A few years ago the Chicago Tribune published an article entitled, “Is 60 the New 40?” The article’s main point was that the baby boom generation is aging differently than previous generations. Boomers tend to be healthy, active and engaged in work and learning well into their sixties and beyond, so they do not view turning 60 as crossing the boundary into “old age.”
We at CPC might do well to ponder the question posed in that article. In 2015, we are marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of our congregation. Does this mean that we have entered “old age” with its inevitable decline in energy and vitality? Or do we have the resources and vision to tap into new energy and new vitality for the future?
Part of what will help us ponder this question in the coming year is the continuation of our New Beginnings process. New Beginnings is a congregational assessment and discernment process offered through the Mission Agency of the PCUSA. There are four phases to the New Beginnings process: On site assessment, leadership training, small group meetings that involve the whole congregation, and decision-making regarding future directions for ministry.
We have completed parts one and two. In October, a New Beginnings assessor visited our church and collected data. In early December, eight representatives from CPC attended a two day Leadership Training event led by New Beginnings staff.
Now it is time for Part Three: This is where you come in! Part three is a series of small group meetings in which members of the church use our assessor’s report as a basis for reflection on how our community has changed since our founding and what new opportunities for ministry and mission exist for us now. The small groups consider and discuss such topics as:
Church Vitality and Discipleship A New Look at Our Community Our Church and God’s Mission Discovering our Options Navigating Through Change
Though the small groups will not begin meeting until Lent, we will be forming those groups in late January. There will be several opportunities to sign up to participate. The New Beginnings resources suggest that the best results occur when at least 50% of a congregation’s regular attenders participate in this process! Let’s all be part of discovering what 60 looks like for our church.
Here is a copy of our New Beginnings Assessment. New Beginnings Assessment
On Sunday, May 17, our congregation gathered to hear from New Beginnings leaders about the insights and ideas that emerged from the February – April small group meetings. Below is a summary of the presentation.
New Beginnings Gathering – May 17, 2015
The gathering began with a reading of Acts 16: 6-15. These verses tell the story of Paul and Timothy who venture forth on a missionary journey with a particular idea of where they will go and what they will do only to be surprised by the Holy Spirit calling them in a whole new direction.
I. Paul’s Story and Our Story
Paul and Timothy set out with a particular idea about how their mission journey would go and where it would take them. Perhaps they based this on how things had gone on previous ventures. To their surprise, they were unable to reach the destinations they had envisioned. Instead, God gave them a new vision and a new direction. They listened. They paid more attention to the paths that were opening than the paths that were blocked.
We find ourselves in a similar time in the life of our church. The paths we’ve always traveled no longer get us where we think we should go. Through our New Beginnings small groups, however, we are beginning to see the new visions that God has for us. God is inviting us to take our ministry and mission in new directions.
II. Insights and Discoveries
Our New Beginnings assessor provided some insight on the demographics of our church and community. Our small groups added their own memories and knowledge of our church and community to the mix. A few insights that are important to our community:
• Claremont’s population has become more racially and ethnically diverse.
• Among young families, this is particularly true – a high percentage of families with school preschool or school age children in Claremont are Latino or Asian.
• The majority of households with children and youth have two working parents.
• The dominant demographic in the neighborhoods nearest the church is affluent, active retirees.
• Our church is stable financially, but we need to take a new look at priorities and how mission funding will happen in the future.
• Our membership is aging
• We do well with corporate worship, education and fellowship but are weak on direct mission engagement
• We have many groups sharing our building (CLASP, Emmanuel, GPIB, NAMI, CPCC, Boy Scouts, etc.) but our members have little direct engagement with their members/leaders or their work.
III. Re-Defining Our Mission
Paul and Timothy had to re-define their mission in response to voice calling to them from Macedonia. They were still travelling and sharing the gospel, but their mission took some new shape and direction. Our small groups identified some common themes emerging from their conversations – these may seem like things we’ve always done, but we need to be like Paul and Timothy and see how God may be calling us to approach these long held priorities in new ways.
Longing for Spiritual Growth and Depth
Re-thinking ministry to and with families, children and youth
Finding God in later life transitions (empty nesters, new retirees, relocating retirees)
Re-engaging our mission partners, especially those on our campus
Direct engagement with homelessness and poverty in our area
Considering a “parallel start” to engage a groups outside our bubble
IV. The Already
A number of people have ideas related to these themes that they are eager to get working on right away.
Gail Duggan – Ambassadors to our Indonesian Congregation
Krista Wuertz – Re-Envisioning our relationship with CPCC as Ministry
Karen Sapio – A Year of Living Spiritually
Teddie Warner – Nurturing Newcomers
Rocky Supinger – New Worshipping Communities: Yes We Can
Duane Bidwell – Christianity Beyond Borders
Charles Kerchner – A New Look at Money
V. The Not Yet
We know there are others with ideas not yet fully formed and ready to begin. We know there are those who will have ideas in the future. We want to create a church culture that fosters innovation and experimentation. To this end, Karen and Rocky hope to begin hosting events where those with ideas for mission and ministry can share those ideas and get feedback and support to make those ideas happen.
VI. Pray, Pray, Pray
Continue to pray for our congregation as it ventures into new territory!