“Not another visioning process! These things always create lots of smoke but no fire. Results get shelved somewhere and we just carry on as usual. Do we really need another visioning process?”
Can you relate to this sort of sentiment? Perhaps too many of us have sat through too many less-than-effective visioning processes in our lives. Nevertheless, visioning is important. Every congregation needs to take some time to step back and reflect on who they are and where they are going. At Rockway over the last number of years, we have done some of our visioning around tables in a conversation café format. Issues were raised that contributed to the work of our Church Council and committees. We have also done some visioning through pastor-congregation reviews which occur every four years. In the 2010 review, a number of desires and concerns were expressed.
In my own reflections for the review committee four years ago, I expressed the need to “pay particular attention to how we nurture and form our children and young people. Young families in the neighbourhood are attracted to a church that values children and provides opportunities for their growth.” This concern was shared by the congregation. Over these last number of years we have worked effectively toward this goal through the formation of the Congregational Life Committee in 2010 and the Christian Formation Team in 2011. Our Sunday school program is working well with hired student teachers, and our communal life has been enriched through regular intergenerational activities and a growing milestones ministry. Our recent retreat weekend on February 8-9, 2014, was a good example of a positive experience for families and children. These initiatives grew out of specific opportunities for “visioning.”
So what next? Do we really need another visioning process? I think we do. However, it doesn’t have to be cumbersome or overly serious. Sometimes we may mistakenly assume that visioning has to mean coming up with a brand new plan or strategy. That’s not necessarily the case. I look at visioning as an opportunity for intentional conversation about who we are and where we are going. We don’t necessarily have to solve a problem or come up with a new direction. Visioning can simply mean taking stock and seeking clarity.
Over the last few months I have been working with Church Council to form a visioning committee which would propose a process prior to our move to Olivet. We have decided not to call ourselves the “Visioning Committee” and not to call our process “Visioning”. Sometimes the word has too much baggage. Instead we are proposing a series of congregational conversations, which are intended to be lively and enjoyable. The planning is still in process, but we are thinking that these conversations will take place in the fall of 2014. We are hoping that together we can gain a little more clarity on who we are as a congregation and where God is calling us in these next four to five years. We’re not anticipating major changes, but we’d like to see if we can come to some sort of image or phrase that might serve as a touchstone for our ministry, going forward.
How would you describe the personality of Rockway Church? Why do people choose to come here to worship rather than go somewhere else? We share much in common with other churches, but what is it about us that is unique? What is the particular gift we can offer toward the realization of God’s dream for the world? What is our most important task in the near future? We are blessed with the opportunity to move into new facilities in a new neighbourhood. I believe it is important to enter into this move with a clear sense of who we are and some ideas for how we might live out our calling in our new setting. So let the visioning continue!