Three Hour Workshop: When the Members Are the Missionaries, A

By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

Three-hour Workshop: When the Members are the Missionaries . . .

Saturday, 9 to Noon, St. Anthony on the Desert, Scottsdale, AZ – 3/1/03 – 32 people

  • Brief presentation
  • Recap from introduction the night before (only half were there the night before)
  • God is on mission
  • God’s mission has a church
  • We join God’s mission in baptism
  • Jesus is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday
  • Sunday is for direction and power to live that way
  • You have six mission fields
  • home – work – local community – wider world – leisure / re-creation – church
  • A spirituality for missionaries
  • coworkers with God
  • Jesus Christ, the victor over evil
  • Jesus shares his power over evil with us – “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22)
  • Interaction
  • Practice in discerning your present missions

1. Some hints – use “Hints for discerning one of your present missions” below

2. Learning from a sample – use “Naming My Mission in My Work (includes School and Volunteer Work)” below

3. Practice

a. each alone

b. sub-groups share

c. test one of each

— all share in “editing”

4. Learnings

5. Re-practice if time allows

Closing

Ways to structure this vision – every member on mission 24/7/365 – into congregational life:

  1.  Incorporate the vision into your congregation’s mission statement – supporting the members in their daily living as Christians; a continuing action – members discerning their daily missions in their mission fields.
  2.  Try this mission discernment with newcomers / baptisms / reaffirmations / weddings / groups.
  3.  Make sure all events / publications / etc. reflect the vision.

 

Hints for discerning one of your present missions.

The six mission fields are not as obvious in meaning as might first appear. For clarity some examples of each field follow:

  • Home – parenting; relationships among the residents; maintenance of the place of bed and board
  • Work – whatever one is paid to do; home manager; one who gives their time in exchange for a service; school for students; volunteer work of the independently wealthy
  • Local community – soccer referee; elected town officer; school board member
  • Wider world – a letter about racism to the editor of a national publication; participant in an environmental group; worker for a county, state, or national political party
  • Leisure – hobby; favorite recreation; puzzles
  • Church – work as part of a congregation’s food shelf; reader of biblical selections in worship; home visitor

The general pattern of the questions for each field follows accompanied by the assumptions which underlie each one. Use the alternate wording as desired. Copy this section as needed.

1. What has God been telling me or doing through my life in this mission field?

Assumption: God is already present and at work in each of one’s mission fields.

2. What conditions inhibit reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in this mission field?

Assumption: God’s characteristic works are reconciliation, justice, and love. Hence, to begin to discern what God is already doing, look for what is blocking God’s characteristic works. These will be the concrete realities God is working to change.

3. What change is needed to increase reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in this mission field?

Assumption: The Holy Spirit works to align the Christian’s discernment of what is needed with what God is already doing. This question draws on the unique being of each Christian. Two parents in the same home will probably discern different needed changes. Two workers in the same work place will probably discern different needed changes.

4. What will I do to achieve this change considering my gifts, limitations, and convictions?

Assumption: One draws on what one brings to the situation. While growth into some new direction may well be called for, that new direction will be a logical next step in the Christian’s growth.

5. What vision (description of what I will do) will I use to draw others into working with me for this change?

Assumption: The Christian needs at least one person, but preferably a team, to share the mission. The Christian’s companion or team may not share the Christian faith so a vision should be worded in non-theological language and worded in a way that stimulates in others desire to work for it.

6. How will I talk of God while I am sharing my vision (what I plan to do) or following through on it?

Assumption: Rephrase the vision in explicit theological language to describes how God is at work in it. Without explicit talk of God, Christian mission is incomplete. Proclamation must include word as well as example. These words may not be suitable for use with the non-Christian. However, some non-Christians may be intrigued by the depth of the vision when God is implied, even named.

7. How will I invite others to join me at Jesus’ table to be fed and empowered to achieve this vision? (How will I encourage others to seek help in church life?)

Assumption: The Christian missionary must be part of a Christian congregation. The Word is read and spoken to clarify the purpose and direction of the mission. The Sacrament is shared to receive the power to carry on the mission.

Naming My Mission in My Work (includes School and Volunteer Work)

[ The whole document is used to model serious reflection. Move through it one question at a time. Suggest people skim it – draw on the following to suggest a theme emerging in each question – you want to underline the need for specifics and for trying actual words.

#1. I believe God is saying start that writing and editing business up here. #4. I will carry on my business with the client’s genuine success as my guide. [Writer also could redo the second around volunteer work.] #5. “As I talk about the work, help me stay with the writers’ right to tell their stories and do it well.” #6. “I believe God wants each person’s creativity to come to life.” #7. “Let Sunday’s reminders of God’s justice keep us on track.”]

1. What has God been doing or telling me in my daily work/school/volunteer work?

I moved here about eight months ago. Immediately prior to my move I worked as a Business Manager at a 1,500 member congregation, where I supervised eight of the twenty staff persons. Before moving to there, I had owned and operated a successful writing and editing business. I was also a registered volunteer Ombudsman for skilled nursing facilities.

After living in one state for twenty-seven years, I felt unsure about which direction to go with regard to my job search in my new city, especially in the light of the high unemployment rate. Openings in churches were non-existent last summer, and I was reluctant to start another business in a place where I had virtually no contacts. My husband was supportive, and encouraged me to take my time discerning what it was I wanted to do and could do. I volunteered as a reading tutor in a third grade classroom. I also began the training to be a member of the local Emergency Response Team. I looked for a job and had several interviews resulting in two definite offers, both of which I turned down. I have several local clients and a few previous clients from California.

Through this I have learned to surrender control and let my life unfold. I have seen myself provide valuable service in situations in which I previously considered myself inept. I have learned again that I am not my job.

All this is totally opposite to the way I used to function. My early training made me structured. I would never have considered leaving one job without having another! I have learned to go with my feelings and trust God and others. I have learned that it’s okay to relax and be available for my husband after work.

2. What conditions inhibit reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in my daily work/school/volunteer work?

The unemployment situation here is devastating. Thousands of people mill in and out of the Employment Office daily, all competing for less than two hundred jobs, many of which they have no qualifications for. The number of jobs listed on the city’s work source web site is about two hundred and fifty, and half of them are for nurses and cooks.

I have watched the faces of the people looking for work and seen their despair. I am fortunate not to be desperate for money or housing. I am thankful that I have the means and the experience to bypass the system. There is no fairness here. Highly qualified people are altering their resumes to appear less qualified so that they will receive consideration from managers who are searching for less qualified people. When companies do hire, they go for the youngest and least qualified persons in order to keep down the costs and reduce the expense of health insurance premiums. Age discrimination is rampant, and every employment application includes a place for date of birth – a practice that is illegal in many states. As in many other places, persons of color find it even more difficult to get a job. Under-qualified managers are hiring over-qualified people to do basic skills jobs for low pay – all this in the context of welfare benefit reduction and elimination.

3. What change is needed to increase reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) there?

More jobs need to be created and funded. Executive salaries need to be reviewed. Managers need training. When we talk of tax relief for the wealthy, I wonder if that is fair. We need ways to provide jobs for the unemployed. I am not sure we should spend millions of dollars on a war when so many people are wondering where the next meal is coming from.

It is equally unfair for me to charge unfair rates to writers who are struggling. Businesses need to put brakes on profits and learn to live with a little less so that clients/employees can have a little more.

4. What will I do to achieve this change considering my gifts, limitations, and convictions?

I will never accept business from a client who is publishing any material which is damaging, such as pornography, violent and discriminatory characters in novels, etc. I base my charges on what is fair, not what I can get from any given community. I never shortcut my clients by skimming an editing job. I never lie to a client about the publishing possibilities of books or articles in order to obtain editing jobs on their manuscripts.

I will continue to volunteer. Many of the children I work with come from unstable homes. Many move on during the school year as their parents seek employment or run from creditors. At the school, the student population has dropped from 587 to 518 since last October, mainly because of the economy. Children disappear and just don’t show up for class because their parents have taken them and run away in the night to avoid paying rent. I help the staff provide stability and continuity. And I have fun. The children are wonderful – mostly!

5. What vision (description of what I will do) will I use to draw others into working with me for this change?

I talk to people about volunteering and what it can mean for the children and the volunteer. I speak to employers and managers whom I happen to meet about fairness in hiring. I spend hours with clients over their books, many of which are autobiographical, and many of which concern their own stories of pain and abuse. I work hard to affirm their right to tell their stories, and help them tell them well.

6. How will I talk of God while I am sharing my vision (what I plan to do) or following through on it?

Most clients are fairly long term and I build a relationship with them. In some cases that relationship centers on the telling of their stories, and this means that there are numerous opportunities to speak of God because the clients themselves initiate it. Often I can speak of peace and justice without reference to God, and some clients ask where I find my own peace. In school the children talk to me about their homes and families, and even though I cannot speak directly to them of God, I am able to affirm them in their good experiences. A child told me yesterday that she used to be afraid of lots of things until she started to go to Sunday School. Now she’s not afraid any more. My response was, “Me too!” She smiled and carried on reading.

7. How will I invite others to join me at Jesus’ table to be fed and empowered to achieve this vision? (How will I encourage others to seek help in church life?)

Some of my clients belong to other faiths. Generally I will not invite them, except to come and see. They do the same with me. Generally I speak little of my church. Those that ask are always invited by me.

[Rev. A. Wayne Schwab; Coordinator of Member Mission Network, Inc., President of Member Mission Press, Chair of the Spiritual Formation Committee for the United Church of Hinesburg, VT, Author, and Speaker.]