Several years ago, Amy Schenkel, Mission Leader for the CRCNA’s Great Lakes Region, was invited to consult with a church that had fallen on hard times. Though the church still experienced meaningful worship and rich community together, membership and giving were declining. There wasn’t a strong sense of unifying purpose or outward mission. The church was trying to discern how it might catch and sustain a vision for renewed ministry. In the back of everyone’s mind was the possibility that it might be time to do something radical, including, possibly, closing the church.
Schenkel had sat with many church councils in similar situations. As a part of Resonate Global Mission, she had a number of tools and resources that could help a church understand itself, its community and its calling from God. But as helpful as those tools could be, Schenkel realized there were other dynamics at work in the church. Specifically, there was a sense of grief and even some shame. Grief that the church was not what it once was. Shame that it had failed to achieve the ministry success these members observed in neighboring churches.
So Schenkel invited a Ministry Consultant with Pastor Church Resources (PCR) to visit the church with her. Ministry Consultants with PCR frequently visit with churches dealing with grief. PCR is often invited into churches where conflict is bubbling up or leadership is in tension and where congregations are faced with naming and addressing hard truths.
It turned out that the combination of PCR’s attentiveness to the underlying group dynamics and Schenkel’s capacity to engage groups in meaningful missional conversations generated a helpful combination.
Because the complex group dynamics of grief and shame were respected and helpfully-named, the congregation felt it was safe to have the hard and meaningful conversations about mission it needed to have. Because the process steadily moved toward decision and mission, it was hard to get stuck in merely grieving losses from the past.
With both Resonate and PCR’s expertise, the church was able to reflect on God’s faithfulness, honestly name its challenges, and make a series of decisions that helped ensure gospel ministry would continue in their community. What had begun in a spirit of failure, ended in a spirit of hope. What clearer evidence of the Spirit’s work could you ask for?
The consultation went so well that Schenkel and the PCR Consultant began to wonder: what if we took some of our favorite group discernment and visioning activities and put them together in a toolkit that any church could use during a season when they felt they were at a major identity and mission crossroads?
The result: the Crossroads Discernment Toolkit, a collection of over twenty group activities which can help a church proceed through a Spirit-led, group-engaged, mission-oriented discernment of where we’ve been, where we are and where God is leading us.