“To Thine Own Self Be True!”

Polonius’s words to his son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet may have come from a bit of a verbose and self-important character, but the truth that lies in them still ring throughout the ages.  A deeper and honest understanding of oneself and one’s abilities, assets, weaknesses, and needs can provide a sound foundation to furthering one’s own future, not to mention a stable base from which one can help others.  The same can be said for organizations as well as for individuals.

MAGNIFY_10196CThe New Vision Team is hard at work in Phase 1 of our visioning process.  This phase is devoted to “what is'” that is, taking a long hard look at what our congregation’s and community’s strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities, gifts and needs are.  What may seem to some as a lot of work that isn’t “future-oriented” and therefore pointless to some, is, in fact, the necessary foundation for any planning we may do.  If we aren’t “true to our own selves,'” that is honest about who we are and what we are capable of doing/being/becoming, we may either grossly overreach our capabilities, or vastly underestimate ourselves.

What does this mean in practical terms?  Well let me tell you by looking at each of the tasks of the first phase of our visioning process.  By doing video interviews with longtime members we will be grounding ourselves in the faithful work, witness, and wisdom of our forbearers.  A frequent mistake of “transforming” congregations is to assume that all truth for leading relevant and growing communities of faith comes from those who are new or younger.  Enormous wisdom does come from those who have not been steeped in the traditions and patterns of the past.  But, in fact a lot of leaning can come from those who have done much of this before, and often!

We will be gathering a great deal of data from which we will make projections and determine our future capacity.  Financial and membership statistics will be compiled so that we can be honest about who we really are and what our assets honestly are.   A spiritual gifts and talent inventory (and possible workshop or retreat) will help us know what members of our congregation are capable of and passionate about.  Neighborhood demographics will also help us determine the needs, interests, possibilities, and assets of our neighborhood (as well as other neighborhoods from which we might draw upon for members or programming!)

During this first phase we will also be doing “focus groups” with key stakeholders in the community in order to find out exactly what others think about our church, what they understand is the direction they can best tell the community is going, and how they might imagine our church might be most helpful in being a partner in the growth and restoration of the community.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will be working with leaders of the congregation to take assessment of the programs of the church as well as those who use our facilities.  If we are going to be a responsive and responsible community of faith, then we need to be honest about what we are doing well and what we aren’t doing so great.

We will need to talk about those core tasks of a church and evaluate whether or not we are doing them as well as God calls us.  We might need to ask ourselves if we are doing some things that are redundant, far outside our mission, gifts, or calling, or that are just not as excellent as they ought to be done (see Philippians 4:8ff).

In all of this exploration and data gathering, we are seeking first and foremost to be true to ourselves – honestly examining, naming, and claiming our assets and liabilities, our gifts and our weaknesses, in order to dream bigger dreams based on a real and truthful foundation.  If we know how deep and wide our roots grow, we will better be able to reach our branches out to the sky.


Faithfully Your Pastor,