“Congregations often have no idea what their purpose is.”
Someone made that comment this week in a meeting I was attending. That person was in a good position to know, as someone who has had frequent conversations with church leaders and congregations across the United Church of Christ. I was surprised by their observation, I admit, and also concerned.
Do you know what the purpose of your congregation is? What’s your reason for being? What’s your why?
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? We’re a church, so our purpose is to study scripture, worship, pray, and be faithful!”
That’s all true. Is there something more to it, though? Our implicit purpose as the Church is indeed to testify to the amazing love and wide mercy of God in Jesus Christ, in word and in deed. We exist as communities of faith dedicated to deepening our faith, sharing the gifts of God with others, and building a world where the God-given preciousness of each person is celebrated and all have access to the fullness of life God promises.
What does that really look like… for your congregation, in your community, in this very moment?
Take some time in a Council meeting, an adult education series, or some other church gatherings this Fall to talk about what the purpose of your congregation really is. Consider these questions:
- When others outside the congregation think about your church, how would they describe it? How does what they might say differ from what you’d hope they would observe about you? What might that suggest about what you may need to do differently and how you “show up” in the world?
- When you consider all the ministries and activities your congregation is engaged in, what things are most important to you or say the most about your congregation’s unique sense of purpose and personality? What are your core values and commitments?
- When you prayerfully discern how God might be calling your particular congregation to minister and serve at this time, what emerges for you? How is God calling you right now? What nudges of the Holy Spirit are you noticing? What might you need to re-imagine or risk in order to stay true to your calling?
When we’re clear about our purpose and our calling as congregations, it helps us be better stewards of our people, our property, our time, and our financial resources. We focus all our bountiful gifts on what matters most. People around us are energized by our clarity of purpose and feel moved to be part of the work. And we are doing the spiritual work we need to do: attending to the Holy Spirit’s leading, making space for God to move with and through us, and staying grounded in who we are and the God who creates and accompanies us.
What’s your why? I can’t wait to hear your answers!
Grace and peace,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister