After the first Sunday of Easter, the air begins to crackle with transition. Much of that has to do with the season - seminarians are graduating, ordinations are being scheduled, and pastors who accompanied their churches to the empty tomb are now announcing their moves to new places of ministry. These latter changes in particular (hopefully) prompt deep congregational reflection.
It matters greatly how churches frame these conversations. If we start with all that we aren't and all that we don't have, it will be incredibly difficult to imagine what is possible and discern what God wants us to do. But if we begin with gifts, we will be encouraged and creative and - most importantly - faithful with what God has given us.
Last week I shared a survey for taking stock of individuals' gifts. Below are some discussion prompts for a churchwide gathering to unearth the intangible gifts of the congregation as a whole.
Personal connections (Be sure to include all ages in this part of the conversation, adapting the questions as needed to varying developmental levels.)
When did I become part of this congregation?
What drew me here?
What keeps me here?
How has God been at work in/around/through me since I joined?
When/where do I feel most engaged with church members and/or God?
The communion of saints
Who are the saints (dearly departed) of our congregation?
How was God at work in/around/through them?
What legacies of these saints do we carry forward?
How were their values our values?
What ministries (formal or informal) did they begin that we carry on?
What are the key moments/turning points in our congregation’s history?
Physical plant changes
Rapid change in membership numbers
How was God at work in these seasons?
What did we learn or how did we grow at these critical junctures?
Where is additional healing or resolution needed?
Close conversation with a prayer of gratitude for God's faithfulness or a ritual of celebration. Be sure to collate the accumulated responses from the session for further use.
Of course, not all congregational gifts are intangible. Leaders (staff and lay) can brainstorm/research and note responses to the categories below, which are based more on records and spreadsheets.
Cash on hand
Space currently utilized
Space currently not or (under-) utilized
Accessibility to people with disabilities (mobility, hearing, sight, etc.)
Movable items (communion sets, tables/chairs, tools, etc.)
Relational (congregational level)
Recognized lay leaders
Informal lay leaders/influencers
As with the intangible gifts, be sure to give thanks for these more measurable blessings as you record them.
Taking the time to inventory your church’s gifts will set the stage well for thinking about how God is leading your church into a new season of ministry and thus what kind of pastoral leadership your congregation needs.