would, the kind of fruit we need it to.
Of course we still have some ground to cover. We know we have more work to do to fully live into our team-based model of shared leadership and ministry. We are planning a leadership retreat for this February that will be focused on that very topic, so hopefully we see fruit from that experience, too.
A few years ago, an outside observer confided in me that she thought Warren Wilson Presbyterian had the potential to become “one of the best churches in the denomination.”
I’m not sure that’s true, mainly because I’m not sure how one would even go about defining “best” in relation to “church.”
But here’s what I do believe. Together, we have already made substantial progress toward realizing the goals we have set for ourselves. And with strong and steady lay leadership already actively engaged in this work, and our full complement of staff finally in place, our prospects for a vibrant and hopeful future are brighter than ever.
That, I truly believe, is good news of great joy.