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We conclude this month’s blog focus on Accountable Community with an excellent viewpoint of the inner workings of an ECO Mission Affinity Group. Kirsten Berry is an Elder at Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield, Minnesota. Hope Church has joined with two other ECO churches in the greater Minneapolis area – Faith Church and Prairie Community Church and met for the first time on May 9th. Following is a Q&A with Kirsten about her experience.
Describe briefly the churches in your MAG.
Faith Church and Prairie Community Church are both medium-sized congregations in the suburban Twin Cities. (Faith Church is in the process of leaving its presbytery to become an ECO congregation.) Hope Church is a medium/large congregation (600 Sunday attendance) in a first-ring Twin Cities suburb.
What did you and the session of Hope Church do to prepare for the MAG meeting?
A few of our session members worked on the 10 Narrative Questions, incorporating feedback from the entire session.
Give an overview of the day and the meeting agenda.
- 8:00 Sign-ins begin
- 8:15 Food available
- 8:30 Welcome & Prayer & Directions & Round 1 Questions (see below)
- 8:50 Music
- 9:00 Round 2 Questions
- 9:30 Round 3 Questions
- 10:00 Ten Minute Break
- 10:10 Round 4 Questions
- 10:25 Report Outs
- 11:00 Devotional
- 11:10 Communion (come up by table group) & Prayer (return to table for prayer)
- 11:45 Closing Prayer
Round 1—Getting to know you: Share a little about yourself, including 1) how you first found your church and why you keep coming back, 2) the ministry area(s) in which you’re involved at your church, and 3) your God-driven ministry passion (if different from or in addition to 2) above)
Round 2—10-Q’s Accountability: What did you read in the ECO Narratives that inspired you about Faith/Hope/PCC? What questions, comments, or concerns do you have?
Round 3—Support: Discuss a ministry need/challenge. How might we support you in your present ministry? (Remember these needs when it comes time for prayer.)
Round 4—Envision: How/Where do you see our relationship benefiting God’s Kingdom work in the Twin Cities as well as regionally/globally?
What worked well? What will you all do differently next time you meet?
Finding a date that worked for all three churches was not easy, and the date that was finally chosen (May 9) still conflicted with spring events for some of our elders. Had we scheduled an all-day event, I believe attendance would have been even more of a challenge. But my personal sense was that the half-day format worked well for us. Our congregations are not strangers to one another, and we did not necessarily need the extra time that would have been good had we been starting from scratch in our relationships.
The 10 Narrative Questions cover a monumental amount of information, and increasingly so the larger a congregation is and the more extensive its involvements are. Hence several suggestions for improvement addressed how we could engage more meaningfully with all this data from several churches. Recommendations included having a particular MAG meeting focus on only 2 or 3 of the questions, with the rest of the questions worked through over a 3 – 4 year cycle. Another proposal was to continue with all 10 questions at each MAG meeting, but divide them up among the tables. Yet another suggestion was that a small team from each church could be pre-assigned to intensively interact with another congregation’s 10 Questions. These teams could then report their summaries at the MAG gathering, giving each congregation opportunity to respond to these comments from their fellow churches.
What were your expectations of the meeting? Were they met or exceeded? Explain.
It is always hard to predict what one’s experience will be in any gathering of God’s people, I suppose because it is always hard to predict how the Spirit will be at work. But for me the Spirit’s activity was evident in the collective calm that I sensed in our gathering space that day. Each congregation represented had faced (and in some cases continued to face) difficulties on our journey to ECO. And yet there we were together, on this journey with one another as friends, united by our Lord.
After your experience with the MAG meeting, in your opinion, how do you think the work of MAGs will help ECO churches live into the value of “accountable community”?
Accountability was the main emphasis of our Round 2 table conversations, but I think we could probably have been more intentionally focused on it. Accountability, however, was implicit in the candid discussions we had about the challenges our various congregations face.
Many thanks to Kirsten for her willingness to share an elder’s perspective on the work of a Mission Affinity Group! If you have any questions about MAGs or PCGs, please contact Anna Kent, Director of Mission Affinity Groups at firstname.lastname@example.org.