Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Discernment Update

We spent most of Monday night’s meeting developing a listening strategy for our church staff discernment process. I thought I would post a description on this site. This article will also be included in our next monthly newsletter at First Baptist Muncie.

In May, we began a discernment process on the issue of church staffing. This was in response to the resignation of our associate pastor. As many of you know, this process was halted in the summer as we were faced with the possibility of hiring an interim minister of worship. As we enter the fall, Clifton Davis (Interim Minister of Worship) is in place. Clif’s presence allows us to relax a bit. His leadership provides stability in our worship ministries; God has met our needs in this area.

It would be easy to sit back and take it easy. Yet we must continue to actively discern God’s leading in the area of church staffing. On Monday, August 18, the CCT met. The team resumed the discernment process it began in May. With the explore stage completed, it was time to develop a listening strategy. As we reflected on Clif’s calling to First Baptist, we were thankful for God’s provision. We now have more time to work through the process. I would like to share with you the next steps in the process. Here is our listening strategy:

Finances

One of the first questions to ask is what can we afford? This summer, we are grateful that our income is exceeding our expenses. Given the number of facility improvements this spring, our financial condition is considered healthy. However we plan to continue to assess our financial position through the remainder of the year. Additionally an evaluation of giving patterns for the past three years is part of the plan. We hope this work will help us determine what we can afford in terms of staffing.

Ministry Activity

Another area of listening has to do with the types of ministries we are doing at First Baptist. Several of our CCT team members will be working this fall to analyze the ministries at First Baptist for the past 24 months. This team will examine newsletters, the church calendar and church budget to create a snapshot of our ministries. This team will also query our church database for membership/attendee demographics. As we consider staffing, this picture will help us discern God’s leading.

Listening Sessions

We plan to organize listening sessions in homes this spring. Since we are Baptist, food will be involved. Once the financial data and ministry snapshot is complete, we will gather in small groups to discuss the findings. Everyone will be invited to participate in this portion of the process. The discernment process we developed in 2011-12 intentionally involves the entire congregation. At the same time, it structures input so that powerful personalities do not have undue influence. Our hope is that these in-home sessions will provide a relaxing atmosphere for everyone to express their understanding of God’s direction for our congregation.

Outside Survey

Finally, considering other churches in our region and throughout the country will be a part of the mix. How do churches with similar resources staff? What ministry trends do we need to consider as we discern our staffing? Conversation with regional and denominational leaders will help us as we discern.

Prayer

There is much work to do. You might ask the question How can I help? I am glad you asked. The first and foremost way that everyone can assist is through prayer. Please make this discernment process a part of your daily prayers. Ask God to lead us by the power of His Spirit. We are often surprised at the result of our discerning. The outcomes frequently surprise us. There is no agenda in this process. We are authentically open to God’s direction. We trust that He will reveal His plan to us. Prayer is an essential aspect of our listening.

Time Frame

We are reminded in James to plan cautiously. James writes,

(James 4:13–14 NIV) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

He instructs us to rephrase our plans.

(James 4:15 NIV) Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

Certainly, this is our intent. We are trusting God to lead and direct. At the same time, we do have a time frame in mind. We hope to complete our initial assessments by the first of the year, hold listening sessions in the spring and arrive at a decision around May. We will keep you updated along the way.