Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Week on Vacation...

Full Court Presby will be on vacation for a week. We are going to our daughter's college graduation and helping her move home.

Upon my return we will look at some of the proposed changes in the rewriting of the Book of Order. Sounds like fun!?!?

See you in a week!

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – How a Retirement-Age Church Became Purpose Driven.

Many people may be making the mistake of thinking that the Purpose Driven model for ministry is only for churches with younger congregations. If that were the case then there would be very few, if any, Purpose Driven Presbyterian congregations! The recent Purpose Driven Presbyterians conference had a session led by Denny Dennison on “How a Retirement-Age Church Embraced PD.” (“PD” is short for Purpose Driven”)

Denny is the Lead Pastor at North Lake Presbyterian Church, Lady Lake, FL. He came to the church in 2000. He described the church:

“Many were hurt.”

“Most shared their anger.”

“Most felt abandoned.”

“We had a 3 million dollar debt.”

“They had just completed a new sanctuary building and had a debt of 3 million dollars.”

“We appeared to be doing great on the surface…”

“But we were in a critical condition…”

The transition to the Purpose Driven model has not been easy for North Lake. The values of the church had to change. The process that the Session undertook was under girded with prayer. The transition was deliberately slow paced—giving multiple opportunities for people to have input and voice concerns. North Lake lost 300 members for a variety of reasons (death –they are an older congregation, moved back north – the snow birds moved back closer to family and friends and some went to other churches). At the same time North Lake gained 600 members who whole heartedly endorse the church, its vision and the Purpose Driven ministry model. Weekly ministry involvement has grown from 10% to over 25% of the congregation. There has been a steady increase in income and worship attendance. They are beginning to receive members by profession of faith and baptism, not just by transfer of membership. They have completed their “Faith Forward Campaign” with five goals and they have just completed a second strategic planning process and are about to adopt five new goals!

The Purpose Driven ministry model can work in any congregation. The transition to the Purpose Driven model takes prayer, following Christ, time, patience and love.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – 101 Seminar

Yesterday afternoon was Evergreen’s CLASS 101 – a three-hour seminar called Discovering Church Membership. Here are some of my impressions of yesterday’s seminar.


Very early in the gathering we look at Evergreen’s Core Values (adopted June 9, 2005). Those core values are:

  • Knowing God
  • Attentive Love
  • Covenant Friendship
  • Nurturing Families
  • Contagious Joy
  • Healthy Lifestyles
  • Keeping Commitments
  • Purposeful Mission/Evangelism
  • Enduring Faith
  • Whole-Hearted Worship
  • Continuous Spiritual Growth.

These values are what newcomers can expect from the people at Evergreen and that we expect from the people of our church family. These are things for which we strive; we aren’t there yet, but we are much closer than we were two years ago!

These values need some fleshing out (which we do in the seminar). So here goes!

Knowing God: We seek to draw close to God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in all that we do. We believe that people can, and should, be in an intimate relationship with God.

Attentive Love: Church folks always say that they “love” the people that attend their church. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between what is “said” and what is actually “done.” Attentive love means that we pay attention to those we say we love. When we notice that something is “different” we approach the person with an attitude of caring concern. We are willing to walk with people through their trials and tribulations.

Covenant Friendship: Covenant Friendship is similar to Attentive Love, but it goes an extra step. God’s covenant with Abraham was something that God kept even when Abraham and his descendants failed to keep the covenant. God stuck with Abraham’s descendants even when those descendants were following other Gods. God kept seeking to draw his people back to himself—even to the point of death on a cross. At Evergreen we strive for Covenant Friendships. We seek to remain faithful friends with those in our church family even when they do things that hurt us (individually and as a church) and when they have no interest in being friends. We keep praying and caring, seeking reconciliation in our relationships.

Nurturing Families: Raising a family is a difficult task. We commit to assisting people as they raise their families. We strive to offer ministries and programs that are for all ages.

Contagious Joy: Too many churches have the feel of “someone just died.” Christ gives us a joy that goes way beyond happiness. Joy is contagious. A church filled with joy will attract people seeking something “different” from their church experience.

Healthy Lifestyles: Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit—they are “holy ground.” God’s dwelling should be as healthy as possible. We encourage people to partake in those things that will keep their bodies healthy. This year we have encouraged people to partake in age-appropriate and ability-appropriate exercise. We have an exercise class three days a week for seniors. We are also concerned with other aspects of a healthy life. We have a women’s AA group that meets at the church. There is a weight loss group (Take of Pounds Sensibly—TOPS) that meets at the church each Monday. We encourage people to give up smoking and other types of addictions. In a nut shell, we seek to promote Healthy Lifestyles.

Keeping Commitments: We encourage people to take ownership of the ministries they are involved in and we give them permission to fail. When someone commits to something we are not going to look over their shoulder and criticize what they are doing. People get energized when they have ownership of the ministries they are a part of.

Purposeful Mission/Evangelism: This is an area where most Presbyterian Churches struggle (including Evergreen). Presbyterians have a heart for mission and give generously to support mission. However, most Presbyterians are not directly involved with “hands on” mission or evangelism. We are seeking to involve everyone at Evergreen in Purposeful Mission/Evangelism.

Enduring Faith: We seek to help people develop a faith that will endure through all that happens in life. It is easy to be a believer in the “good times.” We strive to help people develop a faith that will endure during the difficult times.

Whole-Hearted Worship: Worship at Evergreen is never “dead.” We seek to provide a place where individuals can worship their Lord and where others are worshipping as well. This worship experience transforms lives. Something special happens when we worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also encourage people to worship God throughout the week at their homes, schools, workplaces and as they play.

Continuous Spiritual Growth: Evergreen is not the group of perfect people, we are the gathering of the forgiven. We acknowledge that people are not perfect. Yet, we expect that individuals will be seeking Continuous Spiritual Growth. We will provide the best settings possible for that growth to occur. We will offer groups and class that will assist persons in their spiritual growth.

“Bob” was a part of the yesterday’s group. He has been a part of a church for all of his adult life (generally a Methodist church). At the conclusion of the section on Evergreen’s Core Values he ask, “Are these core values from the Presbyterian Church or from Evergreen?” He wanted to know if they were written out anywhere for the PCUSA? Sadly, I said that Evergreen got the original list from the Purpose Driven Presbyterians Network and then modified them for our church and setting. He had never seen such a list in all of his years of attending church. He felt that every church should have such a list of core values and be working to make them a reality! He wanted to know why we didn’t try to get them to be a part of the Presbyterian denomination. Sadly, I told him how difficult it is to change the Book of Order and how it would take about 50 pages to fully flesh out the core values.

Check back tomorrow for more reflections on our 101 seminar.