As I look back on thirty-seven years of pastoral ministry, I wish that I would have made it a priority in every church with whom I served to emphasize participation in an intentional visioning process, one that we reviewed on a regular basis. Why? Church's who participate in a visioning process are more likely to take the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:16-20 more seriously. They know The Great Commission is their Mission!
Rather than try to be everything to everybody, church's who faithfully focus upon visioning, claim an unique vision shaping ministry strategies upon their core values, strengths, and parish. Church's who faithfully participate in a visioning process are more likely to offer ministry strategies that reach people for Jesus here and now. (They let go of past strategies that no longer lead persons to Christ and engage in new experiments offering Christ today.)
Churches who participate in a prayerful visioning process are more likely to grow spiritually, be engaged in timely community ministries, and reach more people for Christ.
I hope all pastors and congregations will prayerfully consider the vision process known as "Transformation Journey." (This is one of the remarkable resources The Western N.C. Conference of The United Methodist supports.)
Throughout the years, I have read a lot of material related to visioning including: "Growth Plus," "Twelve Keys to An Effective Church" by Ken Callahan, "Natural Church Development," "PlowPoint Ministry" developed by Rev. Beth and Rev. Kelly Crissman, "Does Your Church Have A Prayer?," and "Transformation Journey." While all of these were (are) helpful for various reasons, the visioning process I focus upon here is "Transformation Journey."
A key verse undergirding "Transformation Journey" is the text, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God---what is good and acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
"What is Transformation Journey? A process of assessment, discovery, and renewal for local churches to engage with experienced outside resources in order to more faithfully and effectively fulfill God's vision for their local church in their local context."
Participation in "Transformation Journey" provides a church wide visioning process equipping the church to review her unique history. Participants also discover mission insight data providing pertinent information to help churches delve deeper into the needs, hopes, and dreams of your parish defined as persons who live within a three mile radius of the church's gathering place.
Practices of visioning and re-visioning help churches claim with confidence their Why.
What are the hopeful outcomes of churches who travel "Transformation Journey?" The hopeful outcome is that churches will take intentional steps to nurture collabaration growing forward trust to follow the Holy Spirit on adventures to implement ministry strategies weaving together your church's unique gift set and strengths with the challenges, hopes, and dreams of the persons who live in your parish. All of this is done knowing God goes before us helping us engage in practices of relational evangelism that will help us see Christ in every person we meet trusting our Holy Father will help all of us grow closer to Big Brother Jesus and one another.
There are several reasons churches have found "Transformation Journey" to be life changing and community transforming: 1)Transformation Journey is immersed in congregational prayer, Bible study, and worship. 2) The beginning steps involve sharing your church's story and sacred history including highs and lows. 3) The process includes receiving input from laity and other leaders such as church staff, pastor(s), as well as the entire congregation. 4) Often churches choose up to three areas to grow forward in significant ways. A discovery and implementation team consisting of invested laity and pastor work along side of an experienced guide who will meet with the team six times over a period of time (usually six months, sometimes longer). This helps teams to implement ministry strategies and be resilient through seasons of change and transformation.
Each process is tailor made to the congregation. Rather than come on board as experts with all the answers, guides ask helpful questions, suggest helpful resources, and prayerfully walk beside the ministry implementation team. Guides provide a consistent presence to help encourage team members to be resilient, creative, and learn through various pathways to discovery including conflict.
Immersed in congregational prayer, each team hopes what we do will help our church be the parish presence God desires us to be!
The Transformation Journey process has proven to be fruitful in congregations of various sizes and settings.
Up until recently, district superintendents of The Western N.C. Conference elected two churches per district per year to participate. Here's the good news! All churches who want to thrive and go all out to be the church God wants you to be and reach the persons God wants you to reach are eligible to participate. Your pastor needs to have been present with the congregation for at least one year and committed long term. Your laity need to be willing to change and grow.
To make it clear: transformation journey is a process based in discipleship leading to joyful discovery, transformed communities, churches, and lives!
If you are interested in learning more about "Transformation Journey", I invite you to go to the website: www.wnccumc.org
Click Ministries, Click Church Development, on the left side, click Transformation Journey Overview. (There's an informational video clip posted there too including testimonies by two pastors who recently completed the process.)
If you need more information, I invite you to contact Rev. Dr. Nancy Rankin, Coordinator of Transformation Journey at firstname.lastname@example.org She has worked closely with Rev. Dan Pezet who brought "Transformation Journey" to us from another conference of The United Methodist Church. Dan and Nancy, along with other church leaders such as Rev. Rob Hutchinson, have worked together to enhance the process over the years.
Here is the link to an application for Transformation Journey: www.wnccumc.org/transformationjourney
Likewise, the book, "10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church" by Bob Farr and Kay Kotan provides a glimpse of the kinds of helpful ministry strategies and practical tools that arise over time in churches who participate in "Transformation Journey."
Interested pastors and laity may also contact your church vitality associate and/or district superintendent who will be glad to talk with you about this.
Some additional good news: This ministry is supported through the apportionment. The only cost on the church's part is to provide a meal for the discovery team following the Saturday in person gathering.
In the following reflection, Pastor Hanna Barlow shares her experience working with "Transformation Journey."
"I am the pastor of Randall by the River: A United Methodist Community in Norwood, NC. I was appointed to this community in July of 2022. When I arrived, the church was halfway through the Transformation Journey, having begun the process in 2019. COVID-19 impacted the typical timeline of this journey by delaying the process. With the help of coaches in the Transformation Journey, the church was able to identify strengths and growth opportunities. Some of the strengths of the church were identified as hospitable, their lake church ministry, and a gifted and committed leadership. Our opportunities for growth included: the need for a driving vision, worship, and the fellowship hall. The recommendations from the Transformation Journey were as follows: Creating a mission, vision, and value statement to guide the leadership team in the mission of the church; explore and create a plan for worship upgrades; and create a center for community life with the fellowship hall.
The church was able to take these recommendations and begin to address each of the areas with the help of the experienced guides. This was helpful in giving the church specific areas of ministry to improve. The guides helped the church by allowing the church to explore each of these areas and work toward a vision of the future. The guides also emphasized how the church could use their strengths in the process of addressing these recommendations.
As the pastor of this congregation, this process has been very helpful in giving the church purpose and vision for the future. Before I arrived, the church finished the community life center by completely upgrading their fellowship hall. This center has become an outpost for community events, church events, and private events. This space has given the church a place for many ministry opportunities. When I arrived, the church was in the process of finalizing the mission, vision, and value statements for the community. These statements are used by leadership in every meeting to vision and implement ministry strategies.
Bart Milleson has served as the guide for our worship upgrades. He asked us questions to guide our community through analyzing what we hoped for our indoor worship service. With his guidance, our worship team identified three words we wanted to describe worship: inviting, connected, and passionate. With this direction we have been able to explore how to upgrade worship to meet these words. With Bart’s guidance, the worship team has made technology upgrades, created a blended music ministry, altered the order of worship, and incorporated multisensory experiences in worship. While the church is at the end of its Transformation Journey, we hope to continue to ask questions and make changes in pursuit of creating an inviting, connected, and passionate worship.
The Transformation Journey offered the church an opportunity to examine its identity and strategize on how to lead with strengths to meet growth opportunities. This process has given the church a place to start. With the Transformation Journey almost completed, the church is excited for the future of ministry and is starting new ministries and mission opportunities. I am so grateful to have been appointed to a community that has gone through this process to help create a vision for the community!
When we come together to follow Jesus, all transformation journeys immerse us in Son-light; we immerse ourselves in what God is already doing in our parish! Because we dare to envision and shape ministry strategies around what God is doing, we thrive. We only perish when we think it's all about us and it's all up to us...