By Justin Rossow
A “wet cement” session presents the work of our Vision Pathway Team to the congregation before anything is finalized. Based on the feedback from the congregation, the Vision Pathway Team can continue their work of expressing who we are and where we see Jesus leading us next.
Our recent wet cement session certainly provided great feedback and interaction! We had 155 adults and youth engaged in conversation surrounding one important part of our Vision Frame, with more conversation to come. We had over 30 Scribes who took notes on the conversations we had in groups of four over that hour and a half. And the buzz in the room was contagious: energy was focused and flowing, with significant insights coming from 60-year-olds and 6th-graders, people who have been members 30 years and people who had literally been members 30 minutes!
The information we received will be processed by our Vision Pathway Team as we move forward. Here is a glimpse at the kind of feedback we received. For the feedback to make sense, here is a brief overview of the “wet cement” presented at our gathering.
Seeking everyone’s story … sharing in His story.
In the Vision Frame, our mission statement describes the missional mandate of St. Luke, what each of our members is called to live out in a daily way and what we can’t help but do in our activities at St. Luke, because it is intimately tied to who we are. After much discussion, prayer, research, and refining, the Vision Pathway Team settled on an expression of what we feel uniquely called to be about at St. Luke. While all Christian congregations share the Great Commission of glorifying God and discipling the nations, we also have a unique expression of that Great Commission that fits us uniquely at St. Luke (our Vision Navigator refers to that more specific calling as the Great Permission).
Below you will find some of the kinds of responses we received at the wet cement session when we introduced the tentative description of our unique calling and activity as a congregation: “Seeking everyone’s story … sharing in His story.” But first, let me unpack the statement a little more, as it was shared at the wet cement session, so you have a better handle on the conversation.
Seeking everyone’s story …
Jesus defined His own mission this way: “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” Since we are sent by the Sent One, we share that mission of actively engaging and pursuing people. The “everyone” certainly includes people who don’t know Jesus; and it also expresses our desire to know other followers of Jesus at St. Luke more deeply. We believe that discipleship is a team sport, and we know that we are part of what Jesus is doing in the world as He continues to seek and save in us and through us.
The emphasis on story is also significant: we are not out to win an argument or rack up statistics: seeking everyone’s story means we value individuals and we want to get to know them personally, for their own sake and not with some hidden agenda. That process takes time and can get messy and is often open ended, which is part of the meaning of the ellipsis: “…” means that the person in front of us has a story we are seeking, a story that isn’t done yet. We are looking for how Jesus has been, is, and will be working in the stories of the people around us, whether they are aware of it or not. Seeking everyone’s story is a challenge, but also an adventure!
… sharing in His story.
As we seek the stories of the people around us, we also recognize that we are caught up in a story that is bigger than us. Through our words and actions, we are a part of the story of Jesus seeking and saving the lost. There is a mindset, a way of seeing things, a lens we have on our everyday lives that expects Jesus to be present and active; this is His story, after all. Our goals is not simply a window of opportunity that allows us to share some facts about the past actions of Jesus; instead, we understand our everyday lives to be an ongoing expression of what Jesus is up to in the world. Jesus’ story is foundational: it is first and foremost His seeking and His story. And we are invited by grace to share in that story, to be witnesses and messengers, to sharethe forgiveness and hope and purpose we continue to receive from Him.
We know our own individual stories are caught up in–and dependent on–the story of Jesus. We rejoice in that dependence and look for what that means not only in an hour or two on Sunday morning or the time we set aside for prayer, but in the daily activities of our daily lives. We live out the faith we have received and as we do, we share in Jesus’ story of restoration, forgiveness, life, and hope.
What stands out to you about this Mission Statement?
We shared some of that with the 155 at the wet cement session and asked everyone to process that version of our mission statement in groups of four. Each group had a Scribe who tried to capture the most important parts of the conversation. We received over 230 different responses to the first question alone! The comments could be grouped in larger, more general themes. Here is what we heard in response to Seeking everyone’s story … sharing in His story.
Wow! That’s relational!
45 of the 234 responses commented in some way about the deeply relational focus of the mission statement. One comment noticed that the “idea of relationships comes out in both parts” while someone else liked the fact that this statement “gets away from winning an argument.” One person reflected: “Here’s a church that’s interested in me!”
Hey! That’s missional!
Another large group of responses (37) noted that “seeking everyone’s story … sharing in His story” had a very missional feel to it. One group commented: “Very appropriate for Ann Arbor area: Sharing His story – like joining Jesus on his mission.” Another said, “This is not just inside St. Luke, but outside our walls.” Responding to this mission statement also brought this insight: “an unbeliever’s relationship with Jesus starts with a relationship with us as believers.”
Whoa! That’s challenging!
An effective mission statement wants to serve as a catalyst for action. It’s not just what the congregation does as a whole or what we pay our staff to do; your mission should be something lived out in the lives of the people who are part of your church. The conversation at the wet cement session had a lot of energy, part of which came from imagining what it would mean to live out this mission in our daily lives.
It’s a good sign that people felt both excited and challenged: “Seeking is so active – huge challenge. “Everyone is a challenge. I’m right you are wrong is a huge barrier.” “Will require training – how do we do it?” These and other comments suggest that the mission statement calls us to action, action we want and need help to do! But something we want to engage in. As one person put it: “My life can show Jesus.”
Story feels right.
Another significant grouping of responses had to do with the concept of story: “Getting everyone’s story – happiness and sadness. Then sharing Christ. No forcing.” “We often have impressions of people and then as we hear their story, our impressions change.” “Hearing stories – an inviting idea to everyone.” Those and other similar feedback seemed to suggest that thinking in story is a helpful way of living out our mission. As one respondent put it: “We don’t know mission statements. Stories we work in.”
What about … ?
One other primary response area had to do with suggestions on word order, language usage, punctuation and other thoughts on how the specific details of the mission statement worked. All of this sometime contradictory suggestions are helpful as we move into the next phase of the discussion. Ultimately, we want a clear call to action that is easy to remember and an exciting challenge to live out. Fine tuning will continue to happen as we seek to live out our mission statement together.
The ellipsis drew a lot of attention: “Ellipses is good. Gives you a second to stop and think.” “Emphasis on … there is more to come. “… really emphasizes it.” “I love …!” But not everyone thought the “…” was a good idea: “Don’t like … it feels awkward and doesn’t flow.” “…drove me nuts.” “Ellipses – sloppy wording! But encapsulates what we’re doing.”
That’s not all of the feedback we got from the people at the wet cement session, but that captures some of the major themes. We are so thankful for the way the congregation is engaging in the process! And the overall feel of the comments we received and the conversation in the room at the wet cement event seem to affirm that there is energy and excitement about the vision work we have done so far. And there is more to come!