What’s Our Story?

Your Strategic Planning team wants to know.

What is our biblical story as a congregation? As United Methodist Christians, we are a people of the Book, the Bible. We find our story in this book. We discover how God acted in the lives of the ancestors of our faith, which gives us eyes to see how God is acting in our lives now, and hope that God will act in our future in ways that bring salvation and wholeness. Walter Brueggeman, Old Testament theologian, says that our biblical stories are told in the congregation not with the aim that people learn more about the Bible but so that through the biblical story people may know more about themselves and their purpose.

A new Strategic Planning team began working this week to look at our ministry opportunities for the future. We will begin by identifying our biblical story within God’s story, and we would like your feedback. What is the biblical story our congregation is now living? What story best describes who we are or where we find ourselves at this point in our life together as a congregation? Why does this story seem to belong to us in a special way? What parts of the story fit for us, and what parts don’t fit?

You will see updates about this process regularly in the Connection, and have several ways to give feedback throughout the coming months. For this week, we want you to help us identify our biblical story. As you pray and study the Bible this week, please send the story that speaks to you to Jeannie Jensen at jeanniej@fumchurch.org, along with a brief statement about why that biblical story seems to fit our congregation at this time. Together we will come to know more about ourselves and our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Grace and peace,
Jeannie

From the Pastor – Strategic Planning Update

“What is God calling me to do in my daily life, to become a more faithful and effective disciple of Jesus Christ?”

That is the starting point for our Strategic Planning team. This month a Strategic Planning team began meeting to review our ministries and explore new opportunities for First United Methodist Church. We are not making any changes in our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Nor are we changing our process for fulfilling that mission by connecting with individuals, loving God through worship, growing in faith, and serving others. The work of this team is to explore how we might do all of that more faithfully by recommending some strategic priorities for the next 3-5 years, to focus our time, energy, and resources into those priorities that will be most effective in fulfilling our mission. Our work so far has been primarily getting organized, developing a group covenant to guide us in the way we work together, and beginning to identify our church’s story within the Biblical story.

We also realize that before we can begin to listen to one another and others, we must first listen to God. So our work together as a team began by setting goals for our own personal spiritual formation, and holding one another accountable to those goals – to ask the question, “What is God calling me to do to become a more faithful and effective disciple of Jesus Christ?” That is a good question for all of us, in every class or small group or committee in the church. What spiritual practice, what change in lifestyle, what action do I need to take to be more open to God and God’s leading in my life? I encourage you to join the work of the Strategic Planning team by setting your own personal spiritual formation goals. If you are in a Sunday School class or small group, ask the others in your group to help hold you accountable to those goals, and support one another as we all strive to grow in our faith.

The names of the Strategic Planning team are listed below. You will hear more about their work and ways you can give input over the next six months. Please pray for the work of this team, and for each member of the team individually.

Grace and peace,
Jeannie Jensen

Tyler Curtis
Sandy Kramer
Robbie Hill
Kevin Kienholz
Andrea Myers
Bob Potter
Ken Wright
Austin Rivera
Jeff Thompson

Now Finish It

2 Corinthians 8:7-11

Do you ever need a little push to stay motivated? Have you ever started a project with great enthusiasm, only to get distracted and end up stacking one more thing in your Closet of Good Intentions? Well, you’re not alone. The Corinthian church had the same problem.

Paul writes in his second letter to the church in Corinth, Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means.

The Christians in Corinth had a great plan. With Paul’s encouragement they were going to be in mission to the Jerusalem Christians. The Corinthian church had been started by Paul and was an established church. The members of the Corinthian church started off with the best intentions of collecting an offering for the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul’s purpose for this collection was two-fold – to help their brothers and sisters in Christ who were struggling, and to bridge the division between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.

But after a great start, and a lot of enthusiasm, the Corinthian church became complacent. Their commitment to their mission began to slack off. Perhaps they got distracted by other causes. Maybe they became concerned about taking care of their own needs first. They were not a church in crisis. They were a very active Christian community of faith. But for whatever reason, they lost their focus and lost sight of their mission. So Paul writes to them to encourage them to finish what they started. He tells them, “You excel in everything. You’re a good strong, loving, eager church. Now finish what you started.”

The Strategic Planning team of First UMC found some of our own story reflected in this story of the Corinthian church. Two years ago, we defined our mission as making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And we introduced our process for fulfilling that mission by connecting with individuals, loving God through worship, growing in faith, and serving others. There has been a lot of enthusiasm and energy in aligning our ministries with that process – Connect, Love, Grow, Serve. There is so much energy, in fact, that we are beginning to hear a lot of great ideas and suggestions for what we could be doing as a congregation – so many different ideas, that it would be very easy to become distracted and lose our focus of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

First UMC excels in so many things. We are a good, strong, loving, eager congregation. It would be very easy for us to become so scattered in all different directions, by many different ideas, that we could not be effective with any of those ideas or faithful in our mission of making disciples. We can’t do it all, and we can’t do it all at once. So, the Strategic Planning team is working to help us focus on some priorities to help us stay on track. They will be asking for your feedback in various forms over the next few months on how we can best use the resources God has given us to fulfill our mission, so that we can heed Paul’s advice to the Corinthian church who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means.

That is good advice for all of us, not only as a church, but in our individual spiritual lives as well. Is there something you felt God calling you to do, something that you felt passionate about at one time? But then, as often happens, life got in the way, you got distracted, others made demands on your time and energy, and…well…you just never got back to it. As the Strategic Planning team is praying about how we may continue to fulfill our mission more faithfully, imagine how much more powerful it would be if we all prayed for God’s guidance in discerning those priorities in our own individual lives!

Please continue to pray for the Strategic Planning team and our church, that we may remain eager to finish the work God has called us to do at this time.

Grace and peace,
Jeannie Jensen

Finishing What We’ve Started

by Tyler Curtis, Church Council Chair

A few weeks back, the strategic planning team shared the Biblical story we have chosen to frame and guide our process. As you may recall, the story comes from 2 Corinthians 8:7-11. Paul is addressing the church in Corinth – a successful, established church. Yet, Paul felt like they had even more potential, saying, “You excel in everything. You’re a good, strong, loving, eager church. Now finish what you started.”

Over the past several weeks, our team has been discussing what we have started here at FUMC and brainstorming other opportunities to live and realize our mission – that is, to create disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We have been viewing these opportunities through the lens of our process: connecting with individuals, loving God through worship, growing in faith, and serving others.

Now we need your help.

We need to know what you have heard God calling you to do. We need to hear what you’re passionate about in regards to your life as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. We need to learn what ideas you have to help us “finish what we have started” here at FUMC. With that in mind, we are asking you for feedback on the following two questions:

  • What are you eager to tell your friends and family about First UMC?
  • What do you desire to see our church do in order to:
    • make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
    • connect with individuals?
    • love God through worship?
    • grow in faith?
    • serve others?

We encourage you to think and pray about these questions, and please share your thoughts and feedback. Members of the Strategic Planning team will be listening to you in Sunday School classes, committee meetings, and other groups in the coming weeks. If you miss discussions, we will also have two more open listening sessions on Sunday, July 20 and August 3, at 9:30 a.m. in the Parlor. You may also respond by emailing your thoughts to an email address set up specifically for this purpose, fumchurchemporia@gmail.com.

Pastor Jeannie’s message last Sunday stressed that not everything we may want is possible; however, if God wants it, then it is certainly possible. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on what you believe God is calling both you and our church to do. We are eagerly awaiting your feedback on what we can do to move forward and “finish what we’ve started.”

Grace & Peace,
Tyler Curtis
Church Council Chair

Strategic Planning Team members:
Tyler Curtis
Sandy Kramer
Robbie Hill
Kevin Kienholz
Andrea Myers
Bob Potter
Ken Wright
Jeannie Jensen
Jeff Thompson