Over the last six months we’ve been doing our best to pay attention to God’s leading. Both corporately and individually we have been listening for God’s voice and working to notice where God is at work. The result of that discernment is our 2016 Strategic Plan. While this plan is not a once and for all roadmap, it will serve as a framework for where we will focus our energy and efforts in the next year.
This post, and the three to follow, will give details about the four actions we believe God is asking us to take in 2016. If you’d prefer to listen to this info, click here.
Action 1: Joining in God’s redemptive work
From the beginning, the Branch has held this hope: that we would be a people actively participating in what God is doing. So while this is not a new initiative, we do believe that God is asking us to take these specific, concrete steps this year:
- Encouraging the continued formation of Missional Communities, who share rhythms of life and unite around a common purpose. As their name suggests, Missional Communities (MCs) are groups of 20-40 people who share life regularly in order to pursue a specific mission together. MCs are something like an extended family — a place to both belong and find purpose. God is stirring in the hearts of a number of people at the Branch about forming new Missional Communities (that would likely look quite differently than the MCs that have existed up until this point). We will update everyone as this continues to unfold. Until then, you are always welcome to join the Madison MC on Thursday evenings.
- Pursuing opportunities to address racial reconciliation by partnering with other churches that are different than us and/or are further down the road on this journey. We are located in a part of the city where the racial and ethnic divides are clear. But so is the call to embody God’s reconciling and uniting love. In this intersection, a number of people have been hearing God call them to act — to take steps that would create in them the capacity to love more fully and act more justly. As we’ve been hearing this call, we’ve been invited to join others from the community at Hope Reformed Church (Burton and Kzoo Ave.) throughout 2016. Hope is beginning to lay the groundwork for starting a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church service in 2017. This groundwork will be laid by (1) sharing regular meals with those in the community who want to further racial reconciliation and (2) growing in character and capacity through training. Anyone at the Branch with a desire to participate in this is more than invited to do so. More information can be found here.
- Reinvesting locally by offering CREATE (a week long art camp) in the summer of 2016. Creativity has been a core value since our inception. We believe that the more we understand and practice our creativity (of all kinds), the more we understand our creative God and become the people we are meant to be. For five years (2008-2012) we offered a week long art camp for children in the community. It was good and meaningful work. But in 2013 we decided that it was time to hit the pause button. Our people needed to rest. Vision needed to be rekindled. And so we also took 2014 and 2015 off. Then, in the midst of that abiding, a new word was spoken to a group of people at the Branch. They felt a calling to lead the charge to offer CREATE again. And so, we’re already working on the details for offering the camp this summer. If you would like to be involved, even if you’re not sure how, or you’d just like to learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Partnering with the Alger Heights Collaborative to empower and serve neighbors in SE Grand Rapids. Three years ago, a collaborative began in Alger Heights/Garfield Park with the purpose of connecting the resources and skills of the people of these neighborhoods to its needs. This collaborative is made up of one business association, five churches and two neighborhood associations. The Branch has been a part of this collaborative from the beginning, but we want to take steps this year to become more integrated in its work. A representative from the Branch has joined the leadership team and has will be keeping us informed of how we can do that in the coming year. You can get an overview of the Collaborative here.
- Discerning what relationship(s) God wants us to develop in order to be a part of God’s global work. While a good portion of the work we feel called to is in the Grand Rapids metro area, we also believe that we’re being asked to consider how we can be a part of the renewal that is happening around the globe. We’ll be forming a team of people to help us determine what partnerships are best for us to form in 2016.
A common thread in all of these steps is that the people of the Branch are leading us. These actions were not thought up in a board room. These are not one person’s dreams. Instead, it is the consummation of months of a community talking, dreaming, listening. We give thanks for this.
Next week, we’ll look at the action of offering lavish hospitality and care. Click here to read.