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Join the class: Missional formation in progress
September 10, 2002
Winnipeg, Man.Jack Suderman recently received a telephone call from a congregation at a crossroads; with their building just paid off and the congregation in the midst of a pastoral transition, they saw an opportunity to re-orient their church and rewrite their constitution, and "through the lens of the missional vision."
"The church council chair asked if we can help and happily, we could say yes!" said Suderman, the executive secretary of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, adding that "there are quite a number of stories like that."
Suderman was referring to the fact that missional-minded Mennonites across Canada now have access to resources designed to help churches clarify their identity and participation in Gods mission of healing and hope.
A brochure, "Take a new road together: Missional opportunities for you and your congregation," has been sent to congregations in the September of issue of Equipping Canada, a ten-times per year mailing to congregations. The brochure (and accompanying letter) invites individuals to learn about missional formation and congregational partnerships in mission. (Information is also available at www.mennonitechurch.ca.)
The initiative provides five ways to explore missional church perspectives for the life and ministry of congregations, each designed for different groups and different time commitments, and five possible ways that congregations can partner in mission.
The hoped for outcome, says Suderman, is to help congregations explore their vision, establish a clarity of purpose, and address how their programs, activities, budgets, and character align with their vision and purpose, and ultimately partner together with others at home or abroad to continue Gods mission. "We dream of congregational leaders that are creatively, passionately, and continuously thinking about how to engage the missional identity of their congregation," said Suderman.
When asked about the challenges of missional formation, Suderman says the journey will take participants from inspiration through conviction to transformation. "But the biggest challenge is transformation, and no one should underestimate that. I liken it to the Kyoto accord; citizens truly desire to do what is good and right for the environment, but are they willing to take the car to work for only two days a week?"
MC Canada now has a half-time staff person in each area conference (except Alberta, where an appointment is yet to be made) charged with the task of responding to churches requests for missional formation and mission partnerships.
Suderman concludes with a final story: "We were invited to help a congregation go through a visioning process last year. This congregation had reams of activity, everybody was busy, but energy was lagging and people felt a lack of purpose to their busyness, a lack of connection to something greater."
In the process, the congregation shared their vision statement, mission statement and purpose statement with Suderman, who "noticed right away that all three of the statements lacked any reference to God."
In the conversation that followed, congregational leaders determined that a new emphasis on God and Gods mission could provide the sense of connection to a greater purpose that was missing. They set a priority statement, which focuses each activity in its alignment with Gods purpose. "Significant energy has already come from this," said Suderman.
Once-in-a lifetime missional training opportunity
Winnipeg, Man.Church leaders can sign up for a new missional formation course offered by Mennonite Church Canada in 2003.
Billed as "Leadership/Mentor training," the course will be held in four three-day sessions, tentatively scheduled for January 5-7, May 4-6, September 7-9, and December 7-9, 2003, and is open to participants from across Canada, though spaces are limited. Monthly Internet-based interaction will keep participants connected between sessions.
The total cost to registrants is $450 for the whole course. For all four sessions, MC Canada covers travel costs, meals and lodging.
Course participants will:
Strengthen their understanding of being a missional church
For more information, contact Marilyn Houser Hamm, Director of Congregational Partnerships, by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or toll-free across Canada: 1-866-888-6785; local Winnipeg callers use 888-6781. Regional contacts are: