Wednesday, August 13, 2008

building ministry

About 4.5 years ago I started as a change agent pastor at Opawa. It’s been a turbulent and exciting ride, walking with a 96 year old church, with lots of history, into a new mission future.

I realised the other day that I don’t do linear change. I don’t do that whole “here’s the vision and the goals and the plan.” Instead I do more spiral change, I keep circling over things, running an experiment, seeing the feedback, gathering energy to run another experiment. I like spirals more than linear and reflecting on the journey, I think there’s been 7 spirals going on. Here they are:

A – Renewal of Bible in our congregational life, through interactive preaching, discussion groups, sermon questions, stoning the prophets, lectionary

B – Resourcing a scattered faith, through God at work services, short courses and God at work groups, practices, takeaways, Lenten and Advent resources

C – Multicongregational approach, through planting espresso, hymn service, refresh (did not last), Grow, Soak

D – Formation of mission action teams, including Koru, film nite, evangelism groups.

E – Discipling structures, through Growth coaching, block course teaching, Lectionary readings

F – Staffing aligned our mission life, including part-time team, appointment of mission pastor, discipling pastor, community chaplain, family hub developer

G -Building aligned with our mission life, including couches, coffee machine, and building project. This one has been the biggest surprise and was furthest from my mind in coming to Opawa. But our environments speak and our building was hampering much of the above 6 spirals of change. So we asked ourselves some hard questions as a leadership and a church over a 9 month period. Then over the last 9 months we’ve seen $400,000 in funds raised, for the following – (This 8 minute video was put together for our 2008 church meeting, as an attempt to communicate and link our mission and ministry with the practicalities of our building changes. Enjoy!)

Room by Room – Opawa 08 from opawa mac on Vimeo.

Posted by steve at 11:23 PM


  1. A really cool use of video to get people to see and hear what you want to do with the building to make it more functional to your expanding ministry needs.

    Comment by Gary Manders — August 14, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  2. thanks Gary. Buildings are funny things, anathema to many in the emerging church, so it feels a bit vulnerable putting it up here


    Comment by steve — August 14, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  3. Hey Steve,

    I hope our recent conversation didn’t add to your stress around the church vs. church-buildings tension.

    Comment by Iain — August 14, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  4. No, simply made me appreciate even more the ironies: that those who claim to be simple church and building free are still in fact, worshipping in buildings and holding church meetings to distribute offerings.

    all they need is a good disagreement and they will be faced with either needing a constitution or a church split! love it 🙂


    Comment by steve — August 14, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

  5. One thing I would say Steve, I noticed (as I would) that you have a small (refugee looking) cafe. I saw two or three outdoor tables made into a mock kitchen with a proper coffee machine. I liked this. So often it is easy for churches to wait until they an afford the bg new cafe before they start their ‘hospitality’ where as Opawa used something that was functional (kind of) to make sure the hospitality was being undertaken.

    I liked the video – you are informing the people what can be done without telling them what YOU are planning and what YOUR vision is. I think buildings are tremendously important as sacred areas when used in a sacred way. They almost become another member of the congregation. However, when buildings or the things in them become monuments, then you know you have trouble.


    Comment by mark — August 15, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  6. Mark,

    your observation is an insightful one. my theology of change is built upon little steps rather than big visions. it is built upon appreciative enquiry, discerning where God is by tests and experiments. it is built upon doing ministry, that then changes structures (inc buildings). it believes that structures can and should change, that that is part of the wholeness of God’s redemption. it is not based upon “let build it and the minister will fill it” which was a narrative at opawa when i arrived.

    the coffee machine is an excellent eg of change at opawa. we wanted to get one, but were unsure of people’s response. we did not want to take it to a church meeting nor did we want to buy a very expensive momument. we felt a bit stuck, until the suggestion we hire a coffee cart over a weekend, to test feedback.

    it was positive and away we went. a year later came the person with the vision for the building project, building on the cafe.

    and so the small changes have snowballed. in 5 years time it will probably be a fully commercial, art and preformance space. step by step


    Comment by steve — August 15, 2008 @ 9:30 am

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