2A. Empowering Leadership: Story

2A. Empowering Leadership: Story

I have worked in a rural church for four years and a large suburban church for ten, and then I had a calling out of the
church to work at the United Way of Calgary and area. And it was when I left the church that I realized how
important all the interactions that were going on in the city were and how the church wasn’t in the game. There are so many great things happening and the church was on the sidelines. So
the image I think of is, it’s like there’s a big football game going on and we used to be in the game as the quarterback and now we’re benched or on the sidelines.
And the game’s still going on and we’re standing there going can we play, can we play? Because I think lots of the ways in which
the Church and culture change, we’ve moved ourselves, by things we did, to the edge. That is
sometimes not in the game. And lots of really great things were
happening in the city, that I learned about, and so it was when I
was there that I got know the city and how people were
seeking to promote change and good things in the city. And so when this church came open, it was a small, dying church in a neat part in the town, city and what they wanted was leadership and a
connection to the community. And I thought it was great that they were
saying that up front. They want, they wanted a leader and they also wanted to make inroads with
the neighbourhood. So, it’s pretty easy to come and have a great conversation about what’s possible. I would also say one of the neat things about this church is, was sometimes when one has a near death experience, which it is, you know forty people. They were
ready for change; so they weren’t clinging to the past.
They were saying we want to honor our past, we want to move forward. So, to me it was a dream. Well, what I would want to say about how
we’re organized is I’m being very careful not to organize it like every other United
Church. And so, we are not rushing when we have a vacancy; we’re not
rushing to fill it; we’re not trying to have a whole whack of committees doin’ their stuff, and I’m
trying to be very intentional about what is the church of the future look like when you wanna have honest
engagement with people and bring their skills or their gifts. The church used to say if you had a pulse we’ll take you and they would just sort of take anybody and shove them in and do a job. We’re being very intentional about that, so as an example, we invite people to do a spiritual gifts inventory where they actually figure out what
their, what their gifts are, and then we can help place them in a, in an organizational piece within the church that honors who they are and what they’ve got. I mean, so often we get the wrong people doing the wrong jobs. So, try to get the right people in the right
place or Good to Great, the leadership book, would say get the right people on the bus, the right people off the bus and that’s, that’s at a good metaphor to think about how the church should run. So we’re very careful, leadership wise, we want the right voices at the board, we
want the people who have got an ability to commit some time. Programme wise we’re, we’ve done Living the Questions and Saving Jesus and
we’re doing a new book study but the
conversations need to be about what’s going on in this, in the world and how does it connect. So even in those classes we had one guy who comes and doesn’t believe in God at all. He’s there to push the group, challenge us, help us
think about ourselves and how we, how we think. So we try to do what I would call Christian Formation – our spiritual nurture. We also have In From the Cold, which is a programme to put us in touch with people in the city who have no homes and try to work together to support and nurture those folks. The building is very busy: has a Playskool of 50 kids every day, in the basement here, who’ve been here
for 25 years the Playskool’s been here. But we also have built bridges and I think this really key for churches; to build bridges with the neighborhood.
So we have a poverty group that I happened to connect with when I was at United Way and they needed rental space. We’ve created spacers for
staff people in the office, in the church here, they pay a minimal rent
but they’re doing great poverty work within the city. And why that’s really good is that when, when they hold meetings they’ll have 35 people from the city come to our church just to be in a room of the church to do
their work. And it’s a really helpful model, I think, of building a bridge; they do the
work, and we support them through the housing and through people who participate there. But I
think the church has to build bridges with the community and those who are
already doing great church things. So I would say
at this point, the other thing we do, we’ve done some fun
hospitality. People want to get to know each other. They want to know who people are. So we
had a progressive supper this year, as an
example, and I’d said I would like to see somebody do it – two people volunteered. I thought if we had 30 people that would be
great. There was eighty-five people showed up, to eat in different people’s homes on a
particular evening. And it was the chance to sort of build a
bridge again with people who are on the journey with them. So, I
would just caution and say we’re not trying to do church the old way, we’re trying
to figure out what’s the new way. We’re living in a really exciting time. I mean, I think the church has a huge
opportunity to connect with people, cuz I believe the
church is doing lots of great things. I, I would say that this church is trying hard, really hard, by accident really. Not with their furrowed brow, but just trying really hard to
keep up with who’s coming, to be willing to say yes to various ideas, or ways of being. This church is what I would say, at this
point, just a little bit built on sand, to use a biblical metaphor. That is where we’ve got lots of people here, we’re sorting through where do we stand and on what? And so that’s our process right now. We’re just beginning a visioning process, and it’s
going to be about discovering what do we believe, what’s our values, what’s our belief and what do we want to do in the future? That’s a bit in-process. At this point,
we’re just, the last three years we’ve been saying to ourselves do worship, do it well, provide programmes during the week that invite people into dialogue and
conversation with each other and, and we’ll, we’ll see what the future
holds. Right now, we’re very excited about who’s
here, there’s a great energy, people are happy, people are also coming to church at this
time in their life. It’s very interesting. In twenty years of ministry for me, in the last few years, I have noticed how people are calling the
church and saying: what are you doing about homelessness; what is your state on the environment; what is your interest
in the city. They’re calling with issues and
questions about social justice and that is a really interesting draw.
People are not interested in, people are very interested in doing things and so you have to be open to that invitation. And so I guess what I would
say is, right now we are doing things as well as we can
and we need to raise that bar up. Lots of churches just say oh we’ll do okay. I think we have
to raise the bar and say no we’ll do this excellent or we won’t do it. And that’s
really different in church land. I have a
colleague in executive directions, who said to me very honestly and boldly, he doesn’t go to
church, he said my experience of the church, that is my
memory of the church, is the church would do something, and it would do it badly, and say “in the name of the Lord” and suddenly it would be okay. He said that, as a musician, he’s a musician, said, that doesn’t cut it. You have to be willing to say we’ll do
things well and we will seek to be the very best we can. And I think that, that’s a good tenant for the church.

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