I smile whenever I hear about the many creative ways congregations make the Five Practices their own. An original and locally developed idea has personal ownership, reveals imaginative engagement, and uses the gifts and insights of volunteers.
For instance, a long-time friend told me about how his congregation is planning a church-wide immersion experience using the Focus on the Five Practices Leader Manual and Media, along with a sermon series, and the daily devotional guides for every family. When the Leadership Team began their planning, they searched for a fun and catchy way to communicate the theme for the initiative. They adapted the “Got Milk?” advertising campaign that many of us are familiar with, turning it into “Got Fruit?” They are designing their logo and all their communications pieces for the initiative with that slogan, using appealing and fun pictures that demonstrate the many fruit of their congregation’s ministries—photos and posters and slides of children, service projects, adult classes, music and worship ministries. How cool!
I’ve known others who have developed logos or themes related to the Biblical metaphor of fruitfulness. Fruitfulness helps focus on the difference we make in the lives of others for the purposes of Christ. I’ve seen “Planting the Seed,” “Rooted in Christ,” “Branching Out,” “Seeds of Faith,” “Seedtime and Harvest,” and even a children’s emphasis called “Seedlings.” Has your congregation developed anything focused on fruitfulness yet?
Here’s another extraordinarily creative approach: A pastor of a large church shared with me a really cool way of deepening the conversation about the Five Practices among his church council and leadership team members. Each of his leaders received copies of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations a few weeks before an evening meeting to explore whether to go forward with a church-wide experience. At the meeting, the lay planners led a brief overview of the Five Practices, and pointed to five posters in the large room, each with one of the practices listed. The congregational leaders were asked to move toward the seats below the poster of the practice with which they felt the most familiarity, comfort, competence, and effectiveness. Once they were in that group, they discussed a few questions among themselves about why they gravitated toward this particular practice, how they learned it, and how they perceive their church’s practice of it. After some time, the leaders were then asked to move toward the poster with the practice with which they felt the greatest uneasiness, unfamiliarity, or lack of confidence. With this different mix of folks, they discussed questions about that practice. The outcome was a strong initial personal engagement with the Five Practices, and a new awareness about their strengths and competencies as well as about their growing edges and needs as a congregation. The evening ended with a unified commitment to explore Five Practices more deeply and throughout the entire congregation. I find this a wonderfully creative leadership strategy for engaging the Five Practices.
I heard from another pastor who received the new Leadership Manual, the five Workbooks, and the daily devotional book, Cultivating Fruitfulness. Her congregation is committed to a congregation-wide experience beginning in mid-September. As she and her leadership team looked over the materials, they decided to use the original Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations as a study book for all the members of their Church Council and church staff, to preach the sermon series and follow the outline of the Leader Manual for five weeks, and to use the daily devotional book in each household. However, they decided that using the five Planning Workbooks in small groups was too complicated to do during the five weeks. Besides that, the pastor told me she really wants to be present for all the meetings of the Planning Teams and would not be able to do that if they all happened during the five weeks. So they are leaving the Planning Workbooks until after the five weeks, and then they will take one workbook at a time and work through it with a different leadership team according to the topic. I wish I had thought of this! This strategy allows for the in-depth immersion experience for the congregation, and then a more carefully paced and extensive conversation during the months that follow on each of the Five Practices.
Thanks for sharing your ideas, and how the practices are being used in your congregation. In the last week, I’ve heard from churches in Scotland, Baltimore, Virginia, Texas, California, Ohio, and Florida. Feel free to share with us on the FivePractices.org website about your church.
“Got Fruit?” Then others can learn from you!
Yours in Christ,