“Thanks to significant work by the people of the synod, God has cast a vision,” and now it is the time for the people of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (SEPA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to take on the work God is dreaming for them to do, said Jeff Kjellberg of Kairos Associates. Kjellberg and Bishop Claire Burkat introducd the synod’s three year campaign, Forward Together in Faith, at the annual Synod Assembly on Friday, May 8.
Kjellberg explained the work explored what the 21st Century church looks like, and concluded that it looks very much like the 1st Century church. Forward Together in Faith has created four areas to imagine where God’s vision can be carried out by, much the way the early church acted, developing people of the church as equippers, innovators, communicators, and developing networks to connect the church’s people. His task was to explore the area of equipping.
People in the synod were asked what issues the people of God face, and a video, “Dan on the Street,” showed people suggesting the role of the church in today’s world. The people on the street said the church should help in the community, address social issues, crime, and homelessness, and churches should commit to collaboration to meet those issues, and to get the word out on the street about what they are doing and can do. Kjellberg noted the comments showed that people on the street already saw the church as alive and active.
We need to remember that it is the 21st Century, and we need to be creative and imaginative to met the incredible amount of challenges and to do the work to meet those challenges. While equipping isn’t new, 21st Century approaches can be applied to the task. A pilot assessment tool was used in several congregations to determine how best to assist them with what they need to carry out the vision. The results of the pilot were so successful that every congregation in SEPA will use the assessment tool to determine what they individually need.
Teri Lanan, a member of Trinity, Lansdale, shared the congregation’s experience as they developed their own three-year campaign without benefit of a Church Assessment Tool. While their early efforts seemed to point to success, the effort soon stalled. In retrospect, Trinity decided using it might have given them guidance, helping them to evaluate their campaign, refocus, and move forward with new insight and understanding.
Bishop Burkat reminded the assembly that all components of the campaign would be explored, and then offered some specifics planned to help equip leaders in the church:
- Mission school, bringing national leaders to the synod, and providing grants to lay and rostered leaders in the synod to go to retreats and events, all to teach how leaders can take risks and for them to share their success and failures.
- Use distance learning and social media to develop programs to equip leaders.
- Facilitate sharing of expertise and best practices developed.
- Continuing education grants to encourage learning.
- Congregational access to the assessment tool to help them identify their willingness to change, strengths (which they will be encouraged to share with others), and identify where assistance is needed.
- Raise scholarship funds for seminarians (training for lay and rostered leadership) to reduce their education debt. Bishop Burkat noted that in the past many seminarians were supported by scholarships from the church and their congregations.
— John Kahler