Session 3 - "What is our Purpose?"

St. Peter’s members and neighbors from OEC gathered on May 25 to discuss the first question: “What is our purpose?” This question focused on the intersection between St. Peter’s and the OEC community as the area of mission opportunities and 14 participants engaged in both small and larger group discussions on this topic.

What is the purpose of the Church?

We’ve been working with these two quotes from Archbishops of Canterbury Justin Welby and William Temple:

First, the church exists to worship God in Jesus Christ. Second, the Church exists to make new disciples of Jesus Christ. Everything else is decoration. Some of it may be very necessary, useful or wonderful decoration, but it’s decoration.

The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.

So our working definition of why St. Peter’s exists is:

To worship God in Jesus Christ, and

Make new disciples of Jesus Christ

for the sake of the whole world.

Dr. Steven Covey, author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, said this:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Our “main thing” is worship God in Jesus Christ and make new disciples. Notice that doesn’t mean “make new members of your congregation” - although in making new disciples, you often will see new members join the congregation.

The Intersection

Toward a Beloved Community - Session 3.png

Based on our membership data in ServantKeeper 90.4% of our members live within the 15 minute drive time which is a good indication of sustainability!

Most of our work was in small group as we discussed the areas where St. Peter’s intersects with OEC. As we considered our mission, we were reminded of a very important point:

Outreach is NOT the same as Mission

Outreach may be a subset of mission, but they are not synonymous terms! Mission supports worshiping God in Jesus Christ and making new disciples of Jesus Christ. If a congregation’s outreach can be done by a secular non-profit, it is not connected to the mission of the Church.

The most fruitful mission field is in our own backyard. Just as 75% or more of a vital congregation’s membership should living within a 15 minute drive time, a significant percentage of time and money needs to be dedicated to the immediate parish boundaries of OEC.

Using MapDash, we looked again at demographics and each table listed both things we are currently doing AND opportunities for further mission to the OEC community. Some wonderful ideas were generated during our discussions!

What size should we be?

Our conversation then turned to the question: “Based on the mission opportunities you have identified, how big should St. Peter’s be?” Participants were given a table outlining the characteristics of Very Small, Small, Medium-Sized, Moderately Large and Very Large churches (available here). We had conversations about how organizational structures, communications, planning are different based on congregational sizes.

St. Peter’s Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is now 64. We asked participants to put an “X” or other mark on the chart at the size they want St. Peter’s to be. The marks clustered around the high Medium to low Moderately Large (125-150 ASA) with a few outliers.

Given what we have discovered about our mission focus, what ministerial gifts and qualities do we seek in ordained leaders?

Mother Anjel left and Katherine Schnorrenberg introduced this question for the small groups to consider. Through this process we are developing a list of competencies that we seek in ordained leadership to work with St. Peter's. This is not only going to inform the vestry they consider calling a settled rector but it will also help inform a future request to the diocese for a deacon as we discovered St. Peter's has a long history of deacon ministers in the parish. The combined results of the last two sessions were shared with the tables for revision and addition.


Our sessions close with this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred 
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world 
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.