Focus First Report and Recommended Strategic Initiatives

By March 8, 2018Focus First

Introduction

The Focus First strategic planning process was appointed in the summer of 2017 to determine how FUMCFW might best plan for future ministries and the development of the congregation. FUMCFW is a strong, vibrant congregation and our planning approach appreciated and builds on the strengths and unwavering faith of this congregation. The Focus First organizing team has studied, prayed, worked diligently with the staff and congregation to discern God’s will for the future of our church. What follows is the result of this work and discernment.

The Planning Process

The organizing team began its work in July 2017 at the request of the Church Council. Team members are Jim Whitton — Chair, Patricia Healy, Richard Holman, Danica Knight, Rev. Lance Marshall, Samantha Morgan, Haley Manulik, and Nancy Tully. The group also received input and coordinated work with Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Bruster.

Our group was charged with organizing efforts for a four-phase planning process to determine the future ministry and development of the congregation. These efforts have been guided by consultant Susan Beaumont, a specialist in large church planning and staff development. Three of the four phases are complete.

Phase 1 — Getting Ready
In the summer and fall of 2017, we gathered extensive data about the church and community. Additionally, July through September, leadership development sessions were conducted by the consultants in the areas of Appreciative Inquiry (a congregational inquiry tool), orientation to long-range planning and training of Focus Group leaders for gathering input from the congregation.

Phase 2 — Data Gathering
Several sources and methods of data gathering were employed to ensure a full view of church history, financial, census information, and input from the congregation. This data was shared with the Leadership Summit and used by the organizing team for their discernment:

  • Congregational and financial historical data
  • Mission field research
  • Congregational survey results
  • Congregational Focus Group output

A Leadership Summit was held in February 2018 to review the above outputs, capture input and begin to discern God’s will for FUMCFW. Over 100 faithful and engaged church members and staff appreciated the history of our church, claiming the strengths and values of this faithful congregation. Through song, prayer, and discernment the group identified potential areas for strategic initiatives. The summit generated key input used by the organizing team for final discernment in developing the Strategic Initiatives.

Phase 3 — Shaping the Future
Following the retreat, the organizing team studied the information gathered and entered reflected on the feedback captured through surveys, interviews, and the Leadership Summit. The group was aided by advisory support from Susan Beaumont. From this effort, the group developed the final Core Values and Strategic Initiatives and prepared a report for review with FUMCFW. Based on FUMCFW’s congregational input and guidance, the final report was developed for review and approval by Church Council.

Phase 4 — Implementation
Upon Church Council approval, Innovation Teams will be established to develop the 3- to 5-year plan to implement each Strategic Initiative. This work will be consolidated into an overall Strategic Plan for FUMCFW and deployment will be guided and supported by the Church Council.

Core Values

The mission of FUMCFW is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The extensive feedback gathered through the Focus First process consistently identified the following priorities as Core Values of our church. We recognize these core values as both descriptive and aspirational. We seek to build on them in an ever-improving process of discerning God’s call for our congregation.

We are grateful for God’s grace, which allows us to be:

Service-oriented
We go out to be “God’s People in The World,” understanding that serving others is a key mark of discipleship.

Grace-filled
God is love, and as God loves us, we love others. Our theology of grace leads us to refrain from judgment or exclusion, instead inviting all to life in the kingdom of God.

Family-focused
We celebrate families, particularly ensuring that children come to know and experience God’s unconditional love for them.

Strengths

The Strategic Initiatives fall within the broader context of our church life and ministry. To that end, we also need to acknowledge our strengths and focus on preserving and further strengthening these areas. FUMCFW is a church of many strengths and talents; those highlighted here are the result of input received via the Survey, Focus Groups, and our Leadership Summit.

Worshipping in different ways
Our church excels at meeting a variety of worship needs with flexibility and creativity. Our regular development of new worship communities expresses a willingness to try things that are new and innovative while maintaining our core traditions and identity. These developments are intentional, focused on both meeting the needs of the existing congregation and reaching out to those not yet a part of our church. We will continue to explore how our church can facilitate our community’s desire to experience God in worship in a multitude of ways.

Ministry with children and families
Our church excels at offering a fun and engaging children’s ministry that is deeply child-centered and developmentally appropriate. In the embrace of this ministry, children experience real spiritual development and receive gifted and meaningful pastoral care. This includes teaching children the depth and breadth of the Christian calendar, the importance of the sacraments, and what it means to live in full inclusion in the life of the church. Additionally, the ministry is structured in a way that creates opportunities for families to be engaged and included in ministry with children and in relationships with other families and friends. We will continue to equip and support this ministry as the needs of the community it serves continue to grow and change.

Theology of grace
Our church excels at clearly articulating and living into our Wesleyan identity, theology, and practices. This is particularly key in emphasizing the role of God’s grace in life, salvation, and sanctification. We equip the congregation to reflect theologically through scripture, tradition, reason, and experience and are willing to engage with people who think differently. We help our congregation understand the unique emphases of United Methodism, and how those emphases influence their daily lives of faith. We will continue to strongly claim and promote our United Methodist identity and our Wesleyan heritage throughout the ministries of our church.

Excellent music in worship
Our church excels in utilizing music in congregational worship. This transcends worship style or community, instead embracing the diverse ways in which music works to connect people to God. We will continue to emphasize the importance of music in our worship communities and seek to strengthen this vital ministry.

Serving others outside the church
Our church excels in serving others as an act of Christian discipleship. We leave worship with the charge to “go out and be God’s people in the world,” a call which leads us to serve others through congregational activities, the First St. Methodist Mission, our chosen vocations, partnership with outside organizations, support of the Methodist Justice Ministry, and countless other avenues of mission and outreach. We serve in mission locally, domestically, and internationally, and foster a culture of responding to needs through the creation of new ministries, organizations, and non-profits. We will continue to value service as a hallmark of discipleship and work to create new opportunities to engage an even broader portion of our congregation in Christian service.

Strategic Initiative: Innovate

Small groups: “Life-giving groups”
We envision a church in which every member is connected to a group of people that connects them to the body of Christ and facilitates spiritual growth and discipleship. New members and visitors of our church will be invited into participation in a group that fits their schedule, interests, and phase of life through a streamlined and clearly communicated process. Our church will regularly recruit and equip lay people to lead and facilitate these groups and will launch new groups on a regular basis. These groups will exist both within and outside the Sunday School model, creating a culture where church members view small group participation as an important and enjoyable aspect of life at FUMCFW.

Next Steps:
We propose the creation of an innovation team to examine our existing small group structure and to dream ways that our church can take steps towards our vision of small group life at our church. This group will examine questions such as:

  • How does our church currently support and encourage group life? Who does this serve well, and who is it not serving well?
  • What models for small group life exist in other church communities? Can our church learn any lessons from these models?
  • What are our current obstacles to reaching our vision for small groups? What are our opportunities?

Strategic Initiative: Encourage

Physical facilities: “A building that connects the church”
We will make changes to our existing physical church plant that facilitate connection among our congregation, our ministries, and our community. We will leverage the strengths of our beautiful, historic campus while making the changes necessary to provide for the ministry needs of the 21st century. FUMCFW’s physical campus will provide opportunities for strangers to meet each other, friends to connect with each other, and new worship communities and congregational events to grow unhindered. We will create gathering spaces and a space for the Gathering. We will create an environment that draws ministries together and promotes greater unity in the body of Christ.

Next steps:
Fortunately, work on making this vision a reality is well underway. We propose that the existing Building Committee, Board of Trustees, and Church Council leaders work together to finalize stewardship campaign and construction plans for the envisioned church renovation and expansion.

Youth ministry: “Our leading edge”
We will support and encourage the work of our Youth Ministries by deeply committing our congregation to ministry with teenagers. We will be a church in which teenagers are welcomed, encouraged, and empowered by the entire congregation. Our ministry with youth will be a strength of our church, providing Christian community and discipleship for young people and connecting them to life in our church in ways that acknowledge their needs, gifts, and unique voice as the youngest members of the congregation.

Next steps:
We affirm the gifts and graces of our existing youth ministries leadership and commit to supporting the Youth Ministries’ vision and goals currently in place. We propose the creation of a committee to examine ways in which ministry with youth can be strengthened by continued and improved integration with the rest of the FUMCFW church community. They will examine questions such as:

  • In what ways can the connection between youth ministry leaders and the overall church leadership be strengthened?
  • In what ways can the church provide more opportunities for connection among the parents of youth ministry outside of youth programming?
  • In what ways can teenagers be more deeply included in the activities and relationships that define our congregational life?

Strategic Initiative: Explore

Increased diversity: “The kingdom of God”
We asked ourselves “who is our neighbor?” and we came to realize that our neighborhood is growing. Looking deeply at ourselves, we feel called to broaden our horizons, grow our circles of influence, and open ourselves to others in new and compelling ways. We envision a church community that helps members meet people from other walks of life than their own, and that connects people from different walks of life with the gospel.

Next Steps:
We celebrate our church congregation articulating a vision of an increasingly diverse community, and we give God thanks for this spirit of outreach in our midst! We also humbly acknowledge that there is not a clearly articulated answer to the question, “What do you mean by diversity?” We propose the formation of a long-term committee to explore the desire for diversity in our congregation and to provide our leadership with a clearer understanding of this vision for our community. They will examine questions such as:

  • In what ways is our current congregation diverse, and in what ways is it not diverse?
  • What desire does our congregation express when it wishes for more diversity?
  • How is FUMCFW currently experienced by people from diverse communities not well-represented in our church?
  • In what ways might FUMCFW think or act differently in order to achieve the diversity the congregation envisions?
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