Focus First Q&A with Steering Committee Member Haley Manulik

By November 1, 2017Focus First

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View More: excites you most about the Focus First planning process?

I think its having a direction for our congregation to strive for. Right now I feel like were in kind of a middle man type of position, and we have so many opportunities to be this incredible downtown church for our community. Hopefully this will give us the opportunity to move forward in that direction. I feel like we have The Gathering up and running, were changing things up a little in our Childrens Ministries — and were kind of in limbo about the building program. For me, all kinds of things feel really up in the air, and this process gives everyone an opportunity to say, “You know what? We need to move forward with this so we can get to where we need to be!” I think having everyone get behind something will make all the difference.

What do you think is different about Focus First from planning processes weve used in the past?

I personally have never been involved with any sort of strategic planning for our church, but I am hoping that since weve gone to the effort of hiring our consultant — and some of us have been involved in strategic planning in other organizations — we are all very adamant about not failing. Everyones fear is that were going to do all this work and nothing will change. I feel like the people on the committee will be pushing to make changes happen once the congregation lets us know about the direction. Everyone on this committee wants to make a difference in the church. Also, its my understanding that in the past we havent had the consultant continuing to guide us after the gathering process, so I think thats also very different.

What do you see as the challenges to this Focus First process?

I think the biggest challenge will be trying to align what the congregation wants; to really dig into the information they give us and make the best recommendation, to say with complete clarity, “This is what the whole church wants.” Weeding carefully through all the surveys and Focus Group feedback and information given to us — especially if we have the involvement were hoping for — to make sure we arrive where the congregation really wants is a big responsibility and we don’t take that lightly. The pivotal role of this committee is to process all the information we gather and be sure the conclusion is jelled and clear. To do otherwise would be a complete disservice to the congregation.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities offered to us by the Focus First process?

I think having two hours for people to talk in a focused way about the future of our church — to really open up, share deeply and honestly, and to use this as a positive platform for thinking and planning together. This is a rare opportunity for the quiet middle group — the ones who usually dont speak up but who have strong feelings — to express their thoughts and feelings about our church in a safe and productive environment, with the assurance that those thoughts and feelings are valued and will become part of the decision-making process. I think thats huge! I want people to feel like this is a platform they are comfortable with.

What do you most want people to know about the Focus First process?

I really want people to know and understand that its not about what the 10 of us think — its what you have asked for and what your concerns are. To really be able to nail that down if we have 1,000 surveys and 200 Focus Group participants — thats a lot to get our arms around, and were very dedicated to doing our part of this process well.

What professional or personal attributes do you think led to your being selected for this committee?

Ive never been part of anything like this so Im really interested in learning all about it! I have been part of a lot of volunteer opportunities where I worked with a lot of different kinds of people, so I do know how to make people feel comfortable and that they are being listened to — and heard. Because of my volunteer roles in the community — and hosting The Gathering during its first year — I think people have seen my face enough to know I will help them feel comfortable. What we are asking people to do in this process can be really uncomfortable for people who are not used to expressing these kinds of feelings in a group setting, so were hoping to make that process easier for them.

How long have you been involved with First Church — and in what ways?

I joined the church and started teaching in the preschool in 2007. Weve been part of the traditional service, The Gathering, and Genesis Sunday School class. I taught for three years in the preschool, and my kids have been in preschool since 2010. My husband, Mason, and I have both taught in the Childrens Academy. We have three children: Mollie, 7, is in second grade; Spencer, 4, is in pre-K; and Mary Alice is 23 months old.

What is it about our church you are most proud of?

I’m proud that we, as a congregation, try our best to really “go out to be Gods people in the world.” We say that every Sunday, and I feel like we really practice what we preach. I feel like were very open to all kinds of people — from opening our arms to the homeless community, to the Justice Ministries,  to all kinds of other things — our church does “go out to be Gods people in the world” exceptionally well.

What is your highest hope for our church?

I would love for us to continue to grow our church. Being a Downtown Fort Worth church — a big community church — is incredible. I want our building to grow — with more room to worship and especially fellowship. I grew up in a church that had a fellowship area, and I think having that unstructured time together before everyone goes to their respective worship service allows us to make friends across the church. Fellowship like this cant happen without some sort of gathering space. I hope we can have something like that. Space to gather and connect with one another is so important to people “being a church.” Having Wesley Hall full now with services doesnt give us the ability to have that fellowship space. For me, I think its super important to meet people in the church and for us to be accountable to one another. I think the reason God wants us to be in a church setting — like the old churches of our time — is so that we can be accountable to one another. The more you surround yourself in a community of Christians, the more you want to go out and spread Jesus love!


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