As of last week I have now wrapped up the Listening Tour!
Since arriving in July, I spent over 40 hours meeting with over 200 people in 19 Listening Sessions. I had two goals in this Listening Tour: 1) to personally meet as many people as possible; 2) to listen for common themes the congregation was expressing. This note is meant to summarize the most dominant themes I heard. These themes also form a priority list of work for us moving forward.
We are a church that takes seriously our call to care for those in need. Our outreach ministry is impressive, and the church family is very excited about this work we are doing together. Just about every group I met with expressed a desire to expand our outreach efforts, including finding ways of growing the diversity of our church.
For many, outreach also means finding ways to communicate the gospel to those without a church home in our community. Many expressed a desire for us to find ways to share our faith and grow our church by reaching those who do not have a church home.
By far the biggest reason people remain connected at Schweitzer is because of personal relationships. I heard many stories of meaningful relationships that have helped people grow and stay connected through the years. These relationships have mostly happened through the context of small groups such as Sunday schools, Bible studies, the choir, or discipleship bands.
At the same time, I was especially taken by the comments of newer people who shared their difficulty in getting connected at Schweitzer. This was especially true among younger adults. We will need to put work towards creating new places in our church for new people.
We are a church of all generations. I met with folks ranging from college age to seniors. However, the age of those attending the sessions trended towards older adults, which also reflects our general church population.
I heard a strong desire from every generation to find ways of bringing the generations together. I was also impressed by many older adults who felt strongly that Schweitzer needs to expand our efforts to reach younger adults.
Schweitzer is a church that cares deeply about children and youth. Many people told me stories about how they found Schweitzer because of the children and youth ministry. Every generation sees a need to continue to invest and reinvest in the children and youth ministries. Reaching kids is vital to Schweitzer’s health and vibrancy.
One of the biggest areas of concern in almost every session was our communication. I heard many comments about not knowing what was going on in the church and the impact of our ministries. This concern also includes a greater desire for transparency in our church governance and leadership. We will be working towards telling more about what Schweitzer is doing and about the impact of our ministries together.
This Listening Tour was a great experience for me. I’m excited to see what God has for us ahead.
I can’t wait to see you on Sunday!