When my former church, Indian River Presbyterian, was preparing to go into ECO,...
Every year I write a summary of the statistical trends that have occurred within our denomination. Here is a link to the one I did this last. The data includes numbers on worship attendance based upon how long congregations have been in ECO. It also includes other statistical items of note such as changes in age or the ethnic makeup of our denomination. Every year we have seen some gradual progress in these areas. We saw that last year those who had been in ECO for at least 1 year had an average decrease in worship attendance of .7% as opposed to almost 2% decrease a couple of years ago. Those churches who had been in ECO for 4 years or more saw an increase in worship attendance of 2%.
However, now that we have a clearly articulated vision, we can not only measure against the past, but also measure in contrast to our future goal. Similar to when someone is trying to lose weight, they both look backwards at the one pound they lost last week and look forward to the additional 20 they want to lose in the coming weeks. The individual then makes certain commitments to various behaviors that are significantly different to achieve their desired goal.
For me, having this future vision is extremely helpful to provide a way for me to look forward as well as backward. In looking backward there is something nice in seeing an incremental change, even if that change is small and reflects a simply slower rate of decline. But in looking to our future vision, there is the reality that we will not be able to fulfill our vision with these small incremental improvements.
To reach ECO’s vision, it is going to require some significant enhancement and expansion of our efforts in recruiting, training, retraining, and deploying lay and vocational leaders who will be able to start and strengthen churches. This enhancement and expansion is far more than I could explain in a newsletter article. Therefore, I want to draw your attention to several items of note:
- Our 10-Year Vision Video.
This video is simply the slower reading of our vision statement over video footage. I would encourage you to use it with your congregation to help all of our covenant partners get a glimpse of the denomination of which they are a part.
- My keynote from the 2020 National Gathering.
In this talk, I unpacked the vision into its various components. I talked about the Leadership Development Initiatives and support needed for various types of leaders. You will see that most of these are not new initiatives but rather the expansion of most of what we are already doing.
- Leadership Development Initiatives Brochure
This brochure which also articulates these initiatives at a very high level. It also articulates a good skeleton overview of the 6 major types of leaders we need to invest in.
- Upcoming Webinars
We will flesh out these initiatives in greater detail through upcoming webinars. These webinars will be announced so you may attend or watch a recording. In some cases, we will also be able to provide stories of the impact of these initiatives.
- Leadership Development Donations
We also have a way to donate to the Leadership Development Initiatives. To provide and expand on the important initiatives we need to increase our financial capacity. In comparison to most other denominations and networks, our due structure of 1% is one of the very lowest, especially for what we are currently able to do for our leaders and congregations. Creating the infrastructure to reach our future vision will require additional support from individuals, churches, and other support. If we can get to the point where we have doubled our financial resources, in a couple of years I believe we will be able to make our vision a reality.
I ask (and will continue to ask!) you to prayerfully consider how you might support the movement. Support will include identifying, developing and encouraging the leaders and potential leaders around you. It will also include consideration of how you might personally support these initiatives and how your church might consider the mission of ECO in their regular mission budget.
It was great to see so many of you at the National Gathering last month. Thank you for making sacrifices to be there. I am grateful for the way in which you seek to flourish both as individuals and as churches and look forward to supporting you in the coming months as you discern your Flourishing Next Step.