Since May 2018, First Congregational United Church of Christ has been involved in a visioning process. So far: our pastor conducted an interview of our moderator; our pastor and moderator conducted interviews of our Church Council; and our Church Council conducted interviews of the members of our congregation, while other members turned in questionnaires with responses to the same set of questions.

Originally, Pastor Chris thought that the interviews would be the first step in a process that would last about a year. He anticipated that we would have a wide variety of responses to narrow down, then narrow down again, prioritize, and vote to include in a vision statement that would be carefully crafted to include several ideas. But it turns out that we already have a clear idea of who we are and where we want to go in the future. The responses from the interviews and questionnaires were remarkably consistent.

Results from the Interviews and Questionnaires

We received just over 30 interview reports and questionnaires. Most of those included responses from just one person, but at least one included responses from a couple. A few of them didn’t have names on them, so they might be from individuals, couples, or families. Most of the people who responded answered all the questions, but a few skipped one or more questions. In addition, many of the responses to each question had multiple ideas in them. 

Pastor Chris took the responses, made them anonymous, and categorized the ideas in each response. He based those categories on the responses themselves, so the categories come organically from the responses and were not imposed on them. He then ran the numbers for the different categories, which you can see below. These numbers treat separate ideas as separate responses, so when one answer to a question fit multiple categories, it was counted multiple times. The percentages are based on the total number of ideas in the responses to that particular question.

Tell a story about a time in the life of the church that was a high point for you. What was the situation? Who was involved? What happened? What was the experience like for you? How did you feel? (46 ideas included in responses)

Building Project (Especially Current Building)715%
Christian Education (Self or Kids)511%
Connection to a Church Member or Members37%
Family and/or Faith Event in Church1737%
Mission / Service Project715%
Pastoral Search49%
Worship (Especially Music)37%

Caring / Kind49%
Dependable / Accountable25%
Willingness to Evangelize25%
Faith / Connection to Church614%
Honest / Fair37%
Open / Inclusive / Friendly1330%
Social Location / Perspective511%

Aligns with Personal Values34%
Diversity / Openness to New Ideas and Activities34%
Mission and Service1421%
Pastor / Worship69%
The People / Relationships46%
We are a Family / Fellowship1624%
Welcoming of Everyone / ONA1624%

Service to Community510%
We are a Family / Fellowship1019%
Welcoming of Everyone / ONA2650%

Building relationships within the church812%
Growing people in the Christian faith58%
Growing young35%
Having difficult conversations well46%
Having good leadership / staff / functionality35%
Reaching out to invite and welcome others, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey2031%
Serving people in need, whether members or our church, local community, or global family1625%
Setting goals and acting46%

The responses from Question 1 stood out from the others. People’s memories of a time in the life of the church that was a high point for them tended to focus on four different themes (the only themes that applied to more than 10% of the ideas expressed): Family and Faith events like weddings, confirmations, and baptisms (37% of ideas); Building Projects, with a special focus on the feelings and camaraderie around the building of the current church building (15%); Mission and Service Projects (15%); and Christian Education, whether of children or adults (11%).

All of the other questions had responses that fit into three major themes:

Our status as a welcome, open, and affirming church. In some responses, this was directly tied to ONA. In others, people noted that we were “open and affirming even before we were Open and Affirming”. In still others, people hoped that we would discern and explore new ways to be welcoming to all people. (Q1: NA; Q2: 20%; Q3: 24%, Q4: 50%; Q5: 31%).

Our focus on mission and service. People talked about both mission trips and local service. Several people suggested that we should find ways to serve more people in the DeWitt area. (Q1: 15%; Q2: NA; Q3: 21%; Q4: 10%; Q5: 25%).

Our nature as a community. People expressed this in many different ways. First Congregational United Church of Christ is a family, a group of friends, a community that supports each other, and more. (Q1: NA; Q2: NA; Q3: 24%-30%; Q4: 19%; Q5: NA)

A Proposed Statement of Identity and Purpose

Using the information from the interviews and questionnaires, Pastor Chris put together a proposed Statement of Identity and Purpose. If the congregation approves this, it will become an official statement about who we are (and who we are trying to be) as a church. All of our boards and committees will be accountable to it, and it will guide us as we make both big decisions about the future of our church and smaller decisions about our day-to-day activities.

Here it is:

First Congregational United Church of Christ is a Christian community that invites all people, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey,

to worship the God who we encounter in our Lord Jesus Christ;

to participate in a community that welcomes and celebrates all people, while calling each of us toward greater wholeness in God;

to serve one another, the wider community, and the world with our time, talent, and treasure; and

to grow together in Christian faith and towards the kingdom that God has prepared for us.

What Comes Next

Our annual meeting is scheduled for January 27, 2019. At that meeting, we’ll vote as a congregation on whether to adopt the proposed statement as our official Statement of Identity and Purpose.

To facilitate that vote, there will be a Congregational Conversation after church services on January 13, 2019. This will be an opportunity for anyone who wants to discuss the proposed statement with Pastor Chris and with each other, to do so. Depending on what comes up at that conversation, some changes might be made to the proposed statement before we vote on it.

Finally, if we choose to adopt this statement, it will guide us for the foreseeable future. Our Council, boards, and committees will be accountable to it, we will remind ourselves of it before meetings, and it will guide us as we make decisions for the church.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Pastor Chris to talk about them!

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