by Associate Conference Minister Daniel Ross-Jones
I was sitting with a group of leaders from a small church that were daunted by the task in front of them: completing the Local Church Profile as part of the process to find their next Pastor & Teacher. For those who are unfamiliar, the Local Church Profile in the United Church of Christ answers three broad questions:
- Who are we?
- Who is our neighbor?
- Who is God calling us to become?
This church had struggled with their own identity for quite some time. It had a storied past, one of a timeless legacy that the current membership felt a sense of obligation to preserve. This past history was interwoven within its own city, its Association, and Conference. Yet, the present life of the church didn’t show much of this vaunted glory of that historical narrative. The church wasn’t dying, it just was a few chapters further along.
Having reviewed the Local Church Profile and struggled with it, the leaders had invited me in to coach them in crafting their narrative. They felt a sense of hopelessness in their frustration, and I think they thought that if they could somehow find the “magic” words, they would be able to flip the pages back to a different chapter in their book and somehow realign themselves to what they thought was expected of them.
Instead of the questions as asked in the Profile, I asked them these questions instead, with some parameters:
- Why do you feel your church is important other than you feel a sense of history or connection with your fellow church members?
- Why would someone come to your church and get involved other than some physical aspect of your building or location?
- What do you need to let go of to shout your answers from 1 & 2 from the rooftops?
At the end of each episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race following the final judging of the contestants, RuPaul calls out the final trademark tagline: “If you can’t love yourself, how the [heck] are you gonna love somebody else?”
When we invite others to join us in our churches – no matter whether we’re inviting our existing members and friends to give of their financial resources or seeking to invite new people into our faith community to experience the kind of joyful purpose we feel – we first must be confident in and celebrate precisely who we are. Our past, our present, and our future.
Because if you can’t be confident in yourself, how in the world are you gonna invite someone else?