Redeveloping your land is not for the faint-hearted. For us, it took a lot of energy, prayer, discernment, and conversation. It took a willingness to work through conflicts, advocate for our mission, and stand tall in the face of institutions and outside pressure.
Our story is one of discernment. It is about our imaginations and willingness to listen to how the Spirit is speaking. Discernment is about ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ It’s knowing why you choose to do one thing opposed to another.
Discernment together through the Spirit was and is our way of being together. To do that you have to be grounded. You have to know what you believe and value.
In the beginning, we had a sense of what we valued. We were a social justice-oriented congregation. We served people in the community with our clothes closet. Our building was open for use by the community and non-profits. We enjoyed worship and being together.
The specifics of what we valued and believed as a community were a little less clear. It wasn’t until our visioning retreat that many of us sat down together to say these things aloud. We answered many of the same questions we offer here.
Getting clear on our values helped us understand our mission. This in turn helped us imagine what it would mean to be a blessing to the South Arlington community. The questions in exercise 2 were especially helpful in our discernment. They clarified for us many of the things we continue to believe today. We’ve shared our answers to those questions below in case they might be helpful to you.
We’d love to shortcut your process. We’d like to offer the exercises below as ways to help you know to your “why.” Understanding the values and beliefs that motivate you provides the energy to move forward when things are hard.
We’d suggest doing these either in small groups, on leadership teams, or in town hall formats. The sooner you all start talking about this together, the less conflict there will be during your discernment.
Get to know your why
Our values direct our attention and organize our actions. They show us where our energy and effort reap the most rewards. When we act out of alignment with our values the entire community suffers.
What are your values as a congregation?
What is your statement of faith?
How is this lived in your community?
Find a list of values online and print them out on cards or display them on a screen.
- Ask people to pick three words/values that they feel describe what is most important to the congregation.
- Tally the responses and have a conversation (use small groups if more than 8 people are present) about what the top 5 values mean and how the church lives these values in the community.
- Have the small groups report out what they discussed.
In small groups, answer the following questions. Be ready to publish or share your groups response with the larger group or congregation.
- Who is Jesus?
- What is church?
- What is evangelism?
- What is salvation?
- What is service?
In small groups discuss the following questions:
- Where do you see God at work in our congregation?
- Where do you see God at work in our community?
- What is happening in our community that makes your heart break?
Our Responses to Exercise 2:
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is the Son of God who embodies unconditional love, removes the obstacles between us and God and who through His death and His raising gives us new life. He is a radical teacher who shows us how to have a meaningful life with God—the impossible right way to live.
What is church?
Church is a community of ordinary people who follow Christ, who welcomes people to join them in the journey of faith and moves into the community carrying God’s love and reconciliation.
What is evangelism?
Evangelism is the way the church demonstrates to others the power and presence of God in communal and individual lives.
What is salvation?
Salvation is a true gift; unconditional love through Jesus Christ that frees us from sin.
What is service?
Service is the way the church is the eyes, ears, hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ in the world.