Rev. Gretchen Haley and Sean Neil-Barron at General Assembly in Columbus OH in late June, just before they walked in the Service of the Living Tradition to honor receiving (respectively) Ministerial Final Fellowship and Preliminary Fellowship with the UUA.
Last week I wrote on my blog about my search for a personal mission statement for the coming year, something that would ground and focus my ministry with you for the coming year. There are so many worthy things that might pull on our time and attention – but what are the right things for this year, this time – for who we are now, and what we are called to become in our emerging future?
Inspired by the book, Simple Church, I have discerned a three-point mission statement for myself as I move fully into my senior ministry with you. Here it is: Lead and call us towards our bigger mission and vision; support, develop, lead and work in partnership with our staff team; and recruit, support, develop, lead, and work in partnership with our lay leaders. Here are a few notes on what I am thinking about with each of these areas of focus.
- Lead and call us towards our bigger mission and vision. Over the past few years in conversation, worship, learning, and service, we have been discerning both implicitly and explicitly a new mission and vision for our shared ministry. The explicit part of this work is most obvious in the work of our Mission Task Force, which has articulated a new mission statement – the first update in nearly 20 years! – for our congregation. And yet, even more than this specific “mission statement” work, this element of my ministry focus is about calling us towards our individual and collective sense of vocation, our larger purpose in the world as a Unitarian Universalist congregation in this time, and this place – to ask questions, invite conversation, and prioritize opportunities where we can, as an organization – keep discerning and remain connected to this greater purpose. This focus shows up in the way I lead worship and oversee our worship calendar, as well as in how I partner with other leaders in establishing our ministry and programming calendar. This area of focus is the foundation for the partnerships I am building with interfaith and non-profit leaders in our community, and it is the driving force for my work and witness for justice in our Northern Colorado community, as well as for my continued collaboration with other Unitarian Universalist congregations in our area, across Colorado, and beyond.
- Support, develop, lead and work in partnership with our staff team. As a large congregation with a growing professional staff, it is increasingly true that successful ministries are led and supported through paid staff. Despite what you might anticipate, this increased role of staff does not take away lay partnership, but rather studies show that the more consistent the presence of a paid staff person, the more consistently you can recruit and retain volunteer partners. We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing staff team at Foothills. An incredible staff team deserves professional development, consistent supervision, clear lines of accountability, a supportive work environment, robust communication, and intentional leadership both for the staff members individually and for the staff team as a whole. Especially as we bring on our new assistant minister, Sean Neil-Barron this month (just one more week!), this element of my ministry is one of the most critical ways that I can reach out to all 1200 adults, children and youth who consider themselves a part of our community. This ministry priority led our staff team to develop a staff covenant in the past few months, and is the reason I am committed to re-convening a Personnel Committee to advise me and the Board as we establish new Personnel policies, Human Resources practices, and compensation standards.
- Recruit, support, develop, lead, and work in partnership with our lay leaders. As we’ve been blessed with incredible staff, we’ve also been amazingly blessed with so many dedicated, passionate, and healthy lay leaders. It always amazes me how much depth of commitment, capacity and dedication there exists within our congregation. And yet, I am aware that we are always at risk of turning to the same 30 or 40 people – even in a congregation our size – to do the work of the church. Rather than leveraging our full power as a large community, this potential practice keeps us limited both in terms of who feels a sense of ownership in our mission and vision, and in terms of our impact in people’s lives and in our larger community. We need to keep drawing the circle wider. We need to ask who isn’t yet leading and serving in partnership, and then help them find their place. But this recruitment is just the beginning, from there we need to support and develop our leaders, ensuring they have the training, skills and ongoing partnership so that they can feel like what they are doing matters and is making a difference – that it is playing a part in that big picture noted in item #1 above. This area of ministry will show up this year in my partnership with the Nominating Committee as we seek a new model that will better and more systematically identify, recruit and train leaders in our congregation. Our hope is that we can create a path of service and leadership that is intentional, integrated with our faith formation, and forward-thinking. And most of all this ministry focus will show up in my support of and partnership with the many lay leaders already doing the work of our church: Board members (and their task forces – Governance, Mission, and others), stewardship leaders, committee on shared ministry leaders, finance leaders, personnel committee members, nominating committee members, worship leaders, justice leaders, and through partnership with Sean’s ministry, parish visitors, caring team members, small group leaders, and membership ministry leaders.
Coming to this focus for my ministry for the coming year has been liberating and immensely clarifying. It is not set in stone as I may discover throughout the year that something needs to be changed somewhat – but I have been sitting with it long enough now that I think it’s pretty close to just right. It also doesn’t mean that I will only do these things – but rather that these things will take priority, and that in all of my ministry, I will be asking how and if it serves one or more of these three areas of focus.
Maybe you notice what isn’t listed here – things like faith formation, pastoral care, or small groups – that have been a big part of my ministry with you up until this point. Not to worry, I remain as committed to these things as ever, and until Sean is fully up to speed over these next few months, they will remain in my sight and work. And yet, my job over these next few months is to begin to hand over these things to Sean – to introduce him to the many of you who help make these ministries so meaningful and important, and then to support you all as you take up a new partnership in this work together.
As I take up this ministry, I wonder if you have your own version of a mission for the coming church year? What would you say is your ministry mission – those things that are just yours to do in your lives, in the world, and in our congregation as a result of your specific gifts, calling, and convictions of faith? Play with some ideas- three is a good number – sit with them for a while, see how they feel. Write them down for yourself, and when you’re ready, tell someone else in our congregation what you’re thinking. Exchange ideas, and commitments. Help each other live up to your mission. Let’s keep growing, and learning, together.
With love, and in partnership,