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In the last six months, I have tried to ascertain what are the greatest needs of ECO churches. I have conducted informal and formal questioning around this subject with various pastors and congregational leaders. I have compared their answers with my own observations from personal interactions. While all of our congregations are different, there are some common themes that emerge within many of them.
One of those recurring themes across some of our churches is the question, “We joined ECO _____ months ago. What do we do now?”
What people are meaning by this question is that they have bought into the vision and ethos that is presented in ECO, but are unclear about their next steps to move forward into their new reality. Sometimes the resource list that we provide can be overwhelming with numerous possibilities. Several different people have approached me in separate conversations to indicate that it would be helpful if ECO had a brief process that took place over a few months time that a session could go through to help them on the next steps in their congregational journey. The indication was that while congregations wouldn’t be required to engage in such a process, it could be highly encouraged and give our people a common language within the denomination. It would also help sessions determine where they might need to place future energy to fulfill the mission that God has placed upon the heart of the congregation. After this basic process, it would be easier for a congregation to determine what other resources offered by ECO or by others that could be helpful in fulfilling their vision for ministry and mission.
We have taken this great suggestion to heart and are creating a 4-session process called “Becoming a Flourishing Church”. This process can be used with elders, deacons, staff or other lay leaders in your congregation. It will be launched at our national gathering in January and will be available to every congregation through the Flourish website. Each session contains a 15-20 minute video that can be watched at or prior to a meeting. The videos also have supplemental material and guides to facilitate discussions among leaders.
Flourishing Churches and Leaders
The premise of the process is that flourishing churches are led by flourishing leaders, who are themselves flourishing disciples. The first session is an orientation to the ethos and culture of ECO and helps leaders to determine where their congregations are starting. The second session focuses on becoming a flourishing disciple. The third focuses on being a flourishing leader and helps leaders determine their role within the five-fold gifting as expressed in Ephesians 4. The final session looks at qualities of a flourishing church and how we might begin to evaluate our church’s health beyond just membership and worship attendance. Congregations that choose to participate in the process will be given a liaison that can be utilized to better understand the material if needed, as well as to help determine appropriate steps that the congregation might take as a result of going through this material.
Some churches may already be involved in a different ministry (such as ELI) and they may wonder how this new process may fit in. If your session is engaged in something like ELI or Sticky Faith, by all means stick with what you are doing. You will be ahead of the game! The Flourishing Church process will still be available when you are finished. If you aren’t involved in a different learning opportunity, then the Flourishing Church material will help you to be able to determine appropriate next steps for your congregation.
Much more information will be given at the national gathering and in subsequent e-mails, but we wanted to you know about this upcoming opportunity if you would like to use it with your session or other leadership in your church this winter.
We are so encouraged that throughout the country, our many wonderful ECO congregations are truly excited about authentically living into God’s call for mission and ministry in their particular contexts. Our prayer is that you would be encouraged as well, knowing that you have a vast network of other churches and leaders that are taking steps toward flourishing. We are here for each other to pray, deepen our discipleship, learn and grow together. We hope you will take advantage of the resources provided for you and see what great things God does among you!
Dana Allin, ECO Synod Executive