The Mission Summit Conversations, which took place at Mission Summit 2013: An American Baptist Biennial Gathering in Overland Park, Kansas, provided a new and exciting opportunity for American Baptists from across the country to come together to discuss vital ministry challenges. This model is based around the Transformed by the Spirit initiative.
The American Baptist Churches of Connecticut (ABCCONN) is one of many regions who built on the model of the Mission Summit Conversations, and held their own Mission Conversations at the region’s Annual Gathering on April 26, 2014. Two hundred people attended the event and became engaged in discussing 14 ministry challenges.
For this gathering, event leaders picked the 14 challenges from the original list of 32 challenge topics determined from a national Transformed by the Spirit survey. ABCCONN leaders then adjusted the topics for Connecticut and what they thought people from the region would respond to.
“The way that the Transformed by the Spirit initiative goes about trying to address the challenge, in a cyclical way where you experiment and evaluate, experiment and evaluate, is helpful moving forward for our churches and the denomination,” said Rev. Stacy Emerson, a coach for Transformed by the Spirit and co-planner of the ABCCONN meeting. “We can no longer rely on the wisdom and systems of the past. And so in order to create a new future, you have to have an environment of experimentation, willingness to risk, and an ability to join God where God is moving ahead of us.”
“I think that’s the beauty of the Transformed by the Spirit initiative. It’s not a program, it’s not something that you just apply across the board. Even if two regions were to tackle the same challenge, they would come up with different results. Based on the movement of the Spirit, and based on the region. It’s not a canned thing, it’s about joining together and creating our future together,” said Emerson.
Comments received following the event noted:
- that the spirit is really moving,
- they felt like they weren’t really alone in their ministry challenges, and
- they felt like there was hope for their future.
“Our meeting was incredible,” said Emerson. “We had table conversations around ministry challenges that were relevant to everyone. Following the event, organizers invited table facilitators to share their wisdom and learnings from the discussions. We are hoping people share information they learned. The region is utilizing this to continue the ongoing conversation so that this does not fall through the cracks,” said Emerson.
The intention moving forward with Transformed by the Spirit is to take the learnings from the first phase of Transformed by the Spirit and continue to engage congregations in this journey, growing with one another and building on these learnings along the way.
We are currently in phase two of the initiative. We are reviewing what worked and what didn’t work. We want phase two of Transformed by the Spirit to take hold and be even more successful than the first phase! Currently, we have five beta regions working with coaches and taking a greater action with Transformed by the Spirit: Central Pacific Coast, Rocky Mountains, Great Rivers, Connecticut and Nebraska. Each region will have 3-6 churches involved in discussions about their surrounding communities. Through both regional and national learnings, our hope is that Transformed by the Spirit will bring American Baptist Churches the opportunity and means to reach out to their communities and grow in varying surroundings.