What do you do when you’re not sure what to do? This was the topic of conversation as a friend and I met around his table this summer. He was talking about his children who were starting out in life. They were facing the usual challenges of children, mortgage and jobs. We remarked on how in our own lives we had faced similar challenges and were grateful for what was possible when we were able to work with our spouses on these circumstances. The persistence, energy and innovation that came from understanding a common challenge and simply working together was a shared memory.
This summer, I also spent time doing a personality trait analysis. It was an interesting exercise of answering close to 300 questions—some of which I thought were odd—that generated a most helpful self-portrait. Knowing oneself is very significant to maximizing your ability and opportunities. This exercise was a step in a much longer journey of knowing how to understand myself and what can be helpful in different situations and contexts.
These two vignettes shed light on why Mennonite Church Eastern Canada has invested time, energy and funds into the development of a process for congregations that attempts to capture the benefits of self-analysis alongside the energy of a group that unites in common perspectives toward agreed-upon ends. It’s called Informed Conversations.
There would be much to say about the structure of the survey tool that sits at the heart of this process. It would be interesting to examine the 10 aspects of analysis, and the origin of and importance of each. In this brief column, I would rather focus on the outcome. The outcome for each congregation is a unique picture of who it is and how it sees itself.
Fundamentally, this information moves congregational conversations from “I think” to “We think,” which is a large step forward. The survey is meant to provide a building block to congregational process that allows leaders and congregants to shift from individual perspective to a group vantage point. Knowing ourselves—like knowing oneself—gives us tremendous advantage in meeting the challenges of the time. It could help us to recognize that God has been at work within us for some time to prepare us for such a time as this.
It is evident that we have entered a time of significant anxiety for the church, which feels ill-equipped to respond and minister in this current milieu. The question, “What do you do when you’re not sure what to do?” is prevalent among established congregations. If we could change the conversation, I wonder if we could possibly feel less anxious and see how God has already begun to shape and mould us for the ministry that is ours. Knowing ourselves and seeing how we can work together will lessen our anxiety and gather our energy and faith in God for opportunities and ministry we have before us.
As Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s regional minister, Al Rempel (firstname.lastname@example.org) supports pastors and congregations. Informed Conversations (mcec.ca/informed-conversations) is one of MC Eastern Canada’s newest initiatives to empower congregational ministry.