A message from Dana Allin, Synod Executive How are ECO churches doing? This ques...
A few years ago, in consultation with Auxano, we created our 2030 Vision for ECO. As a part of this process Auxano encourages clients to create “Background Initiatives”. These are four different 3-year focuses that are critical in order to reach the larger vision. The idea is that the larger vision is the mountain top that you are seeking to reach. In addition, there are important lower elevation foothills to cross in order to reach that larger vision.
This last year, the Synod Executive Council went through a process to refresh the four different background initiatives. The following is a summary of those four areas of focus. However in the coming months, we will unpack these more, as well as the strategies employed to address those areas of need.
- Recruiting, developing, and empowering a greater diversity of leaders – It is no secret that we as a denomination have plenty of room to grow in more accurately reflecting the diversity of our nation. While statistics in the last couple of years have been hard to accurately access, our 2019 statistics told us that we were 89% Caucasian. I don’t assume we have moved the needle all that much since the pandemic. We are also, of course, a denomination that affirms and celebrates the leadership gifts of women to serve in all offices and roles of the church. In looking at our statistics, about 40% of our candidates for ordination are women, about 20% of our pastors are women and 5-8% of our heads of staff are women (5% for installed pastors, 8% including transitional). While we hope the pipeline is a predictor of the future, we know there are and still will be barriers to our full egalitarian nature.
- Increasing the discipleship culture in our churches – In my talk at the 2022 National Gathering, I said that the number one comment I am getting from pastors is that the pandemic revealed that the maturity of discipleship in the congregation was lower than they had assumed. I am, however, thrilled by how many follow up conversations I have had with pastors who realize this deep need to develop a disciple making culture. We continue to believe very strongly what we have said frequently, “Flourishing Churches are Led by Flourishing Leaders who are Flourishing Disciples.”
- Nurturing Innovation, Creativity, and Fostering the Future of the Church – I loved being a part of the team that wrote the original ECO polity. One of the goals was to create a polity that allowed a congregation to respond creatively to God’s calling while maintaining the appropriate accountability needed in covenant relationships. We need to continue to help nurture that creativity for ministry in church plants and existing churches. You may have seen the article that came out shortly after the pandemic entitled, Every Church is Now a Startup. While I thought the argument was a bit of a stretch, there were certainly significant aspects of it that resonated. Given all that is going on in our culture, we have to think and function with greater creativity in order to bring the gospel to our world.
- Establishing Flourish Institute of Theology – In many ways, FIT is a good illustration of all of the synergy between these initiatives. We are now into our first semester with FIT and have over 50 students including lay, vocational, and auditors. We haven’t pushed hard on recruiting during this first year in order to ensure we had a system that could handle a manageable number. It is, of course, our hope that within the next few years we are self-sustaining and serving lay and vocational students with both a rigorous academic experience as well as a highly formative and practical experience.
It is hard to write these in such a short format, but hopefully this gives you a brief overview! Keep an eye out for greater depth and articulation of various aspects in the future. I also encourage you to see if there are aspects that resonate with you and your church as you seek to flourish and let us know how we can help make that happen!