A Prescription for Health
Christian Park Reformed Church in Indianapolis has spent the last several years living into revitalization. "Transitioning from an inward to a more outward focus is a lot like a roller coaster ride," says pastor Cory Moss. "We have experienced highs and lows, but hope is on the horizon."
Moss acknowledges that in the past, his congregation was aging, and people began to reminisce about another time in the church's history when the sanctuary was filled with enthusiasm. They had questions about why the church wasn't flourishing and how to reach their community. Moss shared this with a pastor from nearby Tuxedo Park Baptist Church, who recommended a program that had helped that congregation. The governing bodies of the two churches met to discuss revitalization and how to achieve similar success at Christian Park. "The consistory determined to commit to the same process, called the Center for Excellence in Congregational Leadership," Moss says.
CECL included a variety of workshops and conferences, a pastoral peer group, and monthly telephone calls from revitalization coach David Howie. But Moss says CECL was about much more than just listening to inspirational speakers or adopting a formula. "This wasn't just a series of conferences. There were so many resources available to both myself as the pastor and to our lay leaders."
A new vision
During the CECL process, a church vision team was formed. A year later, they presented their discoveries to the consistory and proposed what they believed would be the best course of action for the church based on what they had learned. Out of that presentation, the consistory adopted a new mission and vision statement.
The mission statement reads: "One body ever-increasingly joining Christ in mission to change lives by building bridges to those who are disconnected and growing the connected in Indianapolis and beyond."
The vision, which Moss calls "a picture of mission accomplished," is "seeking the one, raising the 99."
Bringing the vision to life
After adopting the mission and vision statement, Moss says, "The question was raised, 'How does this move from something on a piece of paper to something that's actually informing mission and ministry?'
"We determined that the best course would be to bring in a consultant who would help transition into that new way of living." The church brought in Paul Borden to work in partnership with coach David Howie.
Howie and Borden spent a weekend with the church, interviewing church leaders and staff and reviewing community demographics and historical documents. On Sunday, they presented "prescriptions," specific action plans to improve the health of the church. The congregation discussed the prescriptions at two town hall meetings and then adopted them.
Carrying out the prescriptions
The prescriptions included a Transformation Day, when members were encouraged to release past bitterness and commit to greater unity in the church body.
The church also agreed on five new staff positions, some of which will be unpaid. These include a worship arts director, an assimilation coordinator, a children's ministry leader, someone to develop new ministries with a neighboring elementary school, and a special events coordinator. The church building is being renovated, and Howie is supervising implementation of the prescriptions and teaching the congregation about conflict resolution. In addition, the church is changing its name to Christian Park Community Church.
The church has seen many positive changes as a result of its resolve to revitalize. "Leaders are growing, people are gaining a new vision, and hearts are breaking for people who don't know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior," says Moss.
A painful transition
However, transitioning is also painful, he says. Some people who are uncomfortable with the changes leave, while those who remain must adjust. "Before we committed to revitalization, our church was facing imminent death," says Moss, "and we came to realize that in God's created order, healthy things blossom. We have to navigate the waters of transitioning to journey towards health. The death of the old is not without its sting, and it is tough to shift from a more inward to a more outward focus, but it is happening."
New ministries take shape
Moss shares that the church has embraced several new ministries since committing to outreach, and the demographics of the church have shifted. "We have a monthly movie night and serve popcorn and other snacks. We have had 30 or more visitors each time. We also show Christian music videos and testimonies."
Friday Night Frenzy, another new program, is a social gathering for people from the community and people from the church. "People are looking for friendships," Moss says. "This is a place where you can meet others and build relationships.
"Ultimately, we simply want more people to come to know Jesus. It has been so exciting to meet more people from our community, and we pray that the number of disciples will grow."
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