Into God’s Future Part 1

Where there is no vision, the people perish.
(Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves. (Proverbs 29:18, The Message)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

With the mark of ashes on Ash Wednesday, we begin a journey of discipleship toward Easter. This year, First Congregational UCC, Elyria, also will begin a second journey that day: a spiritual, strategic journey. We’re calling it: Into God’s Future.

Into God’s Future is essentially strategic planning for religious folks. It is spiritual — we will seek God and God’s ways. It is strategic — it will result in an action plan for ministry at First Church to guide us in the years 2010 to 2015. And it is a journey — we start where we are and we will end up someplace new. How we get from here to there will be as important as the destination. We also embark together. This will not be one staff member’s or one church group’s agenda for what First Church should be or do. Between 30 and 35 leaders will be guiding us through a process that, ultimately, will include the entire congregation in times of learning, worship, and celebration.

Into God’s Future will shape our worship, service, and fellowship experiences at First Church in 2010. So please take the time to read to the end of this letter, ask your questions, and (most importantly) keep this process in prayer.

The journey has three stages:

1: 100 Days of Discernment

2: Writing Our Future Story

3: Living Into Our Future Story

Into God’s Future will be a journey of dialogue, discernment, and discovery. In other words, we will talk and pray, consider together what we’ve learned from God and one another, and discover together a vision for First Church. A longer description of each stage follows:

100 Days of Discernment

Beginning with Ash Wednesday and lasting through Pentecost, at least 21 percent of our actively worshipping adults will meet in groups of three (3) to read scripture, share, and pray together about some aspect of church life and ministry. Each triplet will meet 10 times over the 100 days and take notes on what they discover together. A guide for the reading, sharing, and praying is provided. We know praying together may be very scary! Leaders will share some simple tools to help us all become more comfortable sharing and praying together. About 35 people have already expressed a willingness to participate in a triplet. It would be great if 100 percent participated in a prayer and share triplet! We anticipate these triplet experiences will deepen our relationships as a congregation in meaningful ways. We will celebrate the end of the 100 Days of Discernment together in worship on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2010.

Writing Our Future Story

After we finish our 100 Days of Discernment, all that we have discovered through sharing and praying together will be gathered and used by the leaders to write the future story of First Congregational UCC. What is a “future story”? It is a picture of what we have discerned God is calling us to be and do as a church in this time and place, described from 10 to 12 years into the future.

Living into Our Future Story

This is where the rubber meets the road! In this final stage, we will spell out and prioritize a handful of action items. This is what we commit to do over the next five years to make our future story not just wishful thinking but lived reality. These action items will guide us as a congregation as we make decisions over the next 5 years about where to put our best time, energy, and other resources.

Our companion and guide for the journey will be George Bullard, a pastor, consultant, and author of Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation, who has worked with UCC churches (and other kinds of churches) in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Sound like an ambitious undertaking? It is. In order to put our best energy into this journey, we will have to decide not to do other things. And we will have to trust a lot in God — and in God’s presence in one another. But I believe, together with the Vision Team, that God will surprise us and bless us in unexpected ways as we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead… into God’s future.

With you and with Christ, on the journey,

~Rev. Christina Kukuk

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