Mission First!

March 2017

“Mission First!” Disciples have said for over two years. Through the Mission First process, a shared mission priority is emerging calling the church to imagine partnering in mission with all ages – especially the young – in our local and global communities. Could your congregation commit to walk alongside neighborhood schoolchildren as mentors and classroom readers? Could your ministry be more intentional in involving all generations of adults in decisions and designs of new programs? Could you find ways to work against the social structures that make life a struggle for youth? The possibilities are endless, and the partnership potential is immense.

From the Mission Council

From the Mission Gatherings we learned that God is well at work in many ways. We are overwhelmingly called to be a Church that passionately:

  • Responds with compassion to the vulnerable;
  • Creates communities of inclusion and care;
  • Overcomes ongoing and deeply entrenched injustice resisting racism and other forms of injustice in order to affirm the fullness of life for all God’s children;
  • Works together in common cause with ecumenical and global ministry partners.

We also heard a call to focus our efforts for a time on areas in which the above actions intersect with the lives of children, youth and young adults; thus, enhancing our presence in ways that illuminate God’s mission.

Still in draft form (comments welcome) the shared mission priority discerned through the Mission First! Process is this:

God calls us to work with and for children, youth and young adults so together we may share and receive the good news of Jesus Christ by creating communities of healing, learning and transformation.

Mission First! is a two-part pilot project helping Disciples focus on two goals: showing God’s love in the world (a.k.a. mission) and making our church’s structures more nimble for this new day.

What is Mission First?

Mission focus: In Mission Gatherings, we have listened to God’s call as we hear it through the congregations and ministries of the Church. In the Mission Council, we have identified a shared mission priority, and now will help the church stay on track with that priority.

Nimble structures: Through a small, representative Governing Board, we attend to the ministry of administration. (In 2016, the General Board authorized the Administrative Committee to serve as a proto-Governing Board.)

How Mission First Came to Be

2014

Addressing the 2014 General Board, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins set out a challenge: “The time has come to lighten our load and tighten our focus – on mission!  I am inviting our church, in all its expressions, to join in a conversation on God’s mission for Disciples today.(audio of address) (2014 Communique – PDF)A task force laid out a plan for that conversation about mission. The result: to give the two functions of the General Board – tending to the mission of the Church, usually done in even-numbered years, and doing the business of the Church, usually done in the General Assembly (odd-numbered) years – to two bodies. The mission work would be done by the Mission Council. The business would be done by the Governing Board.

2015

The proposal called Mission First! was presented to the General Board in April 2015. It included a call to mission and a pilot structure for helping Disciples identify and live into a shared  mission focus. The “business of mission” would be done by a Mission Council, and the “mission of business” would be done by the Governing Board (Administrative Committee for the pilot). An implementation team created Mission Gatherings to gather input for the mission from a wide range of church members. This input was given to the Mission Council to discern a mission priority or priorities.Mission First! was introduced at the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus with an address by General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins.

2016

Each Friday from late 2015 through 2016, a call to prayer went out to the church for the pilot program. The Administrative Committee functioned in its various capacities as General Board and Administrative Committee while maintaining its oversight as the board of the Office of General Minister and President.After more than 80 Mission Gatherings across our two nations, a report was submitted to the newly minted Mission Council. (Story about the report.) The council gathered for prayer, worship and discernment in December 2016. They considered the input of more than 2,600 Disciples to distill a new pilot mission priority that builds on our ongoing priorities of pro-reconciliation/anti-racism, leadership development, congregational transformation and new churches. It is an expansion of our stated mission “to be and to share the good news of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving and serving, from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.”

2017

The General Board received the report of the Mission Council, including this new pilot priority. The priority is still evolving as we experience the Mission Council in its role of fostering collaborative implementation of mission.Next stepsThe 2017 General Board voted to extend portions of the pilot for another two years to continue implementing the shared mission priority.

Meanwhile, the Church is encouraged to dream about how each of us might see ourselves in communities of healing, learning and transformation for and with God’s children of all ages inside and outside the church.