January 18, 2016

Key Elements of Identity for your Vestry Retreat

If your vestry is planning an annual retreat, make sure you include some time for prayerfully affirming or discerning one or more of these key elements of your congregation’s identity: Ministry Strengths, Mission, Values and Vision.

Ministry Strengths are gifts for ministry. God gave you these, whether they are talents, a location, or a heart for a particular cause such as homelessness. Identifying strengths is strategic because it helps leadership recognize what naturally makes sense for you to do.
After all, since God assembled your strengths in your church, it’s wise to take some time to discern what he wants you TO DO with them.

That means, defining your Mission – what you DO – what you are called to do. Your congregation’s mission is the second part of its identity. Maybe you articulated a Mission Statement years ago. It is healthy to pray about it every year. It is still valid? Does it align with your ministry gifts?

A third part of your identity is what you Value about your faith community. For some churches and schools, their location is either something they value, or something that hinders more than it blesses. Recognizing what is important in terms of impacting the Kingdom of God helps you make strategic decisions about what should be sustained into the future or what can be let go. 

If your congregation uses its Ministry Strengths to fulfill its Mission, holding onto what you Value, what would you want the result to be? That desired impact is your Vision

Vision statements that are authentically rooted in the identity of the congregation are inspiring. They send a powerful message: “When you are a part of this community, you can make a difference in the world.” 

Identity traits are “big picture,” so that is why I suggest they make for great retreat topics. 
Retreats are also enhanced by plenty of time for prayer and quiet reflection. When I read this month’s beautiful Vestry Papers article by James Koester, "Come Away and Rest Awhile," I almost discarded my ideas for identity-related reflection. They seemed so corporate in comparison! I pray that your vestry will develop a retreat agenda that strikes a holy balance of prayer, reflection, and strategic thinking. 

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