2023 Lent Newsletter Excerpt

Flourishing Congregation

By Pastor Steve Berkenpas, Lead Pastor

At Living Hope we are in an ongoing conversation regarding what it means to be a flourishing community. This is good, because we should always be evaluating and re-evaluating what we are doing and why we are doing it as we change and the community around us continues to change. One resource that we’ve used this past year is a questionnaire, designed by Diaconal Resources Canada, which helps us understand where our church is at.

We did this questionnaire with council during our annual council retreat in September after spending some time discussing our vision at Living Hope. Rather than go through the whole report, I want to highlight two reflections from the results that I think are interesting for the congregation to reflect on.

Care for our Members 

First, we highly value care within our church community. On a scale of 5 the average response was 4.71 regarding caring for our own members. This is something to celebrate! We have a higher than normal motivation to care for our members, and the stories that I’ve heard from our leaders verify that. During council orientation when I ask: ‘What is a story that captures the essence of Living Hope for you?’ or ‘tell me a story where Living Hope began to feel like home for you?’  the most common answer has to do with a time where they were hospitalized, or were in some sort of crisis and they saw the community step in and surround them in meaningful ways. This is not just something that is important in theory, but something that is practiced.

As an additional example, I recently had friends of mine visit from Grand Prairie. When I asked for their honest first impressions, they said that the church had a ‘family’ feel (and in a good way!). It was in the little things, like someone stopping by the nursery to see if anybody there wanted a coffee. There was a sense where people were genuinely interested in looking out for one another. This affirmed the stories I’ve heard from others in the church.

Of course, there are places where we have gaps in our care. I’ve seen places where people have been missed or feel forgotten and know there is always room for improvement. But I want to affirm that care for our members has been and will continue to be a high priority for Living Hope. This is a beautiful reality that we want to see not only continue but as a strength that can be emphasized and improved on.

Care for our Neighbourhood 

Second, when it came to the importance of caring for the broader community the score was almost identical. This is another thing we can celebrate! As a church, we are a people who don’t only look inward but long to be a blessing to the broader community. However, the scores took a dip when it came to understanding exactly how we see this at Living Hope. Our lowest score, 1.86 out of 5, was regarding our understanding of a coordinated community plan. This result doesn’t mean that we lack action or even that we lack a plan. It does mean that we have room to grow in communicating what we are doing and how that fits into a broader vision of who we are as a church.

The solution to this problem includes having as many people from the church as possible involved. We want to take some time to focus particularly on what sort of things we are doing and find ways of affirming it. In the process of hearing how we are already involved we want to ask other questions, too. Questions like:  

  • Do our events (Neighbourhood Christmas, Harvest Party, Movie Nights) fit within our vision of blessing our neighbourhood? If so, how can we ensure these continue?
  • Do our service opportunities (Margaret Stenersen Breakfast Program, Foodbank, Refugee Support) fit within our values? If so, how can we communicate this more?
  • Are we listening to our church community and broader community when it comes to seeking opportunities to be a blessing? If not, how do we practice this better?

Community Flourishing Team 

In response to the report and earlier conversations, we formed a Community Flourishing Team. This team is 6 to 8 people and will be part of a year-long process of listening, reflecting, and passing the information forward to council and the church as a whole. We will be attentive to our church ministries, but we will be particularly focused on our missional vision. To be clear, it is not about starting new programs and doing more things; it is first and foremost about listening. We will do this with the broader goal of listening in to see the things that we can affirm in what we are doing, and encourage us to consider places where we can grow. We will be asking questions like: 

  • What things do we do well? What are our strengths?
  • Do these things fit our vision at Living Hope?
  • What values, important to Living Hope members, are missing from our vision?
  • How can we improve communicating our vision for both caring for our members and the broader community?

We are excited to be starting this process and we ask for your prayers as we begin. Please pray for the team and for the process as we seek to listen to where God is at work at Living Hope. We look forward to updating you along the way as we pray, listen, and learn together!