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NEXT U: Organizing the Congregation

safety net copyWelcome to NEXT University! During the month of August, we are highlighting our most popular posts and videos on the NEXT blog from the past few years, with suggestions for how to use this content with church sessions, committees, staff and other leaders. 

Today we look at four resources that discuss relational organizing within the congregation. Use these resources individually, or take them together for a deeper study with your leaders. Or make it a four-session series!


Change Rooted in Relationships by Ashley Goff provides an introduction to relational work within the congregation and how it can transform old, “stuck” ministries. This article provides a thorough description of the 1-on-1 meeting, one of the backbones of relational organizing.

Questions for Conversation:

  • Ashley writes, I try to do relational meetings at least twice a month. I can feel it when my calendar runs low on these meetings. I feel more rooted in myself and my work when I am consistent with this discipline of organizing. When I do a 1-on-1 with someone new at Pilgrims the congregation feels even more alive. When I do a 1-on-1 with someone who has been at Pilgrims for 30 years, I cherish their story and commitment to this place with more fervor. What is your response? Even if you do not do relational meetings, have you experienced this “rootedness” when you spend more time with people in your community?
  • Ashley talks about what these meetings are not: an overly-intellectual “head trip,” a “hot seat,” a thinly-veiled excuse to shoehorn someone into an existing ministry. Do an honest self-assessment of your congregation’s culture. Where is the room for growth in building a relational spirit?
  • What would it look like for the session (or staff, or ministry team) to incorporate more 1-on-1 gatherings into its work? What kinds of attitudes or activities would need to shift or be set aside? Challenge yourselves to spend a season focusing on this to see what happens.


Building in Relationality by Karen Sapio fleshes out the potential for relational work in the congregation and shares her congregation’s experience in beginning this work.

  • Karen writes, For the first few years [I was here] I assumed that I was the newcomer and that everyone else in the congregation knew each other.  The longer I was there, however, the more I learned that this was not the case.  There were some in the church that had long-standing friendships, but those were the exception.  Many felt that they had a strong connection to only a few other members of the church, or only to one of the pastors.  When we held a listening campaign during Lent 2013, the biggest thing we heard was “We really don’t know each other very well.” How does this assessment connect with you. Where are your places of relational strength? Where are the challenges?
  • Karen lists several suggestions for incorporating relational elements into the congregation’s life. Have you tried these or similar approaches? What has been the fruit of these practices? If you have not, why not start now? (And share your experience and learning with NEXT!)


Congregational Power Analysis by Rebecca Messman is a meditation in the word “power” and how we understand it in the church. Rebecca then describes the practice of “power analysis” within the congregation to identify strengths, resources and energy. (This article is part 3 of today’s course because you cannot do an effective power analysis without laying the relational groundwork first.)

Questions for Conversation:

  • What positive and negative associations do you have with the word power? Does the term seem positive, neutral, negative or a combination?
  • Becca writes, Power is defined in community organizing simply as the ability to act on one’s values, from the Latin word poder, which means “to be able.” Power in organizing is not coercive power but relational power, the engine of relationships that are at work inside and outside of a congregation. What’s your response to this definition? How do you understand your congregation as an organization that wields power? (Or doesn’t.)
  • Becca writes, It is easy to talk about justice, making an impact, loving our neighbor, speaking truth to power, and feeding the multitudes, but a power analysis forces the questions, “How?” “Who would do that?” “What impact are we hoping to make?” Power analysis helps a congregation get from the theoretical to the practical. Many congregations get stuck in “should” thinking yet feel unable to move forward in practice. How might an analysis of your leadership, its gifts, and its sense of power move your congregation forward? How might you implement such an analysis?


Bonus Resource: In this video, Patrick Daymond talks about the power of relational (one-to-one) meetings as the building block of community and community change. Watch the video with your leaders and consider: what resonates with your experience? Which ideas intrigue you to lean in further to the practice of relational work? Which ideas sit less comfortably? Explore these sources of energy and tension with your group.

Are You In?

medium_5389032557By MaryAnn McKibben Dana

People who read my blog know that I call the church I serve “Tiny Church.” Idylwood is indeed small—about 85 on the rolls, 40-50 in worship. Our budget is lean; I serve part-time. Our members are generous to give their time and resources, such that we are mighty beyond our numbers. But we are not sitting on mountains of cash. And yet we joyfully support NEXT Church with our mission dollars.

We gave this year, and intend to make NEXT a regular part of our mission giving, because we believe in the vision that NEXT is helping the church cultivate. We believe “the church that is becoming” needs to be flexible, creative, and risk-taking. We are seeking to live this out at Idylwood, even as we know that we need help in this task. Shifting a church’s culture is not easy. We need the expertise, inspiration and support that NEXT provides, whether it’s through resources on NEXT’s website or Facebook page, regional gatherings, or the national gathering, which we hope to have ruling elders attend for the first time next year.

As co-chair of NEXT, I know there are churches that have generously given thousands of dollars to NEXT. Idylwood cannot afford to do that. But I can tell you that among the leadership of NEXT, there was just as much rejoicing over our relatively modest gift as there was over the large givers.

What we’re seeking is commitment from as many congregations as possible. That’s the basis of our movement. The conversation is growing and deepening. Are you in?

Like Idylwood’s, NEXT’s budget is lean, with just one paid staff person who helps shepherd our national gathering, numerous regional gatherings, online conversations and resources, the Paracletos Project, and more. If your congregation has unspent funds in 2013, consider giving them to NEXT. Whatever your church’s size and ability to give, we seek your participation.

To give today, mail a check made out to Village Presbyterian Church (with NEXT in the memo line) to:

Village Presbyterian Church
6641 Mission Road
Prairie Village, KS 66208

OR simply click here to give online.

mamdMaryAnn McKibben Dana is pastor of Idylwood Presbyterian Church, and co-chair of NEXT Church.

“wordle” photo credit: jnshaumeyer via photopin cc

NEXT needs your support!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We continue to be excited and challenged by the movement that has become NEXT Church. Regional conversations are organized and happening across the country. The NEXT national gathering for March 2014 promises to be thought-provoking and imaginative. Leaders all over the PC(USA) are finding new energy for collaboration and partnership in ministry.  The website is regularly updated with great resources and interesting ideas.

We (the leadership of NEXT) continue to be surprised by the way God’s Spirit is moving all of us into God’s future.  But in order for this movement to continue, we need your financial support.  NEXT has a lean structure that exists merely to keep us moving forward and to prevent us from stalling out.  But even a lean structure needs support.  Our funding comes entirely from congregational grants and individual gifts. Therefore, we need for you or for your church to make a pledge to the work of NEXT. The amount of the gift is not nearly as important as your signal of commitment to what the Spirit is doing in the church today through NEXT.

Grace and Thanks,


Shannon Kershner, Co-Chair of the NEXT Strategy Team


“At White Memorial we support NEXT Church because we are interested in the continuing conversation about the future of the church. We support NEXT because we are interested in compelling ideas, ministries that are successful, and the good news of new life within the Presbyterian Church. NEXT is an opportunity to be honest about the challenges which the future will bring and an opportunity to be in conversation and prayer with friends on the journey. NEXT is exciting and invigorating. We support it because the mission of the church is not someone else’s responsibility. It is ours. It is every disciple’s. Gathered together our collective voices are heard and the future looks more like an opportunity, an opportunity to share in Christ’s good news of gospel reconciliation and service.” 

— Christopher Edmonston, Pastor, White Memorial Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC

Upcoming Regional Gatherings! Are They On Your Calendar?


Watch this space in the next couple of weeks for an article from the co-chairs of our national gathering, Chad Herring and Reggie Weaver. They’ll share thoughts and plans for our time in Minnesota, March 31-April 2, 2014. (Get it on your calendar now!)

In the meantime, the season for regional gatherings is heating up. There are a number of events planned for the next several months; at press time, here is what we have from the coordinators. As you can see, events are still taking shape, but mark your calendars and share the word with colleagues in these regions:

Southern California is planning a regional NEXT gathering for the last weekend in September.  Plans are still coming together, so if you are in the region and have some ideas, please contact Karen Sapio at

North Carolina: Andrew Taylor-Troutman writes: “Our gathering is at First Presbyterian in Mount Airy on October 5th. Rev. Betty Meadows, Transitional Presbyter for Charlotte Presbytery will be our keynote speaker, encouraging us to explore the processes of positive transitions in both churches and presbytery levels. I think she is terrific, as well as important for NEXT to work directly with presbyteries. We are structuring the whole day along the lines of our order of worship. Steve Lindsley is leading music. In addition, there will be discussion groups, both formal and informal, designed around the main topic and presentation of the keynote, rather than a series of workshops. A very, very good lunch too! The cost is looking like $30 and we are going to have online registration, hopefully by the end of the month. Right now, we have a Facebook page: ” Coordinating team includes Andrew and Ginny Taylor-Troutman, Eleanor Norman, Cathy Mooney, and Steve Lindsley.

Texas and Oklahoma: What’s next for Presbyterians in the Southwest?  How about church revitalization, hospitality houses for  young adults, innovative worship and creative models for campus ministry? Join Presbyterian leaders from Texas and Oklahoma October 18-19 in Austin as we collaborate to consider what God has in store for our tomorrows. Contact Joe Clifford:

Nashville: Nov 2. Contact Chris Adams for details <>

Northeast: Monday, Nov 11th at Stony Point Center. Want to get involved? Share ideas? We’re starting a Facebook group. Contact: Rev. Frances Wattman Rosenau of Westminster in Albany, NY:

Washington DC/Baltimore: February 22, 2014, Saint Mark Presbyterian Church, Rockville, MD. Tentative theme is “The Way: Creating a Learning Community” and will feature three basic pieces:

– modeling how to be a learning community throughout the day
– providing examples of how to transform congregations into learning communities
– creating community for learning across congregations in our region

For more information: Jessica Tate,

Would you like to plan an event in your area? We can help you make that happen! Leave a comment here or contact our director, Jessica Tate, at


photo credit: Marxchivist via photopin cc

Breaking News about NEXT 2014

Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis, site of our 2014 gathering

Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis, site of our 2014 gathering

We are excited to announce our co-directors for the 2014 NEXT National Gathering: Chad Herring and Reggie Weaver. Chad is a teaching elder at Southminister Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, KS and has been involved in NEXT Church for three years. He currently serves on our advisory team. Reggie is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Chicago and is on the NEXT strategy team. He was also a preacher at our gathering in Dallas two years ago.

Have you marked your calendar yet? We have added a day to the conference to allow more room for reflection, networking and connecting with other conferees about the content. Hope to see you in Minneapolis March 31 – April 2, 2014.

NEXT Conferences are inspiring, hopeful places. Don’t want to take our word for it? Here’s a reflection from Ed Brenegar about the 2013 conference, written a few days after Charlotte:


The 2013 Next Church Conference in Charlotte was a time of stolen moments away from the demands and opportunities of our individual ministries.  This gathering of Presbyterians was different because it was so personal (being with old friends), relational (meeting new ones), and worshipful. It was less about what is in our heads, and more about what we share in our hearts. In many respects, this NEXT Church conference was a foretaste of the church that is emerging.

It was a refreshing time for two reasons:

One is the honesty about where we are in the Presbyterian world, both on a personal level and a denominational one.  There is great healing that is needed in our church which cannot come without a honest, humble reflection on who we are as Christ’s people. Out of this recognition comes the sense that if our connectionalism isn’t relational, the church cannot survive.  This moment in time gave me hope for the future of our church.

Second was the experience of worship. It was strategic, rather than programmatic.  It created an environment for reflection and interaction, rather than just be the obligatory feature of a church conference. The use of ribbons as social objects for entering us into worship was a brilliant innovation. We began by taking the ribbon we were given prior to the beginning of the conference, and came forward to lay the ribbons transformed into stoles on a cradle representing the Christ child’s birth-bed.  This sacrament-like procession of the congregation forward symbolized our desire to give up those things that we brought with us that needed to be put aside in order to be fully present with Christ and one another during our time together.

Later, the ribbons were returned as we recorded three verbs and a noun that came to be our calling in response to the conference. My call was “to connect, to open, and to lead with integrity.” We passed in our stoles of calling and they were woven together as a tapestry of the church to frame the celebration of the Eucharist at the conclusion of the conference. During communion, we each took one of the ribbons to symbolize our connection to one another so we can pray for the one whose stole we now have.

Now away from the conference for a few days, I have a couple other reactions.

First is disappointment in who was not there. Even though there were 600 people in attendance, there were many people that I know that I had hoped to see.  I realize that we can’t take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. But this event was unique because it is focused on the future, not on tactical program development or strategic organizational planning.  In other words, those who were not there were missed.

Second is the realization that if NEXT is to be a national movement in the Presbyterian Church USA, then it must also be a local and regional one.  When a local or regional opportunity to gather and contribute is offered, please participate. Take initiative to connect with others who came and are seeking for ways to sustain that which they gained in Charlotte.

Lastly, I am very grateful to all those who worked very hard to make the conference happen. Thank you, and may God bless your ministries and churches for the effort you gave to strengthening the wider church.

Ed-LIL2-2010-6Ed Brenegar is a life-long Presbyterian, a Tar Heel born and bred, teaching elder for three decades, a validated minister serving as a leadership consultant, a life / work transition coach, creator of The Stewardship of Gratitude strategy and The Circle of Impact Conversation Guides, occasional interim minister, honored blogger, speaker, and restless inquisitor of the impact of God’s grace in our time.

Find Ed online at the Leading Questions blog and At The Table of Thanks: Presbyterian Life & Mission.


Red Light, Green Light

By Lori Raible

Let me go ahead and get this out there: I’m one of those people who texts at red lights. You honk at me when the light turns green. Save your breath, I know the danger. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I still congratulate myself for not texting while the wheels are spinning. You see, I am in recovery from an overbooked, maxed-out, unintentional, energy-sucking schedule.

traffic lightsLast year, while I was still too busy to realize how isolated I had become, a friend invited me to help organize a NEXT Church conference for our region. Good thing for him, I unintentionally said YES and joined a few other (seemingly more balanced) folks. Good thing for me, God tends to make something transformative and holy out of the jumbled mess we offer up.

How is it, as church leaders we serve as catalysts for relationships and builders of community on behalf of God’s children, yet so often neglect our own need to be connected with one another as God’s gathered people?

Within the span of a few months, our motley planning team came to know and lean on one another in unexpected ways. The small group collectively endured: a cross-country move, two pending babies, a new career, children woes, serious illnesses, and the “usual” gifts and responsibilities of ministry. Yet by the power of the Holy Spirit, together we created a space to celebrate and worship a God that repeats to us over and over again:

Fear not, I AM with you.    

God really would have been the best at Twitter. Even if I had received that text directly from God, I’d have missed the point.

Honestly, as concerned as I am about the future of the PC(USA), I get tired of hearing the complaints. Numbers and money and ‘NONEs,’ property and politics and policies . . . it’s all critical and messy work. I am as committed to that transformative process as you are. Re-creation is always messy.

But, if we forget God’s promise, if we forget to hold fast to the rich story,

of whom we have always been, and whom we are called to be,

if we expect God to show up on our handhelds between appointments and deadlines,

then we will surely miss what God has in store for us NEXT.

NEXT Church has reminded me that its best to put the phone down and drive, with humble intentions, to the place where I can look my Christian brothers and sisters in the eyes, the place where we can share and celebrate the joy and passion of being called together as Christ’s Church. NEXT Church is the place we say to one another, “Fear not, I AM with you.”

LoriLori Raible has served Selwyn Avenue as an associate pastor since 2009, but has been on the staff since 2007. Having graduated from Union Presbyterian Seminary in 2005, Lori enjoys staying connected to the seminary community as she is able. Lori graduated from Wake Forest University where she ran track and cross-country before embarking on a sales career. She met her husband Rob along the way, and they have two children who love to run the halls of Selwyn, Joe (7) and Maeve (6). Lori is active in the NEXT Church Community, has served as a conference leader at Montreat Conference Center, and was selected as fellow for the interfaith clergy program at the Chatauqua Institute in 2010. Lori enjoys writing, running, photography, and sneaking away to Charleston with her husband when they can.

Leadership at the Speed of Change and the Call to Improvise

Brief Reflections on an Awesome Western and Central New York Next Regional Conference

by John Wilkinson

The second annual Western and Central New York Next Regional Conference was held Monday, November 5 at Third Church in Rochester NY. A special word of thanks to the Third Church volunteers and staff, and particularly Becky D’Angelo-Veitch, for their hospitality. Nearly 100 were in attendance, and we shared a rich and full day of networking, visioning and connecting.

speedSix presbyteries were represented, primarily from Western New York, Cayuga-Syracuse, Geneva and Genesee Valley. Ministers, elders, educators, musicians and members were all present – many ages and church sizes as well.

Worship grounded us in God’s vision in Romans 12 and reminded us, though prayer and music, that God has a future in store for us.

MaryAnn McKibben Dana provided a terrifically creative and supportive keynote presentation, “Leadership at the Speed of Change.” There were many, many takeaways from her presentation, particularly around the notion of the art and practice of improvisation. Her thesis statement both challenged and comforted us: “The church will continue to flourish to the extent that it can learn to improvise in a constantly changing culture.” Using a nifty Prezi presentation, MaryAnn drew on the notion of improvisation outlined in part by Patricia Ryan Madsen’s book Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. Both the concepts of Madsen’s book and MaryAnn’s appropriation of them will bear much fruit as the Next Church conversations continue to unfold.

National Next director Jessica Tate was present and shared the overall vision and directions of Next Church – it was a great opportunity to connect the national conversation with the particular and contextual needs of our region.

Workshops covered a broad base of ideas and needs — some hands on, some more conceptual. We discussed community organizing, mission, our connectional church (as the Synod of the Northeast and various New York presbyteries evolve), and various forms of practices of ministry.

Open source/open space time in the afternoon allowed for lively, group-generated discussion. Topics included worship, improvisation, Board of Pensions changes, local mission, Next Church, and new faith communities.

Participants reflected later on the gathering:

“…the conversations in NEXT are another manifestation of the way we’re learning to live out the Great Commission anew; they have synergy with other more structured processes for thinking about evangelism and growth (e.g., New Beginnings, etc.) that many of us are involved with, but allow us to think about them with fresh eyes.  NEXT brings in the innovative voices of folks in the field, especially those of younger adults, in a way that our polity isn’t designed to do.”

“…NETX is building a network if not a community where Presbyterians can go to imagine, enhance, expand ministry. The old places to do this are either gone or largely ineffective or too narrowly restricted…”

Presbyterians in Western and Central New York look forward to building on our connections in the region, exploring the particular needs of our local contexts. At the same time, we look forward to connecting with the national Next conversation for resources. Throughout it all, the vision of improvisation seems compelling and timely.

John WilkinsonJohn Wilkinson is the Pastor of Third Presbyterian Church of Rochester. John has been active in the PC(USA) in many ways: a member of the PUP Taskforce, on the Executive Committee of the Covenant Network, and on the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. John believes that the church is the best place for people to gather to ask the deepest, most profound questions of faith and life. He is committed to urban ministry, the great hymns of the church and Presbyterian theology, as well as baseball, Bruce Springsteen and late night TV!

The Spirit Comes to Washington… A Reflection on the DC/Richmond Regional Gathering

by Stephen Smith-Cobbs

We began out on the side porches of The Church of the Pilgrims with coffee, bagels, and a gentle but persistent breeze that was a portent of things to come in more ways than one. While we all were more than aware of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Sandy and her high winds and heavy rains, I am not sure we were as aware of the coming of the Spirit. But the NEXT church leadership conference, “Dynamic Church in a Time of Change,” was one occasion when the Spirit came.

With song and a choral reading of the Pentecost story from Acts, pastors Jeff Krehbiel and Ashley Goff of the Pilgrims church welcomed the participants and shared the story of the worship life of their congregation. Just as the story of Pentecost came to us from all directions in the choral reading, the worship life of Pilgrims seeks to involve worshippers in multiple ways. Worship at Pilgrims strives to be EPIC (experiential, participatory, image-driven, and connectional). The Pilgrims congregation believes that God is calling them to be a community of transformation that engages newcomers, especially young adults, in the practices of Christian community. At this NEXT church event, the whole day was itself a reflection of this kind of worship experience … as the Spirit came.

Jud Hendrix, Coordinator of the Ecclesia Project, a ministry of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, used images and poetry as he shared reflections on leadership. As we did throughout the day, participants broke into triads for sharing impressions and thoughts about what was presented. Judd used several poems that became the basis for examples of and lessons in leadership. He spoke of prototyping, which he defined as a short-term experiment for the purpose of learning – as opposed to the way some use the term “prototype” to speak of a kind of model for solving a problem. Jud closed the morning with the “Broken Toaster” game, in which we might take apart a toaster, and then, instead of trying to put it back together exactly as it was, we instead ask what the Spirit wants to do with all the component parts. What can the Spirit do or create with these parts? And the Spirit came …

During lunch we used an “Open Space” approach to breaking into small groups. Individuals who wished to lead a discussion were invited to share the topic they wished to discuss (like “Biblical Story Telling,” “How to Make Friends in Church” and “Creating Relationships and Community in Worship”). These leaders stationed themselves at various tables in the fellowship hall and participants brought their lunch to a tables according to their interest. Of course, some only wanted to share fellowship and conversation over lunch and several did just that.

We returned from lunch to hear Jud share the remarkable story of the Ecclesia Project and how God used some unlikely folks to help begin new communities of faith in Mid-Kentucky Presbytery. One important leadership distinction Jud mentioned was how, rather than funding one large project with one large set of funds, the Ecclesia Project used one large set of funds to make multiple small grants for wildly different initiatives, trusting the same Spirit of Christ that spoke in many different languages at Pentecost to work in many different ways in their presbytery. And the Spirit came …

The final theme for the day was mission. Andrew Foster-Connors and Jessica Tate shared their experiences of how community organizing had made a difference in the ministries of their congregations, as well as their own personal ministries. The very definition of the word “mission” was transformed for them through broad-based organizing in their congregations. Where mission had previously been defined as “helping the less fortunate,” mission now meant “sending.”

In their experience, broad-based organizing provided a framework for living into God’s mission as it shifted the church from a maintenance culture to a relational culture. They spoke of the changes organizing had brought as their churches shifted from groups to actions, to having a higher accountability to outcomes and results, and from doing one thing from eight different directions instead of doing eight different things superficially. They closed with a challenging question: What would need to happen in your church to begin to shift you from a culture of maintenance to a relational culture of action? I’m guessing one thing for sure would need to happen: the Spirit would need to come…

We concluded the day gathering around the table. Literally. Everyone got up and out of the pews and gathered (as Jeff Krehbiel put it, “by gather we mean crowd”) all around the Lord’s Table in the center of the sanctuary. There several elders from Pilgrims church, along with their pastors, led us in the communion liturgy of word and song and then shared the elements among us all. After sharing the communion, we all gathered in a large circle and held hands as we sang the John Bell hymn:

“Take, O take me as I am;
Summon out what I can be;
Set your strength upon my heart and live through me.”

Speaking for myself, it was a great and grand day to share with disciples of Jesus. I left refreshed, renewed, and fed – both body and soul. I left hopeful for the NEXT church. For, indeed, the Spirit had come. And I am confident that the Spirit, just as Jesus promised, will come again.

smith cobbsStephen Smith-Cobbs is one of the pastors of Trinity Presbyterian in Herndon, VA. He is a native Texan and graduate of Austin College in Sherman, Texas and Princeton Theological Seminary. Before coming to Trinity in 1997, he pastored two congregations in Texas. His current ministry passions include “what unites us as followers of Jesus Christ and what it means for us to be the church in the 21st century.”

One Body

by Jessica Tate

We’re in the process of getting NEXT Church up and running as its own legal entity. I’m out of my league when it comes to the the ins-and-outs of incorporation. I’ve had to go to a lot of people for help–business administrators, Board of Pensions reps, Stated Clerk, General Presbyter, COM, lawyers, finance people, other pastors… It’s taken all those connections to help sort out next steps. In all of these conversations, I’ve noticed two things:

1) Everyone has a piece of the puzzle and no one has the whole thing.

There’s the legal piece, the church piece, the pensions piece, the presbytery piece. There were lawyers helping us who reached the end of what they could do because we needed a lawyer barred in Virginia to finish things up. Everyone had a piece of the whole.

2) People want to play their part.

I’ve been issuing a lot of thank you’s. Inevitably people say, “of course,” or “you’re welcome,” or “glad I could help.” This isn’t terribly surprising. Some of it is cultural conditioning. It seems, though, that people are genuinely glad to offer their gifts and contribute to something larger than themselves. They are proud they can offer something truly needed.

I had the privilege of visiting Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Broad Street began when five partner churches decided they didn’t want the vacant Presbyterian building smack in the middle of the arts district in Philly to be vacant, shut down, or sold. Surely there was ministry to be done in that section of the city.

Seven years later they’ve been proven right. One of the glints of wisdom they shared is that the current talk of self-sufficiency in the church is overrated. “You don’t want to be self-sufficient,” Pastor Bill Golderer said. “You want to be interrelated.”

It sounds like a metaphor I’ve heard about everyone having a part to play in a body. Without the eyes, where would you be? Without the ears? The foot?

In her book An Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler gives some basic instructions on adding salt to boiling water. She says that every ingredient needs some salt.

“The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It’s not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on pea or person that either needs help to be most itself.”

The pea and the pasta need the salt. And the salt would like to play it’s part in bringing out the best of the pea and pasta. Self-sufficiency isn’t the secret to being tender and springy. Nor is being tender and springy the secret to being self-sufficient. The secret is that you want to be interrelated.

Source: Adler, Tamar. An Everlasting Meal (Kindle Locations 153-159). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is the Director of NEXT Church and head water-boiler at her house.