On Mission

Being All-In And On-Board With Every Word

In This Edition:

  • Helpful and Inviting Statements of Vision

  • A Second Interview with Justin & Jennifer Gerhardt

  • Top Picks: This Week’s Recommended Resources

Helpful and Inviting Statements of Vision

Let’s talk about that first paragraph people see on your adult education page. What do you want to lead with? How do you want to promote it or advertise it? Listen to some of the better paragraphs I’ve come across and listen for how the wording is intentionally exciting, informative, and inviting.

FPC Nashville: “At First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, we strive to offer educational opportunities for adults to love the Lord with all their minds on Sundays and almost every day of the week. Our class options vary, so you may choose between lectures and discussions; large groups and small; age-specific and inter-generational classes; married couples, singles and ‘anyone;’ peer-led and professionally led. The one common denominator is our hope that every adult finds involvement in learning that is interesting and vital, making growth in faith a reality.”

Good Shepherd Episcopal: “We all yearn to have a closer relationship with our Creator, and each of us is on our own spiritual journey to go deeper with God. Sometimes life gets in the way of this process, or we simply feel ready to take the next step to grow in our faith. And that's where Good Shepherd’s Adult Education Program comes in. We offer a variety of programs designed to help you re-connect to God, learn more about the Bible, the Christian faith, and to explore how faith can help you understand world events and navigate all the complexities of life. You'll build community and grow intellectually as well as emotionally and spiritually. Here is a sampling of some of the classes we offer throughout the year.”

North Shore Congregational Church: “Growing and deepening Christian discipleship, a core element of our church’s purpose, is a journey we all travel in varying ways throughout our lives. That journey, however, is one that is inspired and enlivened when it is shared with others. Through prayer, Bible studies, book groups, and more, we seek to learn from one another, support one another, and grow together as a faith community. All are welcome, at any time, to join us!”

First Baptist Church McMinnville: “The primary purpose of adult ministry at FBC is to help adults grow as disciples of Jesus. We are a wonderful mix of believers, seekers, and skeptics. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, there is a place for you. We believe that God is at work in all of us and that we are each evolving in our understanding and experience of the Creator. In response, we offer a wide variety of classes on Sunday mornings, and small groups at various times throughout the week. New groups are continually forming, so watch this website or contact the office manager for the latest opportunities.”

Christ Church Episcopal: “Christ Church seeks to offer a range of options for you to deepen your faith by exploring new topics, engaging in meaningful conversations, and practicing some of the many ways we connect with the holy. We offer learning opportunities on weekends, weekdays, weeknights, and online. We invite you to join us in one or more of these classes this fall.”

These are some great examples of inviting paragraphs, intended to get people interested in adult education. Use these as inspiration to craft your own.

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A Second Conversation With the Gerhardts

Last week, I introduced you to my friends Justin and Jennifer Gerhardt. These days, the Gerhardts are roaming the English countryside as they make stops around the world. But for 10 years, they served the Round Rock Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. I sat down with Justin & Jennifer for episode 4 of the Avenue for Faith podcast, where I got to ask them about their two-word mission statement“Live Love,” and how to be a church or an education ministry “on mission.” Here are some highlights:

Q: Justin, What was a central way you were able to get the whole church on the same page?

Focusing on language. If you’re talking about a bunch of people doing the same thing, valuing the same priorities, behaving the same way, aligning in the same direction, one of the keys to that group alignment is shared language. Language is the way we communicate. We even think half the time in words. And so, being able to craft language that made a box that we could put vision into—and at times it was crafting language that made a box that we could put strategy into—but it was a box that had handles, and that people could carry around. How many churches have missions? Tons of churches. How many church’s missions do you know? I don’t know what the answer to that is, but probably not a lot. You know Round Rock’s. Guess why? Because we were smart enough to know we are dumb enough to forget anything more than two words…That concision, having phrasing that’s that concise, makes it memorable which makes it portable, which makes it replicable. And then if you do your job as a leader of filling it with meaning again, and again, and again—now, you’ve got something that multiple people are saying…that becomes a contagious sort of thing.

Q: Jennifer, not everyone will bite. How can you help most people get on board?

Yes, some people won’t get on the boat. But you can help most of the people get on the boat by compellingly casting the vision. If it’s a good vision, and you cast it well, and you help people understand why this matters, most people want to get on board. And you can help them. I think that one of the biggest things is making sure that you give voice to the people who have already been living this mission. I noticed a big change in our elders from those first three or four years…what we have now are nine elders who are huge on board with this, because they are the elders who were shaped by this culture. And so they are huge advocates of it, and when they get up, and they do the blessing at the end of church, they never forget to say “go and live love,” because that matters to them. So the people you put up to pray, the people you put up in leadership positions, the people who teach Bible classes, the people who have any kind of leadership positions need to be people who are bought into the mission.

Q: Justin & Jennifer, what would you add besides “speak the same words” to help establish a culture based on your mission?

Jennifer: Make sure not to just say “live love,” but to show it; not just tell, but show. So much a part of both Justin’s preaching and what later became our storytelling ministry were stories of people living love. So you could see that that looks different for everybody. Here’s an example of what it looks like with this person in this situation. So now everybody’s like “oh, this is OUR thing.” But also we are putting a picture with it. So now it’s easier to understand, and touch, and imagine. So I think the stories are really effective.

Justin: Being able to point instead of talk often is the key to effective communication. So if we were going to do fall festival—this big community outreach event providing a safe place to celebrate halloween on our campus, that lets them get to know our church, and its just us serving them and being good neighbors—we would do that, then we would do a video recapping that, and at the end of that video: “Fall Festival 2018: Love Lived.” Those are the last words that everybody sees before the recap fades to black. If it’s ShareFest—something we did every April; its a big garage sale where everything is nicer, everything is free, which we do for the community around us—we figure out how we are going to help people understand that this is what we are talking about: we are talking about loving people.

Jennifer: So it’s in the announcement too. “Come Live Love.” I mean, this is an opportunity for you to live love. And then, it’s also in the recap.

Justin: It’s even on the banner: “ShareFest: Live Love. Share Stuff.” Here’s how you live love: you share stuff. So you are just pointing. This is how you live love. And the love part is happing all around in all kinds of contexts. So it’s not love as a hobby. It’s love as a lifestyle. Being able to have that language, and then fill it with meaning again and again through words and by just pointing your finger at various actions that individuals or the church at large was taking was really helpful in establishing that culture.

Excerpts taken from my interview with Justin & Jennifer Gerhardt on Episode 4 of the Avenue for Faith podcast. You can find the podcast on all major podcasting platforms.

Listen to the Podcast

Top Picks: This Week’s Recommended Resources

Video: Right Now Media

Right Now media provides tens of thousands of videos that can be helpful in planning out curriculum or resources for your class, adult education program, or small group. They offer everything from an entire class series to a 2-minute conversation starter. Some videos are shot on location in Israel or Greece, which can give your class a sense of “being there” when discussing Bible events. This is a subscription service, but for a limited time they are offering free access to a range of videos. Check with your church to see if they already have a subscription. Teachers, you can upload your own videos in a custom tab within Right Now Media for use by your class.

Audio/Podcast: Holy Ghost Stories

Justin Gerhardt’s latest project combines inspirational Bible stories with his own powerful storytelling. As Justin says, “You love the Bible, and I’m going to prove it to you in 25 minutes.”

Connection: Jennifer (JL) Gerhardt

Jennifer is a talented and inspiring writer, storyteller, speaker, and Bible class teacher. Take the time to explore her books and articles, check out her speaking and teaching schedule, and consider reaching out to her for ideas as you plan out the next year at your church.

Sermon Series: This Is How We Live Love

Justin preached a series at Round Rock outlining the mission to “live love.” Hope this series inspires you to consider your own mission and vision, and finding ways to intentionally bring that mission to life.

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Avenue For Faith is a publication of the Adult Education Ministry of Sherrod Avenue Church of Christ in Florence, Alabama. My name is Nathan Guy, and I am the Minister of Adult Education. I am happily married to Katie and also serve as President of Mars Hill Bible School. You can find more resources on our website over at avenueforfaith.org. Follow us @avenueforfaith (fb/tw/ig).