Keelan Cook, of the Union Baptist Association stopped by the bootcamp to give us some great insights on how to understand your church and its context.
It is important for Replants and Revitalizations to know themselves and their communities-one of the reasons why they are in decline is that they no longer understand themselves and their context.
Every church needs to understand
- The Biblical Mission
- The Congregation itself
- The Context in which it exists
The church usually understands the Biblical mission, they may have blindspots in knowing themselves and knowing their community.
The Fourfold Panorama seeks to help churches understand themselves and their contexts from the view of the insiders and the outsiders.
A lot of churches are “nose blind” to their condition.
What is one reason why churches are in decline? They put their own preferences over cultural engagement.
An important question to ask: Do the activities of your church match the needs of the community?
A community is more than a geographical location-it is also a moment in time. Instead of a rock in the field-think a rock in the current of a moving stream.
If we struggle to gain traction-we may be aiming at the wrong target (meaning our understanding of the community)
What are some of the initial core actions we need to take in order to use the Panorama window?
- Community/Congregation Interviews
- Data Discover (ACP, Demographics)
Churches often suffer from “aspiration bias” believing they are what they wish they were.
Can you do this assessment by yourself? What are my best next steps?
- Most often it’s best to get someone outside the church to facilitate the process
- Association staff, area pastors.
- Build a team of influencers (a leadership team) inside the congregation.
- Conduct the work and then unpack the information for the congregation in ever widening circles.
How do you handle the reality of people pushing back and disagreeing with the data of the discovery process?
- Typically, if the church team is the one who presents the data their relational credibility and influence often help the rest of the church accept reality.
- In some cases when you have someone on the team who disagrees or rejects the realities-discover the real reason behind their disagreement. It’s usually something related to control, preference or fear of change.
- Treat this as a discipleship moment; “Help me understand…” asking why they are having a difficult time hearing the report.
Are there people who shouldn’t be on your Panorama Team?
- You want the team to be diverse in perspectives and social circles
- Use caution in choosing “gatekeepers” and “stakeholders” who may want to be guardians of the present and their preferences.
- Consider saying; “If you are not able to consider ideas or opportunities outside of your preferences-this may not be the team for you.”
Often, fear mitigation is an important part of this discovery process. Communicating that the initial steps in this process are devoted to trying to understand the realities of the church and its condition and that recommendations will follow may help.
Call the congregation to understand the beauty of the Great Commission-help them rekindle a love for the mission of the church. When that happens fear often subsides.
Key Resource: Pick out a key third place ( a coffee shop, a restaurant etc.) and get to know the people in that space and learn about them and the community. Engage them through conversation and relationship.
Fourfold Panoramic Assessment by Keelan Cook
The Peoples Next Door blog by Keelan Cook
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