As we begin to emerge from our long COVID isolation, and life slowly returns to something akin to “normal,” what do you hope to experience through your relationship with St. John’s? How can St. John’s support and nurture you, and in turn, are there any gifts that you hope to share with our parish and our community? How have we been changed by the experience of the last year and and how is God calling us to share and show the love of Jesus in a rapidly changing world?
Questions like this are always important, and perhaps more so now than ever before. It’s a conversation that the Vestry has been having for several months, and I am excited to share that it’s one that will soon involve all who wish to help shape the vision and future of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The Vestry recently voted to approve and execute a contract with Ministry Architects for a Church-wide ministry consultation engagement. I cannot express how excited I am by this news! This will be a significant investment of both time and resources, but the timing could not be better. Rather than attempt to summarize the engagement in broad terms, I’d like to share the following from the Ministry Architects website:
- We listen and identify your church’s areas of greatest passion and the obstacles keeping you from getting there.
- We create for you a manageable, step-by-step strategic plan (or in some cases, we develop a manageable timeline for the strategic plan you’ve already got).
- We sequence the work and (this is where we are different from most consultants) actually implement that strategic plan right alongside you. When churches bring on Ministry Architects beyond the assessment, we give you more than a plan; we share the load to ensure the plan gets executed.
As a former consultant, I am familiar with the old joke that goes: “What’s the definition of a consultant? Someone who takes your watch and then tells you what time it is.” From my experience during our due diligence interview process, I can say with confidence that this does not apply to Ministry Architects. Over the course of many weeks, we met with representatives of Ministry Architects to discuss the present state of St. John’s, and to learn more about their work. What impressed me most is their focus on truly discovering the right path for each congregation they work with – and then walking alongside the church to help with implementation. This will be an 18-month partnership, structured for our success.
Another important point: we are blessed in that we are not approaching this engagement from a position of discord or strife. I spoke with representatives from several churches that had contracted with Ministry Architects to help address serious community grievances and long-term organizational concerns; and while I’m glad our circumstances are not like theirs at this time, in all cases these references confirmed that Ministry Architects was engaged, responsive and focused on the needs of that church, and clearly ready to roll up their sleeves to dig deep into whatever needed to be accomplished with compassion and love.
So, if we are growing and healthy, why do we need Ministry Architects? One of the references I spoke with summed it up perfectly when he said, “all churches tend to settle at – or revert to – their inherent capacities, and it’s critical to pair growth with infrastructure, side-by-side.” Quite simply, all indicators suggest that we will continue to grow, yet because that growth is happening so quickly it’s hard to keep up with building the parish “infrastructure” needed to accommodate that growth.
The Ministry Architects engagement will assess a broad range of infrastructure capacities – everything from staffing to facilities, from our membership database and communications infrastructure to the organization of our ministries – in order to find areas where we might require some focused improvement. Most importantly, we have asked Ministry Architects to help build a robust, empowered system for engaging and equipping volunteers in ministry which will help us to share leadership more broadly and relieve pressure on current staff.
As we prepare for this next phase in the evolution of St. John’s, I know that the assistance we will receive from an independent, outside voice will be invaluable. After all, we’re trying to do something that we’ve never done before! Mo. Sarah will be sharing more information about Ministry Architects in the coming weeks, and as we finalize the engagement calendar, we will reach out to invite each of you to participate in this important process. I hope that you will join us!