CMJ Events Seek to Inspire, Define Future Goals

Post a Comment » Written on February 5th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Don Meyer

CHICAGO, IL (February 5, 2008) – Approximately 30 individuals invested the better part of a day last Thursday focusing on the future direction of the Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice (CMJ) and identifying a lengthy list of potential opportunities and strategic priorities.

The CMJ Think Tank, which was convened following the conclusion of the Midwinter Pastors Conference, was designed to provide insight and counsel to the department’s executive minister, Debbie Blue, and the CMJ Committee in more crisply defining the department’s role, objectives, and responsibilities. The facilitated conversation also explored the way in which the new department fits into the overall structure of the Evangelical Covenant Church and interacts with other ministry areas.

Think tank“This (think tank) provided an opportunity for those folks who are already passionate and champions of compassion, mercy and justice to come together and help us think strategically,” said Blue in describing the purpose of the exercise. “It also was designed to help advise on priorities that I can take back to the CMJ Committee as together we more fully develop our future direction.”

Directed by facilitator Alan Forsman, the group worked through a process that eventually identified major overarching themes, key areas of focus, and specific lists of opportunities and priorities under each of the focus areas. Participants worked in small groups, reporting back to the larger body as major discussion areas progressed. One goal was to identify overlapping areas of concerns and opportunities as one means of establishing a sense of priorities.

One group, for example, identified the overarching objective as defining what CMJ should be. Four focus areas emerged: communication, education, resources, and networking/partnerships. Under each focus area were a number of bullet points identifying opportunities and priorities. The top photo shows Debbie Blue (foreground) with Marva Watts and Glenn Palmberg at their discussion table. To view additional photos and gain a broader sense of the exercise, please see CMJ Think Tank.

The think tank was one of two key events involving the new CMJ department. On the Saturday and Sunday morning preceding the start of the Midwinter conference, the department facilitated a CMJ 2×2 Connection involving a large number of pastors and lay leaders from local Covenant churches. The lower photo was taken during the opening of that connection event. For additional photos, please see 2X2 Connection.

“The idea behind the 2X2 Connection was to have pastors pair up with a layperson from their church and attend the connection together,” said Lindsay Small, associate pastor of Excelsior Covenant Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, who participated in the 2X2 event as well as the think tank.

“I attended the connection with a lay leader in our church, Nancy Carlson,” Small continued. “She is in charge of an ecumenical ministry in our church that does a food bank in our community called ICA. I knew that she has a heart for issues of compassion, mercy and justice.”

The first day of the two-day connection event was spent laying the foundation of why these issues are important, the pastor said. The afternoon included site visits to various places around Chicago that are doing ministries of compassion, mercy and justice. “We visited a food bank because we felt that matched with our church the best and gave us some inspiration for the future,” Small added.

2X2Sunday morning was a time of “revisioning and renewal, a call to leadership, a call for new direction in your church, a call to dream about what local churches can be doing in these areas,” Small recalled.

“I was encouraged to hear the stories of all the wonderful things that people around the Covenant are already doing in areas of compassion, mercy and justice,” says Carolyn Poterek, high school youth pastor at Trinity Covenant in Salem, Oregon. “We also were challenged as we continue to move ahead in the church as to what God is continuing to call us to do.”

Both pastors felt the idea of pairing pastors with their lay leaders was an important aspect of the event.

“I thought it was a brilliant idea,” says Small. “To have a lay leader really inspired and excited about the possibilities for ministry in our church is something you just can’t replicate.”

Poterek agrees. “I was with Pam Kerr, chair of our Ministry and Missions Commission. The idea of pairing was wonderful. We were able to dialogue and reflect together, starting to think about practical steps for what it means to take things back home.”

“I could go to the conference and come back and tell her (the chair) about it, and tell my church about it, but it’s just not the same,” Small adds. “To have somebody in our church . . . be excited about the possibilities, we can go back as a team and present these ideas. It’s so powerful. I think that lay leaders can almost speak louder than pastors sometimes. We’re supposed to talk about these things, but to have a lay leader talk about these things is even better.”

Poterek sees great potential in the area of compassion, mercy and justice ministries among the youth in her church as well.

“I think our kids are not just the future of our church, they’re the present of the church,” Poterek observes. “A lot of our kids are already more impassioned than we are. They understand compassion and justice and they see injustice around them in ways that some of us were not aware of when we were their age. They’re already doing it. They may not have the language to communicate that, but our youth are ahead of us, I think.”

“The connection really expanded my imagination for what we could be doing in my church,” Small reflected. “There’s so much more that we could be doing in our local community to extend compassion, mercy and justice. We’ve talked about establishing a compassion, mercy and justice commission. We’ve talked about various ministries that can pour out of that, partnering with other churches to really make an impact in our community. I know that people in our church will be excited to hear about ideas that can come out of this.”

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