(By Dana Allin, Synod Executive for ECO). In the last six months, I have tried to ascertain what are the greatest needs of ECO churches. I have conducted informal and formal questioning around this subject with various pastors and congregational leaders. I have compared their answers with my own observations from personal interactions. While all of our congregations are different, there are some common themes that emerge within many of them.
One of those recurring themes across some of our churches is the question, “We joined ECO (fill in a number) months ago. What do we do now?” What people are meaning by this question is that they have bought into the vision and ethos that is presented in ECO, but are unclear about their next steps to move forward into their new reality. Sometimes the resource list that we provide can be overwhelming with numerous possibilities. Several different people have approached me in separate conversations to indicate that it would be helpful if ECO had a brief process that took place over a few months time that a session could go through to help them on the next steps in their congregational journey. The indication was that while congregations wouldn’t be required to engage in such a process, it could be highly encouraged and give our people a common language within the denomination. It would also help sessions determine where they might need to place future energy to fulfill the mission that God has placed upon the heart of the congregation. After this basic process, it would be easier for a congregation to determine what other resources offered by ECO or by others that could be helpful in fulfilling their vision for ministry and mission.
We have taken this great suggestion to heart and are creating a 4-session process called “Becoming a Flourishing Church”. This process can be used with elders, deacons, staff or other lay leaders in your congregation. It will be launched at our national gathering in January and will be available to every congregation through the Flourish website. Each session contains a 15-20 minute video that can be watched at or prior to a meeting. The videos also have supplemental material and guides to facilitate discussions among leaders.
The premise of the process is that flourishing churches are led by flourishing leaders, who are themselves flourishing disciples. The first session is an orientation to the ethos and culture of ECO and helps leaders to determine where their congregations are starting.