Leading into the Future

“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ
and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.”
I Corinthians 4:1

These words hold the mysteries of God that not only changed history but will also help us to bring about change now and in the future.

Rob Hagan, Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation serving the Northwest Region, recently wrote an article entitled, “Leading into the Future.” His article caused me to reflect on how hard it is for us to think about the future when the present consumes so much of our thinking, praying, understanding, and planning. Most of us find it difficult to create plans for the future when knowing what we will be able to do is so uncertain.

Rob says, “Those voices of the past and of the future embody the Heliotropic Principal. Simply put, the Heliotropic principle states that every living organism gravitates towards the strongest energy, whether that energy is positive or negative. The sunflower is the strongest example of this principle. It begins its journey with the sunrise and ends the day following the sunset. The stories of impact which people of faith have exhibited in the local church must be rekindled and shared with those in pews at home and in person.”

The idea of the Heliotropic Principal causes me to wonder what would happen if we took a look at where our congregations tend to gravitate. What is the strongest source of energy being generated? Are we gravitating toward the things that bring about positive outcomes, or do we find ourselves stuck contemplating the need for more members and more money? Do we focus our energies on our abundance or what we perceive to be our scarcity?

As with the churches that Rob serves in the Northwest, the churches in our own Presbytery have risen to the opportunity for the ministries which this time affords. We have seen churches pivot and embrace change in worship, find new ways to “collect” the offering, creatively hold congregational meetings, and joyously celebrate high holy days. We have learned that ministry is not confined to a building, and caring for one another is one of the most important ways we can be servants of Christ.

It is important to celebrate the past, but we need to embrace a vision for what the future holds. How will we worship and do ministry in the future? How are we being called to grow spiritually? Where will we focus our energies in the future? Is it possible that some of what we have adopted to get through this unusual season of ministry is part of the adaptive change we have been needing to make for a long time? A vision for the future begins with the leadership of our congregations, and that means not only our pastors but also elders and other volunteers who provide leadership roles.

Here are some ideas for how we might get started:

Set Direction. 

  • Develop a new vision and strategies to achieve that vision
  • Set high and reasonable standards
  • Cultivate stories of how people are already living out that vision

Set Priorities.

  • Identify your gifts and your strengths
  • Focus on what your congregation does well
  • Devote time and resources to those ministries

Align People.

  • Communicate direction to influence teams and staff to embrace the vision
  • Connect the ministry vision with life and change
  • Invite leaders into the vison and strategy development process

Motivate, Mentor, and Inspire.

  • Energize people to develop and overcome barriers to change
  • Ask people why they love the church and share those stories
  • Share the ministry plan (the budget) in a way that will inspire generosity through voices of the past and the future

Produce Change. 

  • Let people know the church deeply cares for them and is there to walk alongside them in whatever challenges they face
  • Teach that giving is an act of love and a spiritual discipline just like prayer, worship, and bible study
  • Communicate stewardship with grace and love

We as the church are being charged to adopt the Heliotropic Principle by revering the voices of the past and engaging the voices of the future as the church changes ministry in a changing culture.

Deborah Rexrode, PhD
Associate for Stewardship

Grief, Gratitude, and Giving

Changing the calendar to a new year looked somewhat different this time. It did not feel the same as it has in the past where the excitement of a new year brings resolutions and goals for what we hope to accomplish. It is hard to think about planning for what we might do this year when we are limited in our ability to be together as we have been in the past. Some days it is hard to think about what we can do at this moment let alone think about next month or the month after.

Wholehearted Stewardship

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in a few things,
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
(Matthew 25:21)

In the Parable of the Talents, we are reminded that we are called to steward that which God has entrusted into our care. We are called to receive what we have been given, nurture and grow it, share with those in need, and return to God what belongs to God having been faithful stewards of many things.

Stay Focused on God

“They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”
(Isaiah 40:31)

In a recent blog, Olanda Carr, Senior Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation, writes that over the past few weeks, he has been drawn to this passage of scripture…perhaps because all we have been doing for weeks and months is waiting…

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

 “For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Diana Butler Bass’s most recent book is entitled, “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.” We know that gratitude is good, but many of us find it hard to sustain a meaningful life of gratefulness. Most of us report feeling gratitude on a regular basis, but those private feelings seem disconnected from larger concerns of our public lives.

Planning a Fall Stewardship Program

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  Isaiah 40:31a

This fall presents a lot of challenges as to how we do ministry during a pandemic. It also causes us to wonder how our fall Stewardship efforts will be received. The reason is that while we say we are in this together, we are not all experiencing the pandemic the same. Some churches are struggling more than ever financially, while others find that giving has increased and finances are fine.

The Stewardship of White Privilege

One of my favorite definitions of stewardship, generally attributed to Clarence Stoughton, is “stewardship is everything we do after we say, ‘I believe.’” Stewardship is love in action—it puts feet to our faith.

What does that really look like? It’s easy for those of us who are white to join the crowd in professing “Black Lives Matter,” make a donation, and return to business as usual without doing the learning, listening, and soul searching required to join the movement for lasting systemic change.

Stewardship in a Liminal Time

Recently I have heard the word “liminal” used many times to describe this season we are experiencing in the life of our churches. The word liminal comes from the Latin word limens, which means “limit or threshold.” Author and theologian Richard Rohr defines liminal time in this way:

“It is when you have left, or are about to leave, the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”