I’m writing these thoughts from the room of my Bed and Breakfast in Cambridge, where I am spending a few days attending the festivities surrounding my son’s college graduation. In a perfect world, I would have finished them before I left, but perfect and I are not well acquainted.
These are exciting but exhausting days for me. I am what is called an “outgoing introvert,” which means that I love meeting people and get a lot of energy from them, but I also need my “quiet time” to recharge. The days and events involve spending a lot of time meeting the people who have been a part of Duncan’s life the past few years as well as their parents, which is fun, but last night I went to two contrasting events that coalesced where I find my energy.
One was a cocktail party in the penthouse suite of a swanky hotel hosted by the parents of one of Duncan’s roommates, where I sort of hid in a corner talking to another of his roommates, as we snacked and other people milled about. The other was a wonderful dinner with the family of Duncan’s best friend. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years and it was nice to relax with people and feel at ease.
These events serve as a wonderful backdrop for what I’ve been focusing on at church the last few weeks. I finally completed the Mission in Ministry meetings I began in January. I want to thank all of you who attended, with a special shout out to those of you who hosted them. Over the course of 20 meetings, I met with members of the families of well over half of our active membership, which is pretty incredible.
Among the many benefits of the meetings is the fact that now I know the names and stories of so many more people and I feel much more connected to them. I also found that people who went to the events also got to know each other better. We moved beyond “cocktail conversation” to dinner conversation.
I also learned a lot about why people joined Emanuel and why they remained a part of it, as well as what they would like to see happen. There will be a lot of opportunities to share that information over the next months, but there were three things that stood out.
- almost everyone who has joined in the last twenty years, and everyone who has joined in the last 10 years, cited the social outreach efforts of Emanuel as one of its main draws.
- being warmly welcomed at an initial visit played a huge factor in people becoming engaged and finding a place to be involved made a difference in how they feel about the church
- those who have been members for years have deeply appreciated the sense of community at Emanuel and those who are recent members feel that welcome and yearn for more opportunities for outreach and social engagement to build a sense of shared community
Building on that information, and working in conjunction with the staff, I put together a position description for a new staff person. When I came to Emanuel, I said I would spend a good six to nine months listening and discerning before I proposed what we need in terms of staffing because it is important to figure out where the gaps are.
This week at Church Council I brought forward my proposal, which was approved, and we will begin searching for candidates for the position. It will begin as a three-quarter time position for a Community Life and Outreach Coordinator. The focus will be on community outreach and intergenerational programming, with a focus on social ministry, community action, communication and volunteer engagement. The position description will be posted here on our web site.
In addition, the intent is to extend it to a full time position by partnering with area congregations to develop a network for youth and young adult programming that will involve both outreach and social gatherings. This is a new, outside the box innovation I am currently working to develop, by building coalitions with area congregations to help increase the numbers for these ministries so we have both critical mass as well as a grasp of what ministry means in the 21st century.
My hope, which I shared with the council, is to augment this position by better utilizing Jeff Potter’s skill set as an educator in his work with our Church School Education as we concentrate on ways to connect with our children and provide ministry to their families. Jeff is doing a great job but I believe he has more to offer and we should use that! I am also exploring having a nursery coordinator, which is a huge focus area for people who are looking for a new church.
All of these ideas are included in our annual budget, as we knew I would be short staffed when I arrived, so we planned to add staff during the year when we proposed the approved budget.
The end goal of all of these staffing moves is to provide more opportunities for members to find points of connection and areas to serve, while also building community, so that we are able to have more dinner table conversations not just cocktail chatter.
I am excited about these recent moves and ask that you join me in praying that we find the right person for this ministry, as I believe that it will help us truly fulfill the mission we have to be “In the City for Good”