It recent months I've been spending a lot of time with leadership groups from various churches. All of them want to know how to move forward. Many are anxious about where they are and question their viability over the next decade.
In these next few posts I want to muse a bit on what can be discovered in a church's story.
One of the techniques for discovering a church's story that I have been using comes to me from Linnea Nilsen-Capshaw from Deep Shift, Brian McLaren's group. She asked the leadership of our former church to write a few things on some butcher paper. The questions were: Your Name; the date you entered your church's story; the significant people you remember when you arrived; the significant ministries that were taking place; were you aware of any conflict.
These questions have become the backdrop for me to investigate with church leadership the dna of their congregations. This is a non-threatening and simple way to begin a self-reflection that doesn't need to end in navel gazing. In fact what it begins to uncover are patterns and perceptions that have been present for a very long time. It does this without passing judgment on those things.
What is always humorous to me is that each person will get their turn at the time-line. I give everyone instructions that we're not trying to get it right, we're trying to hear the perceptions that each person had as they entered their church's story. The humor is that you can't go more than a minute before somebody steps in to correct or add or comment on the story. People's memories are jogged. Sometimes old wounds are opened. Most of the time, I have found a shared fondness for many of the significant people that they share in common.
This sets the backdrop for the next steps. A church's dna is their character. In new churches we consciously and unconsciously set the dna. In older congregations we consciously and unconsciously respond to it.
A good first step is understanding your part in your church's story. Remember your part in your church's story is also your part in the the greater story that God is writing not only in you but through you.