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Hope for Outcomes

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We are quickly approaching the days of new years’ resolutions, how we hope to shift rhythms of our lives to better align with our goals in the next year. There will be all sorts of advice about how to keep the resolutions; by committing to a 30 day plan, reminders on your bathroom mirror, friends designated to encourage you and check in, etc.

The thing about some resolutions is that they start from a perceived deficiency. I need to do this_____ so that I will be better in this way_________. It isn’t that trying to improve is bad, but when we start with a negative we can sometimes get stuck there.

What if instead we were driven by a hope for what is possible?  If we hope for more energy to do the things that bring us joy—what behaviors might we take on or let go of that will enable us to have more energy? If we hope for deeper relationships—what priorities on our time will allow for the space to get to know others better? Individually these things take attention, effort and encouragement. It is no different in our communities of faith. If we start talking about all the ways we don’t have what we need to do ministry, we could get stuck there and not ever get to what we do have to share and work with.

For example, if we imagine the fictional, Epiphany Moravian church. They decided they were going to plan a huge Vacation Bible School program for early June, but determined that they didn’t have enough people willing to help. It could make folks feel like their lack of participants meant the end of their vision. So if they can’t do Vacation Bible School does that mean that won’t do anything?

What if instead, the church had a hoped for outcome to engage the neighborhood children during the summer break?  This could include a Vacation bible school program, but it is broad enough to make room for other ideas that might be easier for the volunteers to take on.

What might be the next steps for discovering the best way to do that?

  • Pray for the neighborhood
  • What impact do we hope our congregation’s ministry has on our neighbors? Do we have a way to check in to find out what our impact is?
  • Talk to the neighbors who have children, what would be helpful and exciting to them?
  • Find out when during the day, most children could use something to do
  • Ask about how the children already spend their time
  • Connect with other churches or organizations that serve the children in the community, maybe even partner with one of them to share resources and serve together
  • Gather your volunteers and see what assets and gifts they bring and build on what you have to create a plan for the summer.

By listening to the community and the families that Epiphany Moravian wants to serve they get some important information.  The leaders learn that most of the families around the church are overwhelmed in the summer because so many things are happening out of their school year routine. They share that it would be nice to have a night off from cooking and cleaning to spend time checking in with their kids.

The volunteers at Epiphany include a number of excellent cooks. They decide to host weekly family dinners at the church. After sending out letters in the neighborhood and posting information on their sign. They prepare to welcome local families for dinner. They gather board games and outdoor games that are set up so families can eat a meal and spend some time hanging out together where someone else cooks and cleans. They have 8-10 regular families that join in on family dinner nights. By the end of the summer, the families share their appreciation for time and space to be cared for.

At the last event of the summer, Epiphany’s leaders ask families to tell them what worked and what didn’t in the summer events. The families share their thoughts and the team takes notes so that they can learn from this experience and use what they know next time.

When we begin with a hoped for outcome, we give ourselves room to discover there are many ways to achieve a goal. And we, hopefully, avoid the belief that God needs us to be someone else in order to follow Jesus where he calls to go.

As you enter into this new year, I hope that you feel God’s love for you right now and can live into the person God is helping you to become as you grow in faith!

About the reviewer

Photo of Rebecca, her husband, and her two young boys.

As Director of Congregational Development, Rebecca works with congregations and provincial leadership to provide resources and support their ongoing work towards greater health and vitality. She works to cultivate collaborative relationships between and among pastors, congregations, provincial and interprovincial agencies and other partners. Working with communities of faith, her passion for capacity building and innovation have shaped her 15 year career in ordained ministry. She has led communities in reimagining their structures, practices, and traditions as they embrace Jesus’ call, supporting them through organizational change, worship creation, and adult learning curriculum. Rebecca’s evenings and weekends are often spent investing in good conversation over a mocha, making new connections in the community, or delighting in the laughter of her children and spouse. Email Rebecca.

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