In most of the country COVID-19 will shut down in-person worship for at least 8 weeks. By then we’ll be in the normal summer slump. Offerings will drop while church expenses stay the same. This stressful situation is an excellent time to look at collaboration options and how they’ve worked for other churches. A ChurchFuture Discovery Workshop is a great way for a group of churches in a city or conference to explore all the opportunities available.
The leaders of a United Church of Canada church in Toronto saw that many fellow congregations were facing difficult challenges. They decided to sponsor a Saturday workshop where these congregations could get to know each other and discover brighter options for their future, perhaps in partnership. The Vancouver BC conference heard about this and sponsored a similar discovery workshop for Vancouver churches.
The Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church invited smaller urban churches to a workshop that attracted 70 leaders from 15 churches. The Florida-Bahamas sponsored a workshop for the ELCA churches in the Fort Lauderdale area. Forty leaders participated and at least two significant partnerships emerged from that effort. The four ELCA churches in Muskegon, Michigan formed a cluster several years ago but found their efforts disappointing. With help from the synod they sponsored a Saturday workshop along with joint worship and a forum in the local high school auditorium. Out of this discovery came a renewal plan that these churches successfully implemented within a year.
Dave Raymond from ChurchFuture led or co-led these workshops, along with several others. The workshops are based on case studies of congregational collaboration and other successful efforts by congregations. The information is tailored to local circumstances, and the workshop setting gives leaders a chance to know each other better. The objective is to provide facts and perspective to help each church decide on its best course for the future. The workshops typically cover four major topics:
- Viable options for congregations in this challenging environment—together or independently
- How churches have identified prospective partners and explored collaboration jointly
- Structuring collaboration for renewal and new vitality
- How to lead congregation members past their reluctance to change into a brighter vision for their future