Grace Notes and Possibilities
1. Project Background and Description
|Rev. Paul Escamilla, pastor of Laurel Heights United Methodist Church of San Antonio, TX determined to lean into living co-COVID instead of being ‘on hold’ until the pandemic passed. He sought to lead his congregation into sharing about their present reality to help guide them into their future. LHUMC formed a committee to guide the project from inception to fruition. They divided responsibilities including a data collection team to quantify qualitative data for the summary report. Additionally, they secured help from another local minister to serve as an objective consultant for the project.|
|Secure congregational feedback from their COVID-19 experiences concerning losses, grace notes (serendipitous positive experiences) and possible visionary ideas that have arisen from the necessary changes. There is no right or wrong, since the questions are subjective and experiential.|
|You are invited to follow this template to lean into the congregational changes of COVID19. Glean information, feelings, perceptions and needs from your congregation through three mediums: Zoom conversations, congregational survey, and/or Picture Journaling. You may choose, as the originators of the project did, to use all three mediums for the most textured responses and include securing a facilitator for your project. However, you are welcome to scale this template up or down to meet your congregational needs.|
|Offer sufficient Zoom conversations to allow groups of no more than 20 to gather for 50-60 minute conversations. A seasoned facilitator is needed to guide congregation members, the congregational leader, and the Committee Chair through the questions. Using a facilitator from outside your congregation is beneficial to help people articulate their ideas and feelings. A designated recorder and observer needs to be pre-determined for each session. Likewise, each session will be recorded to help secure data for reporting the project’s findings.|
- Question #1: In one word to one sentence, what drew you to join or connect with your congregation? (This question allows everyone a warm reflection on why their congregation is important to them.)
- Question #2:
- A. What have been some positive experiences, some “grace notes” in this difficult time?
- B. How has your faith grown, or your relationship with the congregation been strengthened?
- C. Are there specific expressions of ministry you’ve appreciated or found inspirational during this time of limited gatherings?
- Question #3:
- A. How have you imagined ways your congregation can grow in response to current challenges?
- B. What are ministries you would like to see created or strengthened?
- C. Is there a new direction you would like to take in the longer term?
|Develop a survey to administer online and, as needed, in hard copy. Create no more than 10 questions related to loss, grace notes and possibilities. Use a variety of question formats, for example scale, multiple choice and short answer questions.|
|A creative approach is to provide 21 days of prompts related to the topics of loss, grace notes and possibilities. Invite congregants to respond to the prompts on social media or privately. They may use literal images, poetry, writing, drawing, etc. in response to the prompts. Example: ‘What color(s) come to mind when you picture loss?’|
|This is an abbreviated version of the hours of work done in pursuit of this project. It is proving meaningful in engaging LHUMC and holds promise for being replicated in other congregations. As of mid-August 2020, LHUMC has completed approximately one third of the project and is encouraged by their efforts. Knowing so many congregations are struggling in this difficult time, they chose to share the outline to serve the greater good.|