Years ago, while I was in discernment around my own call to ministry, I was in a small circle of a group of faithful women and men – all of whom have since joined the great cloud of witnesses. One of the men, a retired clergyperson himself, asked me to describe what I saw the church like in 2020, knowing he’d not live to see it. I shared my dreams and ideas, infused by my own love of then-emerging communications technology that we now know as ‘social media.’
As I spoke, one of the women smiled and took my hand and said, “I don’t understand a word you’ve said and that all sounds horrible to me, but I’m glad it makes sense to you. Go do it. The world needs it.” And, without missing a beat, another chimed in, “Just don’t ask us to do it!” We all laughed.
That group modeled for me an incredible vulnerability and openness to change, while still demonstrating the capacity of the group to engage in intentional change. If they were still alive today, I tell myself that they would have been fluent Zoomers driven out of pandemic necessity but would be deeply suspicious about even bigger investments in communications and technology come church budget season.
Perhaps you know some folks like that? Or maybe you are part of that group? (We all are. Middle-age Daniel is exhausted remembering early-20s Daniel just recalling that exchange!)
This capacity for intentional change isn’t easy to parse and measure, which is partly why we don’t have a way to capture it in our reporting like we do members and budget. It’s incredibly vulnerable. We open ourselves up to the possibility that no one is willing to step up and champion the intentional change. We think we can avoid the threat by clinging to a perfected past. That, in and of itself, is an existential threat.
And, some of us are not called, or no longer called, to be midwives for intentional change. That doesn’t mean we’ll escape change – just that we don’t have the time, energy, attention, focus, or interest in championing it.
These are important details in the life of a church. They’re messy and complicated. They can unsurfaced hard truths that we don’t want to acknowledge. All of that is why we’ve launched the Equip. Encourage. Empower. campaign for Local Churches to be resourced with a professional coach and grant opportunities for professional services during transitional moments.
We’re normalizing our own human emotions while acknowledging existential realities. By routinizing questions of capacity, we’re having conversations about our churches’ legacies – and planning for our own.
Between now and Annual Gathering, we’re raising $10,000 for this work – and I hope you’ll join the momentum by making a donation. We’ll be highlighting stories and experiences in the coming weeks, and reporting on the immediate impact of our fundraising. As dollars come in, we’re planning on pushing them out the door to churches already in need of this kind of support.
Thank you for your gifts. And great thanks to the cloud of witnesses whose shoulders upon which we all stand. We can’t change without you.