Submitted by Rev. Phil Hodson, SCC Conference Minister
As of today I have traveled 5,173 miles around the Conference in my car. I’ve been preaching and visiting our congregations, meeting with different individuals and groups, and asking the same question: What should a Conference Minister do? I’m asking because I want to learn our goals and dreams and also gain insight into our past experience so that we can live more fully together into the future that God has in store for us. When I started asking the question, I expected two standard answers: conflict resolution and search & call. What’s been both interesting and exciting to me is that neither of those are at the top of the list with anyone I’ve spoken to. Instead, I’ve heard these words: encouragement, guidance, direction, connection raised repeatedly. I find this terribly exciting — because that’s been my hope since I started the car on July 15! It is my deepest desire to be in ministry with you that is missional, relational, and incarnational across every setting of the church.
One of the ways that can happen is through the use of a tool called MissionInsite, which the Conference has purchased and will make available for use in every congregation. As a pastor in the local church, I used this resource to launch a new congregation, identify ministry opportunities, and see the local church relate to its’ community in incredible ways — and I want us to do the same in the South Central Conference! This resource compiles data about the neighborhoods we live in and the neighbors who live beside us — interests, preferences, hopes, and more — using the latest from the Census and the agencies who collect our individual data for private enterprise to understand us, but their goal is to help the church gain deeper understanding so that we can be in ministry with our neighbors in relevant, practical ways that will transform lives. Did I mention this is freely available to any setting that would like to use it? And that I will make time to personally consult with you and your leadership in understanding your mission field and help you identify new opportunities? This will be a multi-step process that will help us understand ourselves and our neighbors more fully, so that we can help the rubber meet the road in our ministries going forward! The first step is to answer this question:
Would your congregation be interested in this resource?
If you answered yes, the next step is to email me and let me know you’d like to begin the journey! Note: when you do, I’ll send you back a spreadsheet. This will come with regular homework. I’m sharing this now because we just signed the contract and I’m really excited about what is possible! I’m also sharing it now because Christmas is right around the corner (I know, right?), and the Advent and Christmas season has traditionally been a wonderful time to connect with new neighbors and showcase the power of community and relationship through the life of the church! Which leads me to another question:
Would or Could your church utilize a list of names in your community for you to reach out to?
If we developed a simple postcard that could name your church and Christmas Eve worship time, then provide you a list of 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000 names in your community to mail it to, would your congregation be interested in underwriting the cards and names prepared for you?
Jesus’ ministry was highly contextual. He knew the people he connected with. Everywhere he went on his ministry journey, Jesus paid careful attention to what was actually around him and related to the folks he met. I believe, as we prepare for what God has in store in our future, we must move forward in the same fashion. These resources, and the questions I’m asking you today, are one way your Conference Minister hopes to encourage, guide, offer direction and foster new connections with you. I pray you will find them helpful and engage in this exciting opportunity together with me. We have many wonderful miles to travel together!
Rev. Phil Hodson
South Central Conference,
United Church of Christ
3610 River Road
New Braunfels, TX 78132