I get excited when I talk about the Mission Planning Team, because it comes from the initial proposal that I presented to the Council and Call Committee last year at this time. In that proposal, I charted out how I was sensing God calling me to First Lutheran and the ways I felt I could use my background and training to best support this community, at this particular moment in its life. I decided to present this proposal at the start of my call, because I wanted to hear whether this congregation felt that call too! And you did!
But what was that proposal?
As I listened and talked with leaders while discerning this call, I assessed that while you would not need to do a full Mission Exploration Team (MET) process, the way churches do in the interim process, I felt that some of the lessons and learnings of Mission Exploration would help First Lutheran at this time. This would give First a structured way to look at our past, our present community and context, and the values and identity we carry with us into the future.
I will supplement the MET Process with some of the useful tools, practices and knowledge I’ve received in my training as an ELCA Mission Developer, Interim Ministry Network, as a Community Organizer through the PICO Network (People Empowering Communities through Organizing). I want more people to know what I know and to help equip the team for their work and to be great leaders in the congregation and community.
Like a MET, we want the team to be representative of the congregation, and have a diversity of demographics, experiences and opinions. Our time together as a Mission Planning Team will be centered in prayer as we invite the Holy Spirit and God’s Wisdom into our work and discernment. Learning to listen to God helps us listen to others and the world around us. And like the disciples being sent out two by two, we will send out team members to listen and learn in specific ways based on what they are most interested in and what they feel most called to learn about.
Some team members will learn more about churches in our neighborhood and how our story and purpose can thrive in the midst of them and how we can work together to serve the needs of the neighborhood. Others will focus on possibilities for collaboration and church redevelopments, studying creative ways this works in other places, and participating in a recently formed Area Ministry Strategy dialogue with pastors and leaders of four other ELCA congregations in West Allis. And we may find ourselves invited into mission exploration work with other congregations that are doing that at the same time we are. Other team members could be called to engage in the work of the synod and the ELCA, to review and experience resources that they are recommending. This can include participating in events like the Together in Mission Gatherings in February, or Anti-Racism Trainings, or reviewing resources provided to congregations that we often just don’t know about. Others could study new models and best practices for being church, in our denomination and outside of it, to inspire us and give us ideas.
We will bring our work back to the larger group and the congregation and in the process, I hope the MPT, shaped by what we are hearing and learning, can become the heart of our community as we move into the future and invite more people in.
I hope you will consider being a part of this exciting and valuable experience!