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I have probably said this before in a January newsletter, but the new year is probably my favorite time of year. I always like to take some time between Christmas and New Year’s Day to think and pray about my life and ministry. I love looking back at the past year and reflecting upon God’s call for the coming year.
One of the questions I ask myself, and the Lord, during this time of reflection is, “What do I need to be true of my life and ministry at this time next year?” I imagine myself sitting in the same chair a year from now and wondering what will be different this time next year that will make me feel as if I wasn’t just on the treadmill of life.
There are many possible answers to this question, but my focus is to pick a few tangible outcomes that are high level and encompass many areas of my life. One of those goals, for example, is that I would like to have my official tennis rating (which is the level in which I play) move up to the next category. There are a lot of subordinate goals and outcomes that are wrapped into my tennis goal such as maintaining a proper weight, healthy eating, and training. But ultimately I try to ask the deeper “why” questions related to weight and eating which, at this point, are motivated by being able to compete with a certain level of tennis players.
There are other high level outcomes related to my relationship with the Lord, my family, and other friendships. There are of course some higher outcomes related to the ministry of ECO. It is sometimes challenging to think of the larger vision for ECO, because the mission and vision of ECO are primarily related to the health and vitality of our local churches and leaders. Our mission is to help you find and fulfill the vision that God has for you and your congregation.
One of the ways that I articulate my hope for the next year of ECO is to see an increasing number of churches and leaders identifying their Flourishing Next Step. I have used this language before, and you will continue to hear it repeated until we are blue in the face! Our mission in ECO is to see our local churches flourish. We believe that God has specific and unique calls upon each of our churches, and our goal as a denomination is to help our churches fulfill their God-given potential. We also know that if each church is going to fulfill their vision we must ask, “What is our Flourishing Next Step?” in other words, “What is the next step that we can take as a church to increase in our effectiveness for the Kingdom?”
There are many potential steps available for your church. There are great ministry resources in a variety of organizations that might be a good fit for your congregation. In ECO, we have a few specific options as well with which a church might want to engage. For example, if a church wants to increase their effectiveness in discipleship, they might engage in our Flourishing Disciples. Perhaps a congregation has been going through the motions of church but finding that it is still in plateau or decline and wants to participate in the Church Transformation Cohort. You may have a pastor that is a few years away from retirement and your church would benefit from engaging in Succession Planning. You may want your session to work more effectively together, in which case you might want to engage in Flourishing Leaders. You might determine that your next step is to simply get clarity on the future vision for your church so that you can have a focal point that will continue to guide your Flourishing Next Steps for years to come.
One key thing to keep in mind however is that we do not want you to pick a random next step which could actually lead you to continually spin your ministry wheels. You might end up spending money and time on something and have it go nowhere because there isn’t agreement among your leadership on where your church needs to grow. It is best to have an initial conversation with a pastor and elder, then have a further conversation with a smaller group of elders, or with the entire session. My experience is that when the session (or even a smaller number of elders) talks with us about their Flourishing Next Step, they are much more likely to have a successful experience with whatever Flourishing Next Step they feel called to take.
We would love for you to then have a conversation with us to help you discern where and how you want to grow! If you would like to begin the conversation for your Flourishing Next Step, all you need to do is fill out the form below.
I look forward to seeing how God works in our midst this year, and that this time next year we have dozens (if not hundreds!) of stories of church and leaders who are thriving because they have taken their Flourishing Next Step.