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Decisions, decisions! It’s that time of year when ministry teams shape their plans for 2024 and Session considers the congregation’s budget for operations. We’re starting to talk about making real ministry and mission out of our Sharing Table Project commitments. How will we live out our Matthew 25 commitment this year? Personally, how much of our time and energy are we willing to invest in “being church”- teaching classes or staying overnight with the PADS program or coming to worship and sing on Sunday mornings or serving as an elected leader or volunteering at the resale shop or other community missions which our church supports? 

Last week Mark Sundby of LeaderWise, a consulting group that nurtures church leadership, wrote about making wise decisions when there are unknowns. He elaborated on Robert Sternberg’s “balance theory of wisdom” when a decision is not obvious. His framework is:

  • Draw upon multiple ways of “knowing,” including facts and analysis, experience, intuition and creativity

  • Seek the common good

  • Consider short-term and long-term implications

  • Think about stakeholders, inside and outside the organization

  • Act with courage

What might this mean for our church community? Unpack and ponder this:

  • We have written and lived history and periodic retreats to reflect upon lessons of that history. We have experience with other church communities as well as clubs, the workplace, sports and neighborhoods. Our intuition is informed by our faith and God’s Word and its meaning in our lives. We have innate creativity that emerges when we are willing to see and do new things in new places with new people to address new issues.

  • Our sense of “common good” is based upon “love God and love your neighbor” as the guiding principle of Jesus…God’s kin-dom, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

  • Implications of our membership records that show 127 people are over 71, 68 more between 56 and 70, 45 members age 41-55, only 38 between 26 and 40, and 80 (!) under age 26? (Plus 107 whose age is not listed.). We Presbyterians are a “traditional, mainline denomination,” as well as one that is progressive about being inclusive of all and caring deeply for one another, from indigenous people to world hunger. We build upon the gifts of “the saints who have come before us,” and actively seek to reach beyond our walls with our actions, including livestreaming worship, are active as community leaders and volunteers, have a preschool that prepares children for kindergarten, and a resale shop that recycles, repurposes, and resells goods that relieve burdens of poverty for some, plus benefits thrifters and others who just seek to “live green.” Today’s church includes all of these facets and their implications.

  • Stakeholders: people who give generously to support a vibrant congregation that impacts lives and personal faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit; those who seek to care for God’s creation and implement resources like EarthCare and solar heat for our building, and live those values on our land, at home, and in our community; those in our community in need of advocates to alleviate poverty and erase systemic/built-in racism; families living with depression, deep grief, sense of hopelessness; and so many others.

  • “Act with courage:” a phrase that involves both action and faith; openness to well-considered risk; trust in God’s promises through our faith; collective decisions wrapped in prayer for wisdom and implemented by faith-filled leaders seeking to serve God and share the core message of love; willingness to speak truth as we discern it together as People of God; and willingness to forgive, learn, and recommit to shaping ministry as a vibrant congregation, diverse in age, opinions, hopes and dreams, energy, yet unified as the Body of Christ in this time and place.

These choices about what it means to live a Christian life daily – to make wise decisions about who we are and what we do – become who we are together as First Presbyterian Church. Tidings and First Notes and Glimpses name so much to celebrate as FPCV, and invite us to ask what more we can do as disciples, who else can we welcome and include like those who made radical decisions when Jesus called them to follow. What decisions will we make?

–Linda Long


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