R3 – Our Renewal Training Project

What is R3?

R3 is shorthand – Re-Form, Re-New, Re-Vision is the longer version. Almost 2 years ago, our Congregational President, Pastor, and a team of eight others committed to work through a process of training for renewal. The goal is renewing our vision, learning to better recognize how God’s Spirit is moving in the world, in the church and in our own hearts. As a pastor, it’s easy enough for me to use such language – but when I listen to it with my filters off, I can hear how easily that “just sounds like church-talk.” What does it really mean?

Training

First, it means some training. Our team has met quarterly, beginning in September of 2019, with our main coach and leader, Pastor Dave Daubert, a former Executive Staff for Renewal at the national level of the ELCA, as well as a regular parish pastor…well, not exactly “regular!” Dave is steeped in knowledge about coaching and organizations; he knows a lot about how congregations work (or don’t!) and is a fount of information about technology, organization and communication, in service to the Good News of Jesus.

With about 25 other congregational teams, we have learned from Dave and others in large group settings, moving to ZOOM meetings when the pandemic set in last spring. We have also partnered with a volunteer coach, Pastor Chuck Miller, who is walking with our team through this process of learning and visioning, as well as forming a “cohort” with our friends on the renewal team at Zion Lutheran, Leola.

Homework!

Second, listening for the Spirit means homework. Our team has engaged in prayer and brainstorming together, working on structured assignments in between group meetings. Some of those assignments have been practical – like analyzing our whole process of welcoming visitors at Grace and making sure they have a clear path to taking part, growing in faith and serving, and making a commitment to membership if they feel led.

Other assignments have been more spiritual – offering temple talks and Grace News articles about deepening our prayer life and relationship with God.

Listening means…really listening

Third, listening for the Spirit means, well, listening! After listening to our coaches, our cohort, and with one another listening for God’s guidance in prayer and conversation, our team has also worked to listen to as many members of Grace as we could, as well as to neighbors and leaders in our community.

We have asked others to answer questions like “What would God be pleased to hear our neighbors saying about Grace Church?” Listening to answers to such questions helps us to better tune in to what God is hoping for from our congregation, what God is calling us to do and to be! Click below to download a draft of our guiding principles.

Risk

Fourth, listening to the Spirit means risk – leaning into the challenges we are facing. Everyone has been saying that it will be impossible to “go back” after the pandemic ends, simply returning to the way things were. We will have to go forward. That means making plans without knowing for sure what our needs will be in three months, or six or twelve.

We know that somehow the things we are learning about video and online connections will be important to maintain, even as we begin to offer in-person worship again at some point. Grace’s R3 Team is envisioning ways for all those who are connected somehow to this congregation to grow: in faith and trust in God’s promises, in discipleship and connection in the life of Grace, and in serving in our community and the world. These are lofty goals! Pray for our team as we complete our work this year, and for our congregation to truly “re-FORM re-NEW re-VISION. Get it? Good!

-Pastor Verkouw