(The following are notes from the UBC Town Hall meeting on Sunday August, 12. Four of the full time staff shared with the community some important conversations that have been happening among the leadership of UBC over the past few months. Below is a synopsis.) Josh
Josh spoke briefly about how his tenure at UBC has been marked by a heightened reality of staff turnover, culminating in the departure of founding pastor David Crowder early last year. This resulted in a period of trying to navigate leadership holes that had developed and in an elevated feeling of anxiety among the staff and others in the congregation. Out of this came a series of meetings with the staff and Lacy McNamee, who is a part of the UBC community and an expert in organizational communication. The biggest takeaway from these meetings was the conviction that we need to clarify and communicate exactly WHO WE ARE. Our identity needed to be discussed.
One of the realities that had already changed and needed to be named is this: While we began as a church that existed primarily for university students, and while that demographic still makes up a large portion of our congregation, the scope of our mission has expanded to include children, youth, young families, older professionals, grandparents and everyone in between. Each of these demographic groups make up our church and exist in the community for the mutual benefit of the others, and will be embraced, not simply accommodated. None of them are elevated in importance over the other. (Interestingly, we believe approaching church this way is a much better model for nurturing the spiritual lives of college students than if we placed our sole focus on college students.)
As stated above, this is a reality that has already occurred, so in many ways we are already living in it. However, there are some practical shifts that are implied by this:
- Financially, our ministry expenses will begin to reflect a greater balance in ministry focus.
- There will be a shift in the way we approach the calendar. We will continue to operate on an academic calendar, as do most churches, but will not be bound by it to the extent we have been in the past. (For example, this year, for the first time ever, we will hold a worship service on the Sunday closest to Christmas.)
- There will be a shift in our language. While we certainly won't be "policing" this, and acknowledge that it will be a challenging transition for some, we will be careful not to refer to UBC as a "college church." When speaking of the people in our community, we will be careful not to refer to them with the blanket term of "student."
All of this that Josh shared invites the question: If our identity is no longer shaped solely by students, then what is our identity? Who are we? We have identified three areas that are already a part of our mission, vision or core values, but will take a more prominent role as we move forward. These areas were shared by Tye, Toph and Craig.
Greater Engagement with the Arts and Culture-- It is our hope, as people who were created by God to create, that UBC will be known as a place that is known for embracing beauty and for leading the way (rather than mimicking contemporary culture) in creating art-- visual, musical, literary, etc.-- and for being an attractive and welcoming place for the local arts community. Practical ways this will work itself out (which was discussed during the question/answer portion of the town hall) include promoting musical events, providing space for visual artists and creating groups for writers and other artists to help hone their gifts.
Being Missional both locally and globally-- We are renewing our commitment to being the presence of Christ and intentional neighbors in our immediate neighborhood, which is marked by extreme need. Practically, this will mean that we refocus our efforts on partnering with Cesar Chavez Middle School, which is in the process of doubling in size. We have set an ambitious goal of having 40 Lunch Buddies (mentors) available to the school. We will host several community movie nights, a neighborhood clean-up day and our Annual Trunk-or-Treat program, all with the goal of getting to know our neighbors and finding out how we can be an influence on their lives. We will also create involvement in our own community in administering the food pantry that we currently operate. In addition to this, we will continue to focus on our partnership with Batay 50 in the Dominican Republic, walking alongside the families of that sugar cane village as we help them improve their quality of life.
Discipleship and Spiritual Formation -- UBC has always been a place that encourages authenticity. People often share with us that they choose to become a part of our community because we are a place that allows them to be themselves and doesn't require them to fit into the mold of what "Good little Christians" are supposed to be. Our vision statement is that we are a place that "Challenges People to Know God." While there are many ways in which we do this well, there have often been times where we sacrifice discipleship and spiritual transformation on the altar of authenticity. One of the reasons that we often shied away from "discipleship talk" is that we have seen many people be emotionally and spiritually hurt under the guise of "discipleship." But rather than shying away, we will be deliberate about finding ways to redeem discipleship and to be intentional about helping others become people who follow Jesus. One of our own, Jacob Overby, will be doing his mentoring at UBC this coming year and his project will be to help us develop a model for discipleship that is authentic to who we are, yet consistent with where God wants us to be. Our staff will be more intentional with connecting people and nurturing relationships that exist for the purpose of mutual-discipleship.
After the meeting there was very productive conversation about what all this means. A lot of great ideas were shared. What was most encouraging is the amount of excitement generated around the desire to be people who more intentionally follow Jesus in every way possible. We invite any comments, questions or suggestions you may have.