"Growing as a community in Christ as we SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD"
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Have you ever wondered why this familiar Bible passage, once made a pop-music hit by the Byrds, is more often associated with funerals than it is with births and baptisms?
Maybe it’s because people don’t like change. We fear change. We often associate change with things getting worse, not better. One could make the case that human beings are implicitly biased against change.
Many people mistakenly think that when it comes to change, we can choose to change or not to change. This is a false belief based upon a mistaken view of the universe. If we lived in a steady-state universe or if the world was static, “not to change” would be a viable option. We do not.
We need look no further than our community (with four subdivisions being built across the road all at once) or even within ourselves (most of us have matured at least a little since sixth grade) to see nothing stays the same. Things are getting better or worse. Most of the time, some things improve while others deteriorate. Because the world around us is always changing, our church vision changes, and the governing documents of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church require the Board to look at and revise those vision and mission statements.
"Growing as a community in Christ as we SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD," is a proposed revision to our vision statement. It is short and concise enough to be remembered, and therefore meaningful. It also reflects the growing nature of our community and opportunities for growth God has given our church and school ministry.
Our current vision statement is, “To thrive as one Christ-centered family, welcoming individuals from all walks of life, nurtured by God through faithful worship, education, and excellent ministries as we gladly sacrifice for God’s kingdom.” This statement has served us well as we have worked diligently towards excellence in worship, discipleship and fellowship. However, it is not particularly concise or meaningful to our membership. Therefore, it is time to change our vision.
Our new vision statement reflects our desire to embrace the ever changing community we are blessed to live in. It fosters a plan for future growth. The statement is intentional and relevant to where we are in this time and place. Our Shepherd Lutheran Church is growing. Our Shepherd Lutheran School is growing. We are growing individually in our faith as we worship, grow spiritually and share life with the Shepherd of our souls.
As we, the current members of the Our Shepherd church and school community, SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD (present tense) we want others to also SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD (an invitation to worship and grow spiritually with us). We hope this new statement will direct our work in God’s kingdom.
Recent growth in worship attendance and Sunday School have pushed our campus to its capacity. One Sunday in August, there were as many cars parked at Our Shepherd as we have parking spots. There would not have been any empty spaces, had not some of our leaders and staff parked behind the building.
Our School has added a preschool class since school began because, at one point this fall, we had 15 families on a waiting list for preschool. With only one room left for school expansion (if the youth room is moved) and talk of using the Luther Room for early childhood care, our school ministry is limited by space constraints. We can’t predict what God has planned for Our Shepherd, but we know He wants us to SHARE LIFE. But we are currently limited by our space.
Even though it appears that God intends us to grow with our community, we don’t want to grow without a plan for growth. Before blindly leaping into a capital campaign for facility expansion or launching a satellite campus/daughter church equipped with childcare facilities, we desire to explore how we could best grow together. We wish to explore the potential costs and benefits of growing in different ways.
Additional worship space or multi-site? Add to the existing school or open a new infant and early childhood care center? How much money should be set aside to devote to staff our growing church and school ministries?
In order to find the pulse and passion of the Our Shepherd community before we plan our growth, we are launching a feasibility study. This will allow us to bring in an outside firm to host focus groups and interview families to discern areas of passion for ministry. Our goal with this project is to quantify sentiments, attitudes and dreams in the hopes that we could distill our study into actionable goals for our future. It is so hard to quantify “soft” feelings, etc., so we have sought a consultant with a proven track record of helping congregations get a pulse on the congregation before jumping into big projects.
In November, Our Shepherd was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Center for Congregations to hire Walsh and Associates to facilitate a feasibility study to gather member data and interests. Additionally, we are in conversations with an architect to explore facility needs and costs of prospective ministries. Once the study is completed and costs are ascertained a leadership summit will share a plan for growth with the congregation.
Our prayer is that through this process, we move from speculating and talking about ways to grow to an actionable plan that meets the needs of our community. By measuring member interest and readiness to invest in the Kingdom, we want to match our passion with community needs. We expect more involvement over the next few months in the decision making process to translate into a greater impact in our community.
Following the feasibility study, we need to decide whether or not to proceed with a capital campaign to fund key ministry initiatives. If the congregation makes that step in faith, we will know that the faith has grown with our vision. Even if we decide not to grow physically, our prayer is that this process creates cohesion around a shared vision for ministry.
With or without a capital campaign, being able to take a step forward would mark the first significant change in ministry direction since adopting a new governance structure three years ago. Were we to begin a capital campaign, we’d begin first significant over-and-above financial investment since the campaign to build this facility a decade ago. It is exciting to see where the Lord leads!
"Growing as a community in Christ as we SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD"
Change is inevitable, but if we can get in front of the change, we can direct the change. Throughout the scriptures, God uses change to bring His people to an ever deeper and more meaningful relationship with Himself. God uses even the “bad” stuff to accomplish His will. As His people, we want to offer Him the “good” stuff, knowing that God will use us and bless our sacrifices made for Him and His Kingdom for the eternal welfare of others. How awesome it is to SHARE LIFE WITH OUR SHEPHERD!