thrivival picI just got back from the Stewards by Design conference.  I’m on the Planning Team.  20 congregations come from across Canada to help strengthen a sense of mission and stewardship.  It’s a great Team to be on—and a fantelligent experience. (More on that soon.)

It was a full weekend, but fun and a lot of laughter.  And I even got to play guitar in the praise band for 6 services because Chippawa Presbyterian’s regular guitarist couldn’t come.  (Nancy, you rock!)  Plus, the YMCA Geneva Park in Rama is beautiful.

Several years ago my congregation attended.  Good things are happening at our church.  We’re not perfect, but hope is happening.  So I was asked to present a case study of a church who had applied some learnings from the Stewards event, largely influenced by Kennon Callahan’s 12 Keys to an Effective Church.  I’ve met him several times now and Callahan is a gracious and wise man.

I spoke about Westminster.  I spoke about how several years ago the church had seen the tombstone—and nothing is a motivator for change like the smell of death.  And then this: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  No one said it like that, but this Einstein quote was in the air.

I spoke about the centrality of Jesus in our church.  A new dad came up to me before Christmas.  His family was looking for a church and he asked me, “What does your church think about Jesus?  Do you talk about him a lot?”  Hmm, where was this coming from, I wondered?  Is this another veiled question hoping we water down the message?  I replied, “You know, it’s really all about Jesus.  We love him.”  He said, “Good.”  I was reminded of a farmer who told me about de-heading chickens.  For a while, the chicken’s body runs around very busily as if it knows where it’s going.  Soon it just stops and flops over.  The Bible consistently says that Jesus is the head of the church.  Without him on top, flop.

Last, I spoke about how the Stewards by Design conference and Callahan’s 12 Keys approach have benefited us.  In short, I said that it relieved us of the overbearing pressure that we need to be all things to all people (although some still think that, it’s in the bones somewhere); and that people these days aren’t looking for every program under the sun (that trend only started after WW2), but for Jesus and a sense of home and hope.  It helped us focus on our strengths (and to stop feeling bad about who we aren’t ; about what truly motivates most people in our time (compassion, community, hope) and how that might be reflected in what we do; and the importance of short-term “sprint” ministries instead of only long-term “marathon” opportunities.  Culture has changed.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

At Westminster, the process helped us focus on our growing blended worship style; and bringing on a part-time youth position; a pastoral care team; an increasing focus on reaching out (we’re slowly getting there); and on learning/connecting opportunities like home studies.

We also considered more seriously what ‘visibility’ means.  Not just signs and building space—but about the internet.  Most people coming to Westminster have first checked out the website, and only then do they show up.  Online presence is important.  In an increasingly mobile culture, Facebook is the new front porch (People check in to see what’s happening; to share a laugh; to borrow sugar; to ask someone to babysit as they go to the doctor).  The front door of the church is no longer a slab of wood on hinges, it’s a www.

A new family came through the door last year and I happened to be walking by so I greeted them.  They charged in wondering where to go and if they’d make it on time.  I thought about that look in their eye and later wrote this: “In these changing times we need to treat every single person who takes a leap of faith, packs up the family, and comes to a strange thing called a worship service on a Sunday morning when everyone else is hitting the snooze button, like a direct miracle from God Almighty.”

We’re just redoing our 3-year plan.  It encourages a ‘ground up’ process that is transparent and has integrity.

“Fantelligent.”  When I used that at the start of this blog, it was because in my presentation to the conference I told how my daughter Sarah sometimes makes up words.  One day she made up “fantelligent” (fantastic plus intelligent).  The conference was fantelligent.

But here’s how I ended—with a made-up word of my own.  “Thrivival.”  A key for churches is to move from a “surviving” mentality to a “thriving” mentality as we trust that God is actually who he says he is and that we are his.

It’s a work in progress.  But at Westminster, we are thriviving.


  1. “A Steering wheel don’t mean you can drive, a warm body don’t mean you’re alive. I want to Thrive, not just survive” – Jon Foreman (From ‘Thrive’, off the album Vice Verses by Switchfoot)

    Thanks for this.


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