True community for God’s unique calling through deep listening
People of God called All Saints,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Livestrong Foundation exists to support people with cancer—personally, medically, and politically. “We believe in life,” their manifesto says, “Your life. We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being… [Because with cancer, y]ou’re in the fight of your life.” Maybe you’ve seen their bright yellow bracelets that sum it all up in the phrase, “live strong.”
Inspired by this, All Saints is beginning a “Listen Strong” Campaign this Sunday, September 8. It will be carried out by a team of eight All Saints people: Anne and Scott Holtan, K. D. and Steve Kalber, Roger Oliver, Julie and Tom Schoville, and me, your pastor. Already we have been specially trained in deep listening.
Our goal—before Sunday, November 3—is to listen to you and to every other member of All Saints. We want to hear your story, what energizes you, your dreams and disappointments, what faith and All Saints means to you, how you hope to make a difference in your community. The initial conversations we’ve had already have been more than pleasant, even holy.
Expect to hear from one of us during these eight weeks. We will invite you to one-to-one conversations, lasting 30-45 minutes. Our agenda is to start or deepen a relationship and understand better what makes you tick through deep listening. I encourage you to say yes and accept the invitation.
We are all busy. Already I’ve found strength in the love and tools and training that support this “Listen Strong” Campaign. I made time to help lead it in the hope that you may also find strength. I trust All Saints will become stronger too.
So often, churches use guilt to motivate and manipulate. We may sugarcoat it in many colorful ways, but the message too often boils down to: “Jesus will love you more if you do X.” I and the whole “Listen Strong” Team reject this. We repent. We want a different kind of church.
That’s why we’re doing this. Specifically, the “Listen Strong” Campaign aims to:
+ Foster true community and ongoing relationships of care and support
+ Help us relate to each other on the basis of who we really are, rather than who we want each other to be or who we think we should be
+ Build a congregation around who God is calling us to be through our unique desires and passions, not through some one-size-fits-all blueprint
In a sentence, by listening deeply, we hope to make you and All Saints as a whole stronger.
Stronger in order to live out All Saints God-given purpose: “Igniting passion for Jesus and boldly transforming our neighborhoods with hope and love.” Participating in this campaign—as both listeners and listenees, even praying for success and encouraging each other—is one more way to live our purpose.
Here’s what the coming weeks will look like, in addition to many invitations and one-to-one conversations:
Sun 9/8: “Listen Strong” Campaign kick-off and Commissioning “Listen Strong” Team.
Every two weeks: “Listen Strong” Team meetings to report—in a general way—what we’re hearing. This will be a way of listening again and even more deeply—this time for patterns or themes and opportunities to strengthen existing ministries or grow entirely new ones.
Sun 11/3: “Listen Strong” Campaign end and celebration in worship.
No later than Dec 2013: “Listen Strong” Team will make recommendations to All Saints’ Council to act on what we heard.
We trust that deep, relational, intentional listening—with these supporting actions—will make stronger true community at All Saints and make stronger our shared sense of God’s unique calling to this congregation.
This “Listen Strong” Campaign is possible thanks to the support of Leslie Kilgannon, Quad Cities Interfaith, and the Gamaliel Network; thanks to the encouragement of Bishop Burk, Pastor Gloria Dovre, and the ELCA Renewing Congregations program; thanks to the effort of the New Vision Team and blessing of All Saints’ Council; not to mention, thanks to the courage, curiosity, and intention of your team of listeners.
The work God has given All Saints to do is a matter of life and death, even more than what Livestrong does. Our “Listen Strong” wristbands are a symbol of that. They are brown because we believe in the power of God to make us and our congregation stronger through listening that gets beneath the surface and into the rich soil of our souls.
Thanks for your help. In peace,
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith