Open Arms: Making the Vision Reality – Part 3

If you have followed this series you have heard about an Open Arms Vision rooted in Jesus and his call for us to imitate him, becoming his hands, feet and outstretched arms to each other, the community and world (Part 1). You also know that we have spent a great deal of time discerning our congregation’s unique identity and how we offer or gifts in a unique way in a community filled with diverse models of “church.” (Part 2). My hope is that you have been able to understand the direction God is pointing us and at best, getting a little excited (or at least curious) about how this vision becomes a reality. That is what this third installment is about.

To become this congregation, we face many challenges. We will need to do more than survive if we are to thrive as a missionary outpost for the reign of God. Each and all of us will need to become part of what God is doing among us. If we are to be a place that welcomes, we need a space that welcomes. If we are to be a place that worships in with roots in the ancient traditions and has an eye to the future, we need to space that allows us to do so. If we are to reach out to the world and be the place that feeds the hungry, we need space that works for our mission not against it.

Over the next three years, we will need to make these things a priority. We must:

Refuse to be defined by what others congregations do or don’t do; Refuse to be defined by our memories of the past (no matter how fond); refuse to be defined by our fear of risk, failure, being wrong, or any other source of anxiety. Instead we must claim our identity and mission as defined by our values and beliefs and be the people God has called Holy Trinity to be. 

Stop fretting over perceived scarcity in giving, in volunteers, in leaders, in faith. Stop saying “will there be enough?” and believing there will not be.  Instead, we must live into the abundance of a God who promises to provide what we need – including the time, the money and the leaders to move us forward. We have to get re-acquainted and reconnected to the God who made us, redeemed us and sanctifies us with the power of the Spirit through renewed worship, study and prayer that seeks transformation.

Renew our 50-year-old worship space so that it does not defeat our open arms vision before we get started. The space itself needs to welcome newcomers; it needs to retain its beauty, but look and work like a 21st century place for worship; the sanctuary “competes” with brand new spaces offered by others and . This includes a worship space that will:

+ Focus us on the three most important parts of our identity – Word, baptism and Holy Communion. That can’t happen with a hidden font and multiple places for presenting the Word. We need a font that can be seen and accessed always. We need one pulpit that speaks to the one Word proclaimed.

+ Allow space for musicians (like the praise band, bell choir, and others) to lead worship instead of forcing existing space to work in ways for which it was never designed. The balcony works for some things, but the space up front needs to allow for greater use.

+ Allow leaders to see the content projected on the screen and hear what people say and sing so they don’t have to guess and be more effective worship leaders.Right now, leaders can’t see or hear and that diminishes our worship.

+ Allow flexibility for large groups to sing, perform, present in the sanctuary without working around rails, lecterns, and other impediments, since we have no alternative space available. A commitment to the choral traditions of our faith means inviting choirs. Music means groups.

+ Through great generosity, we have already been able to allow people to see bulletins, handouts and each other in a warm inviting space with new lights.We can accomplish the rest!

Revitalize our building to reflect open arms of welcome. Our building cannot hinder our commitment to welcome and feed; to worship and transform. We need to repair and remodel facilities so that we provide:

+Bathrooms on the first floor that are big enough for handicapped people;

+Bathrooms that don’t smell and appear 50 years old.

+Narthex (lobby) space that says “Welcome” before we utter a word.

+ A roof that does not leak water on the organ and furniture and force worshipers to sit in puddles.

+ Long deferred maintenance items so that it does not appear we are going out of business or can’t afford to be open. This includes parking lot sealing, other roof repairs, to mention a couple of items.

+ A kitchen with a stove(s) that does what we need it to do, refrigeration that makes sense, and a dishwasher that is not broken all the time so that we can actually feed the hungry.

Augment our space – we don’t have enough room. We need to rent space in the SW part of the community, (where little or no churches are building anything), that can house ministry and facilitate growth of hunger ministries, worship venue, adult education, learning for kids or whatever is possible based on the space we find.

Develop the most aggressive, progressive hunger ministry in the Des Moines area; a ministry that partners with existing agencies and organizations while it expands to meet unmet needs of children, homeless, and under-served people who God loves.

Give – especially financial support – to establish a working mission trust fund that makes grants every year instead of earning a little interest and strengthens our partnerships that feed the hungry, send missionaries, teach seminarians and plant new congregations.  

Reduce our debt while we teach that debt is an effective tool for mission and not to be feared.

To do this, we will need to raise $1.2 million over three years expended as follows:

  1. 10% ($120K) given to our mission partners (LSI, Mosaic, SE Iowa Synod, World Hunger Appeal)  to be a tithe to the Lord – to feed the hungry, support the disabled, help our global partners.
  2. 5% ($60K) to our own Mission Trust Fund so we can begin to disburse grants, as described in our bylaws, to spread the love of Christ
  3. 30% ($360K) to complete the short-term facilities plan goals in the sanctuary, kitchen, narthex, bathrooms and other key areas;
  4. 33% ($400K) to provide 2-3 years rent and the development cost for a space to house ministry at another location to augment space and expand presence int he community.
  5. 22% ($264K) to reduce debt OR invest in above areas as seems financially prudent.

God is calling us to take up the challenge of a new day, a new era, a new vision in Ankeny, Iowa. With this plan we can embark on the beginning of a blessed journey of faith from wilderness to promised land; from chaos to creation; from death to resurrection. Who is on board? You?

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim

2 thoughts on “Open Arms: Making the Vision Reality – Part 3

  1. Judi says:

    Can you explain your reasoning on how debt is to be seen as “effective tool?” While I understand that it is sometimes necessary, to embrace it is not logical for me. And the 22% earmarked for reducing the debt appears optional in the above scenario which concerns me.

    • Pastor Tim Olson says:

      Judi – Thanks for the question. Debt is an available tool for a church to use just like it is for an individual or business. There are times when borrowing can allow for an investment in growth when there is sufficient reason to believe that the growth that comes will pay of the debt. Paying off debt at a low rate, only to be faced with borrowing again at a higher rate is a costly move. The latitude implied int he vision statement is meant to allow the latitude for sound business decisions. There are some (a great minority) who say that debt for a church is always bad and debt service must be job one. Most church leaders and experts, however, call for the same kind of analysis of when to borrow and not to borrow as guide businesses. The bottom line is that for a congregation our size financially, we carry modest debt and have paid it down much faster than amortized. That is good debt management. We need not be afraid of that approach.

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