Each of us arrives at church - the first time, the four hundred and first time - seeking something. We hold in us yearnings and hopes and needs that are just ours. Our needs evolve as our lives change and as we change. What brought you here initially is likely not the thing that keeps bringing you.
Our church as a whole has a parallel process to this individual path. We pre-exist each person’s presence, and yet we are re-created with each new arrival. Who we were before you came, the first time, the four hundred and first time - is not who we are since. And as a result, what the church is becoming, what it is that is ours to do - evolves as we as a community evolve, as each of us as individuals change and grow, arrive and go, and as we change and grow through our relationship.
A group of leaders from the church, including staff, ministers and lay leaders, recently began a conversation about this path of the individual and congregation. We spoke about entry points for new comers. Where are those first places that people begin to make a relationship with the congregation as it is? Where are the places where they start to truly become a part of the whole, and where we are created and re-created by their presence?
We spoke about a path of membership in the church, about our hopes for a way for our members to walk together more intentionally through their evolving needs and dreams and yearnings. That is - after those initial experiences, where do people turn then? What are the opportunities for deepening, for growing, for strengthening - in spirit, in connection, in community?
Throughout each of these questions, we thought about the ways we invite our people to serve, to grow, and to lead. We made a list. And we discovered....it is a really long list! We recruit people in many, many ways, and invite people into more opportunities than even we who do the recruiting can easily remember. We spoke about the struggles to track our growing membership’s gifts and needs, and our awareness that we were not reaching a good portion of the 800 adults we count as a part of our congregation’s membership and friends. I shared my experience with small group ministries and we imagined ways that this model - whether Explorations, the small groups for those new to the church - or SOUUL Circles, the small groups open to everyone that will launch fully this fall, or some other variation still to be discovered - might offer us new paths for our members, and allow us new ways to know and meet the evolving needs and dreams of our congregation. We were excited to imagine these possibilities.
As a result of these initial conversations, we decided to check in with other churches our size and see how they help their members walk a path that helps meet their evolving individual needs, while informing and strengthening their congregation’s sense of purpose and a need for leadership and service. In the next few months we will be doing this research and having these conversations with other churches. Then we’ll come back to the table and imagine possibilities for how we grow, serve and lead together. New possibilities for a path of membership, whether you’ve been coming to Foothills for 4 weeks or 40 years, or somewhere in between.