“‘Enthusiastic’ is the most common word I think I’ve heard in regard to people’s sharing about the congregation’s work (in answer to the first discussion question of the gathering).” Mission First! Project Coordinator Kenetha Stanton is hearing a lot of enthusiasm as she talks with hosts for the 56 Mission Gatherings that have occurred.
More than 2,000 Disciples have taken part in gatherings ranging in size from six to several hundred people. Disciples Women, youth, regional assemblies, special area gatherings and ethnic communities have all provided venues for talking about what matters most – God’s call on our lives. In the region of Georgia, more than 250 youth at camp participated, but also folks with 90 years of experience participated in the process.
“The conversations and sharing that took place in small groups during our NAPAD Convocation allowed people to speak about their hopes for the Church. People had the opportunity to convey what the needs are in their local communities and how the Church can be prophetic in its response,” shares Rev. April Lewton, National Benevolent Association Vice President for Development and Marketing who led the NAPAD gathering. “There was often a lot of shared laughter. Groups stopped to join in prayer over something, and people came away encouraged through their connections together.”
“We had the wonderful opportunity to host 11 Mission Gatherings throughout the state of Georgia.,” says Georgia Regional Minister Denise Bell, a member of the Mission First! Implementation Team. “I was never quite sure of what to expect except that each one would be different. Attendance ranged from 15 to 250 and we experienced the joy of sharing current mission stories and activities and dreaming about what courageous actions God has in mind for us in our general and regional church.”
Bell continues, “I heard comments like, ‘I wish all of our members were able to participate,’ and ‘This was a wonderful exercise, I did not know that all of this stuff was going on in our congregations. We care about our communities.'”
She reports that one gathering has already started a conversation between two racially different congregations to join ministry efforts in their community. “Every person left the gathering with a renewed hope about the church. Our dreams will discern a shared community day where every church at the same time will make a service investment in their community. We are already working on a shared mission project and ways to celebrate every congregations mission projects.”
More Mission Gatherings will be hosted across Disciples regions in the coming months with all the results poured into a report to the Mission Council meeting the first weekend in December. The report will be a combination of computer and human analysis of all the information received from all the mission gatherings. The Council will discern one or more themes for the Church to help focus our work together. In addition, the General Board, meeting in February, will discuss whether to formalize the governance changes piloted these past two years and present them to the 2017 General Assembly.
Data timeline set
The Mission First Implementation Team has laid out a timeline for the qualitative data analysis for the Mission Gathering feedback so the data is ready in time for the Mission Council the first weekend in December. This will be based on current research methods using a combination of human and computer analysis.
Components of the Mission First! initiative
The Mission First! pilot is a little like “run(ning) with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is a two-part pilot project to help us focus on our goal of showing God’s love in the world (a.k.a. mission) and making our structures more nimble for this new day.
Mission focus: The work of the Mission Gatherings from the spring and continuing this summer and fall is meant to listen to God’s call as we hear it through the congregations and ministries across the life of the Church.
Nimble structures: Since the General Board meeting in the spring of 2015, the Administrative Committee has been serving as a proto-Governing Board (as called for in the Mission First proposal) – smaller in number than the current board, but seeing to the ministry of administration.
Timeline: This pilot project of focus and administration will be evaluated at the February 2017 meeting of the full General Board. If it is judged to be a good way forward, there will be changes to our governing document (The Design) that will renew the way our ministries relate in covenant. Those changes will come to the 2017 General Assembly.
To learn more about Mission First, go to http://missionfirst.disciples.
Get ready for YOUR Mission Gathering
There are a number of ways you can get ready for the Mission Gathering you will be attending this year. The first is prayer – prayer that the Holy Spirit infuse the discussions, prayer that participants come with open hearts, prayer that God will indeed gift us with the vision we need.
You can also do some studying and thinking about how we show God’s love and become a “movement for wholeness.” Some of the free resources readily available for download include:
- Studies (videos and study guides) based on the Disciples of Christ identity statement
- the Justice Primer (8 pages, includes study guide) and Devotion to Justice (34 devotions) publications
- REACH curriculum (three sessions, all resources online) from Global Ministries