By Pr. Deb Stehlin
By Pr. Deb Stehlin
Incredibly holy things happen in church basements. Last week I was with leaders who wonder if they can let go of the way they’ve been doing church in order connect with the people in their neighborhood. It was honest, vulnerable, and holy. Change is hard for some people.
Such change in congregations takes a long time. And I’m not a super patient person. Some people in our neighborhoods long for a deep connection to community; they may not yet know that, even in their brokenness, they are loved by God beyond measure; and they might want to work with others for the common good. Our work has an urgency to it.
That’s why I want to try a radically different approach to fostering life and vitality in congregations. What if we take note of those that are doing great things to connect with people in our changing culture — and multiply these effective practices? Will that result in more people seeing our congregations as worth checking out? That’s what I want to discover.
So, we’re going to do a big experiment. I’m calling it Strength by Strength. We just got news that it will be supported by a $50,000 grant from ELCA Churchwide. So, now we can design a process for identifying congregations who are effectively connecting with people in our changing culture and we can provide what’s needed to multiply these strengths. I imagine congregations teaching one another, multiplying leadership, maybe even birthing new faith communities.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE CLEAR at the outset that this won’t be limited to what we think of as “successful” congregations. There are many congregations in challenging contexts who have discovered effective ways to connect with people. How might the whole church be strengthened if those practices are taught to others? How many more people might hear the gospel? How many more might join our work for justice?
“Our work has an urgency to it.”
Don’t get me wrong. I still want to sit with people in church basements who are eager to commit to the long work of congregational change. Each congregation matters. We all have things to teach, and we all have things to learn.
I’m glad that God has given us to one another so that we can invest in each other – for the sake of all the people who have no idea how much they are loved by God.