What an exciting and unique moment we are approaching as a church! We are just a few months away of being freed from debt for the first time in 20+ years, and this has provided us with a unique opportunity to examine our place in Ellendale UMC’s history and where we might go from here. For the last 3 years, because of the faithful giving in Ellendale, we’ve been able to allocate between $50,000 & $60,000 per year for this cause. That is a great amount of potential in terms of resources for ministry as we look forward to 2018 and beyond, with 2020 just around the corner.
By now, many of you have had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation led by Kenny Prestage and Terry Stanford from the 20/20 steering committee as they have presented in several the Sunday School classes. If you have not seen the presentation either in one of the Sunday school classes or seen it online, Terry & Kenny are going to present it on Sunday, September 24th during the 10:00 hour in the sanctuary. If you would like to see a copy of the presentation, please go to the website at this location – http://ellendaleumc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/2020-Vision_EllendaleUMC_FINAL.pdf
As Terry & Kenny have ably said, this is a prime moment for us to have a deep and honest conversation about the future of our church. The presentation is not putting forth an idea or a plan for what we should do. Rather, it is an invitation to engage in praying through and discussing the direction our church needs to take with regard to our ministry as a whole at Ellendale UMC, especially as it pertains to the immediate and long-term future. This part of the process is an exploratory one that is more about asking the right questions than immediately jumping to answers or conclusions based on assumptions that may not hold true as they once did. Our questions are theological and missional in nature and ought to be more about what is needed rather than what is wanted. That is, in order to live into the great commandment to love God and neighbor and the great commission to make disciples, what does that ask of us in this particular location at this particular time? The questions that especially focus on the needs of our neighbors and community and our ability to address those are most pertinent.
What the steering committee values in this process is the practice of listening well before any proposing or planning. Their task is to ask the questions and engage the congregation about the topics and questions raised. For the next several weeks we hope you’ll prayerfully dialogue among small groups, Sunday school gatherings, and other informal times of sharing. As you have ideas, questions or concerns, please share them with the members of the 20/20 committee, listed below. After a couple of months, they will be charged with assessing where the congregation senses God’s direction. I fully expect there to be differences of opinion or at least of emphasis with regard to what is the most needful next step in terms of the future of Ellendale UMC.
I am aware that some of the conversations are already being geared toward addressing the needs of our campus and facilities – i.e., what we might need to do about the building(s), whether to repair/renovate what already exists or to move forward with building a new building as planned ten years ago, and so on. Still other suggestions are regarding what additional staffing would be helpful. While the discussion of these topics will need to take place, I would encourage us to center our initial conversations relative to the strategic plans regarding the ministries in the community and finding our niche of service. I believe that it is important for us to truly unite around our identity as a church (which is not a building, but the people). Discovering that and God’s call upon us as people in relationship with Christ and with our neighbors, I believe then that the practical next steps toward God’s desired future for our church will become more apparent with regard to what needs to change in the building, facilities, staffing, and so on.
Some would see these different approaches as a cause of concern, afraid that disagreement will lead to unresolved conflict is around the corner. But I am confident that this church is strong enough to engage this work faithfully even amidst potentially differing viewpoints, and will emerge even stronger and more fruitful on the other side. It will take much work and a lot of patience, but if we maintain our trust in God’s Spirit to bring creative order out of our chaos, I believe we’ll experience the beauty and joy that comes from living into our unique calling as a church.
So that you may know who is serving on this steering committee and ask them questions and also to pray for them, the people serving in this capacity are: Kenny Prestage, chair; Debbie Evans; Tricia Foster; Jesse Jenkins; Leslie Noah; Lee Fisher; Homer Smith; Terry Stanford; Kari McKean, Church Council chair; and me. Stay tuned and stay engaged, for there is much more to come…