Find Your +1

When I was a child, I assumed that church was where I went on Sundays (and occasionally on other days). I would say things like, “I go to church,” or I would ask others, “Where do you go to church?”  This is familiar language that we all use, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. However, I don’t think that language connotes the best or truest form of church. Rather than church being a place we go or an organization to which we belong, at its best church is who we are.

This is the second in a series of articles in which I hope to unpack the three highest level goals that the vestry and staff leadership have set for the next 18 months. We are taking a long look and prioritizing large steps we can take toward growth at Saint Michael.   We are intentionally not focusing on some important areas just yet, so that we can build the foundation for sustained growth over time.  Over the course of the next few years, quite a lot will be accomplished and our growth will be solid.

Last month, I introduced the first major initiative, “Feed the Spirit,” meaning that we want everyone who connects with Saint Michael to be fed and filled with the power of the Spirit.  It is essential that each of us find our church to be a challenging and rewarding community in which we can invest ourselves.

The second of our major goals over the next 18 months is to encourage and enable as many Saint Michaelites as possible to find their “Plus One.” By Plus One, we mean that everyone is encouraged to participate in worship AND have one more meaningful experience at the church each week. In May, I introduced this idea as “worship plus one,” and the vestry has officially adopted this goal.

Through my research, I have become convicted of one thing: our individual identity is transformed through deep relationships with others. It’s a very simple idea, perhaps one that makes perfect sense to you, but it is not common for Episcopalians. Our Episcopal identity is grounded in corporate worship and for most Episcopal churches, including Saint Michael, most members connect with and are formed through that corporate worship.

It is very true that corporate worship forms us as Christian disciples, but that formation only happens once our individual identities have been radically transformed. For generations, Episcopalians were raised with clearly defined expectations that our communities (homes, schools, etc.) were grounded in Christianity.  However, as our world has changed and has become more secularized, being Christian is no longer a given. Our starting place, our need for transformation, does not happen for most people through large corporate acts such as worship. Instead, most people need to experience the power of the Spirit through deep, personal relationships with just a few people.

To that end, we are investing in programs that deeply connect people to one another in small, intimate groups. We have already begun that investment by establishing the position of Membership Coordinator.  Anne Schmidt has begun to identify ways in which we can better connect with people who are not a part of our community, as well as those who are very loosely connected. Put another way, Anne will be focusing her efforts on how people connect to our community, whether they just walked through our doors for the first time or have been worshipping with us for years.

This will enable us to support deep, personal relationships between members of our community, thus strengthening the environment in which we hear and respond to the call of the Spirit. These efforts will also help us expand our small group ministries. If you were to name a few people who are totally committed to Saint Michael, I bet they are very active in a small group of the church. There is no doubt in my mind that participation in small groups – finding your “Plus One” – radically changes our commitment to discipleship. It is critical for everyone to have that opportunity, and we will strategically invest ourselves in the support of those groups.

At this point, I hope you see how simple and yet how profound this can impact our church community – but this won’t work without your participation!  If you’re reading this article, you are likely someone who is well connected at Saint Michael. Your generosity in inviting others to a deeperrec level of connection will be critical to spreading the Good News of Christ beyond our walls. I ask that you prayerfully consider your individual responsibility to do the work of God’s kingdom in your own life, and how you and I and so many other Saint Michaelites can be the church with new ministries that help ourselves and our neighbors discover ways to find a “Plus One.”

Chris Girata

 

 

The Reverend Chris Girata, Rector