April 1, 2022
Courage is often described as the ability to act even if that action provokes fear. Yet, courage is also the ability to do the unexpected, to change course when presented with new opportunities, especially when the new course does not seem intuitive. Grace Avenue UMC in Frisco, TX revealed just that type of courage when they paused their strategic planning process to participate in an intentional discernment process, Holy Conversations, facilitated by TMF Area Representatives.
For Grace Ave, Holy Conversations was an opportunity to pause and listen to God’s voice to hear their calling anew within their current context. During the process of discernment, they discovered that their neighbors were not who they had always imagined them to be. Moreover, the central focus of their visioning strategy became the concept of home.
Five years prior, the church created a new mission with the idea of home at its core. They dedicated themselves to eradicating homelessness in whatever form it presented itself – spiritual, emotional, or physical. Through their work in Holy Conversations Grace Avenue was able to reimagine their larger strategic plan. The larger plan could be broken into three initiatives, each a means of offering people spiritual, emotional, and physical homes.
“Our congregation is focused on deep and abiding relationships. When you come to church here, that is what you will find,” Pastor of Modern Worship Christopher Vaughan shared. “We felt like we were being called to something deeper in this process, that the homes we were offering would be about those deep and abiding relationships we hold dear.”
Grace Avenue found Holy Conversations encouraged their church to find a purpose with clarity. As an intentional discernment process, TMF’s Holy Conversations ask a team of church leaders, with the courage and vision, to make a six-month commitment to consider where God was calling them. Through monthly facilitated conversations, Area Representatives helped the team answer the question, “What is the difference God is calling us to make in the coming season of the church’s life?”
“Holy Conversations allowed us to continue to open our imaginations and listen to God, to dream about possibilities, instead of focusing on obstacles,” Executive Pastor Laura Echols-Richter said thoughtfully. “We were able to take so much of these conversations into the next steps of the strategic plan. Holy Conversations gave us space to listen to God and form action steps. Strategic planning has been very different because we did Holy Conversations first. Pausing to listen has laid a foundation that will help us move forward in faithfulness.”
Grace Avenue UMC displayed great courage as they charted a new course in the life of the church. Their reward was God’s voice in the stillness. Their act of courage, intertwined with faithfulness, built a stronger foundation for their strategic plan, renewed their understanding of mission and how it could be woven throughout their many ministries.
If, like Grace Avenue UMC, you are interested in taking the Holy Conversations journey with TMF’s Area Representatives, or would like to learn more about this transformative work, please visit our website. You are also invited to reach out to our Vice President of Area Staff, Rev. Carol Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss all the ways Area Representatives serve as partners in ministry with congregations throughout Texas and New Mexico.