CONGREGATIONAL RENEWAL

Building a Mission Table

This resource was developed by Pastor Harold Jacobson who was the director for evangelical mission in the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod in 2011.   The resource describes a process that is similar to the Forward Together companion program that the NC Synod is using to enter into a covenant relationship with congregations that desire to engage in a renewal process.

This resource is substantial and thorough, designed for congregations which are up to the challenge of evaluating and redefining how they conceive of ministry and mission.   It is certainly a renewal process that will cause substantive changes by fostering an environment of discernment about how and why congregation members come together.  It challenges conventional wisdom to have a congregation take seriously the idea of faith formation and mission.  One of the concepts that this tool uses is Parish as Place and this resource is included in the Appendix.

The process that is described in Building a Mission Table can be undertaken by a council or a smaller task group.  There are a number of sections that the congregation will investigate that may be undertaken as part of the work of standing committees.

The resource begins with three steps: Pray, Dream, Build/Get to Work.  First, pray to be open to where God is calling the congregation at this time and in this place.  Next, be open to God’s dream/vision for the congregation.  Finally, put the dream into action.  

Building a Mission Table uses the imagery of constructing tables to have a congregation look at how their congregation has formed their foundation and who sits at the table.  The table imagery is being used since we gather around the communion table to be fed and leave to feed.   In this imagery the kitchen table is the basis for church’s foundation where the congregation is fed and the kitchen table becomes the mission table because Jesus focus was to prepare those at the table for mission in the world.  

Each chapter of process looks at a different plank of the foundational table using a series of readings, exercises and probing, thought-provoking questions.  The planks that comprise the kitchen table are worship/community, catechesis, stewardship/discipleship and leadership training. The desire is to foment lively discussions about the assumptions for that plan and then to engage in rebuilding the foundational table so that creative and evolving mission is the goal rather than maintaining and glorifying the status quo.   Should a congregation decide that a particular plank requires more in depth investigation or development, there are a number of additional resources suggested to grow in that area.   There is a considerable energy given to developing comfort in helping congregation members become comfortable in telling the story of God’s love for all.

In moving to building the mission table the focus is on who is invited to be at the table and how to be more intentional about mission and invitation.  This is not about growing numbers, but inviting others to be at the communal kitchen table to be fed, nourished, engage in mission and then invite others to sit at the table.

The last section of this resource outlines using SMART to develop missional goals for the congregation.  From these goals the congregation formulates a mission contract based on these goals.   There is an outline for developing a covenant between the congregation and the Synod for accountability and support.  As with the NC Synod, the covenant is based on prayerful engagement and intention.  Also as with this congregation, if financial assistance is needed to carry out any of the goals, there is an understanding that there would be help from the Synod to look for resources that may be available through either the Synod or the ELCA.

For a small congregation who is inspired to be passionate about faith foundation and mission, this is an excellent and challenging resource.  

Additional information on this resource is available at the following web site:

http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Building_A_Mission_Table.pdf