In October 2020, our Church Council gathered to prayerfully review our Church’s four Vision focus areas. They discerned that the vision was still strong and valid and grounded in our Church’s DNA and should form the foundation for which our 2021 Vision is built. At the same retreat, we also prayerfully considered where we invest extra energy and resources into over the next 12 months. Church Council discerned our priorities for 2021 should be:
- Young Adults – as a church we want to “grow young” by journeying with, encouraging, resourcing and empowering the young adults in our church; and
- Being a good neighbour – embracing what it means to be a lighthouse church and reaching out to other churches, our local community and beyond.
With these priorities, we have “refreshed” the wording of our four Vision focus areas to be:
- Faith and Discipleship - deepening our own faith and discipleship and growing faith and discipleship in others.
- Children, Youth and Families – building faith and discipleship in children, youth and family
- Generations – pastorally and spiritually supporting those who are moving through key transitional points in life, especially our seniors
- Community Engagement – building a sense of community and connection within both our church family and local community
2020’s experience with the COVID pandemic brought complication and disruption to our church life and Vision but we are determined not to let the experiences of 2020 influence the way we experience 2021.
However, we also must acknowledge that there are some significant challenges before us that we wish to address and move beyond. These challenges include:
- Ministry staff shortage and changes in our volunteers. Last year we were ready to embark on our big audacious goal of adding to our ministry staff but COVID complicated that process. We also have found that the lockdown has impacted on the way people are serving and volunteering. We acknowledge that these both need to be addressed as we move forward into 2021.
- Where is the next generation of children and youth coming from? We affirm the strong desire of the church to grow young, but this just doesn’t happen. It will require significant focus and investment to identify, attract and connect in the next generation of children, families, youth and young adults.
- How do we strengthen the neo-connections? Last year we saw people connect to the church in different ways—some found them helpful while others left people feeling disconnected. How do we strengthen these all these new connections with each other in a way which is life-giving and spiritually helpful.
This will culminate in a “refining our mission” planning day/session in May 2020 where we can all bring our voices and ideas to find the best way to renew, refine and refresh our vision.
Considered – As an inclusive church we recognise the breath of theology and understandings within our congregation. We encourage people to develop their own theology through conversations and exploration – drawing on important sources such as the Bible, theologians, church teachings, and our own intellect and reason. We believe that through wrestling with theology together that the truth of God is revealed. As such our teaching, preaching, bible studies and small groups will encourage conversation, listening to others, inquisitive questions, an openness to hearing God speak through the Bible and others and mutual respect.
Growing – As a church we embrace the NSW Uniting Church Synod goal of being a growing church. We wish to spiritually grow in our personal relationship in Jesus, communally grow together in our care and support of our church family; practically grow as a lighthouse church in our influence and impact within our local community and with our sister churches; and numerically grow in the number of people connected and transformed by our church.
Just – As a church we are committed to walking the way of Jesus who had a bias towards reaching out to and helping the poor, the marginalised and those who are suffering injustice. We wish to be a church who helps our members and community be aware of issues of justice and encourage and empower people to respond in a way that is right for them and in a way that makes a difference.
Within the uncertainty and challenges that we are facing in 2021, it is hard to be too specific ... but we hope to in the first portion of 2021 to spend some time in conversations across our church community pondering within the Vision framework and priorities that Church Council have set, what specific goals, ideas or initiatives we feel God is stirring us to undertake to move forward in this direction. Already some ideas have been emerging including:
1) Strengthening neo-connections. Encouraging relational connections across our church community which are real, relevant, engaging and enriching – and in doing so strengthen our discipleship process.
- Resourcing and equipping conversational bible studies. In the lead up to Easter we hope to encourage a model of conversational bible learning through a three week study. This Lenten study will be encourage relational community through conversations and listening with the goal of a deeper, considered faith. This will be open to all existing bible study groups and we are exploring the possibility of running it in a distributed or online capacity.
- Encouraging (and maybe discovering new) COVID safe ways to share hospitality
- A renewed focus on Prayer – especially praying with each other
- Developing a framework which makes sense for non-geographical pastoral relationships
2) Growing Young. To commit to growing young in everything that we do. To develop and implement strategies that engage and retain teenagers and young adults, and develop “sticky faith” within them, thus invigorating the entire church.
- Intentional focus on relationships – prioritising the commitment to journey with young people and young adults—with a focus on relational conversation and support. This is especially important for those who may have become disconnected during 2020.
- Creating spaces where young people can call their own – to gather, connect and be with each other.
- Exploring opportunities to connect with youngsters, kids, youth, families and young adults in our local community and beyond to build up our existing groups and allow more young people to be brought into a relationship with Jesus and grow in faith and life.
3) A more Just Faith. Raise awareness and create opportunities to respond to God’s love by being a good neighbour to people, communities and churches around and beyond us – and as much, embrace what it means for us to be a lighthouse church.
- An intentional focus in all that we do – especially worship and groups – to be more just. Specific blocks within worship to allow raising of justice issues using a biblical and faith framework. Opportunities for people to participate in a social justice way and make a difference
- An increased awareness in the local community of who we are as a church and what we can offer – including website, marketing and personally reaching out.
- Encouraging missional collaboration with other Uniting Churches – especially those who have an existing relationship with us and our geographical sister churches.