At ECO's national gathering in Newport Beach this past January, I led a breakout session called, “In ECO, Now What?” This question often gets asked in a variety of different ways. I will get phone calls or e-mails stating that a congregation has been in ECO (usually for 6 months to a year) and the leaders want their congregation to live more fully into the values and vision that have been articulated. When I am asked these "now what?" questions, I tell congregations that they can do three things if they have not already been done.
First, articulate the vision that God has for your congregation. I think a clear and concrete visual picture of where God is calling your congregation in the future is extremely helpful and provides synergy and focus for the rest of the ministry. However, even if your congregation has not created or formalized this type of vision, perhaps there are at least 1-2 general things that the leadership of the congregation knows they need to improve. Perhaps they want to take steps in a missional direction, be more intergenerational, or move toward church planting. Whatever it is, the congregation needs to be clear in their understanding of the general direction in which they are headed.
Second, the congregation and leadership needs to assess where they are in relation to the articulated vision. Where is the gap between where they are and where they are called to be? A congregation might indicate that they want to be more intergenerational, then evaluate their ministries and approach and realize that their energy is counterproductive toward that future.
Third, a congregation and it's leadership need to understand what are the appropriate next steps to help them achieve the vision to which God has called them. A congregation might understand that it needs to move in a more missional direction, but that the leadership and congregation have only had an attractional or Christendom style of ministry. They might recognize there is a gap in the learning and experience of the leadership that needs to be bridged. They may then decide that they want the leadership to go through some training and coaching to develop this skill and approach to ministry.
In order to help congregations navigate this process of determining next steps, we have developed an attached resource list. Our approach has always been to both develop some specific resources to aid our congregations, but that we also need to partner with leaders and organizations who have particular areas of expertise so that we don’t have to reinvent things that are already being done well by others.
On this list you will see a variety of resources that are already available and that are currently being developed. There is also a large section about ministries with outside organizations. In order to keep this list manageable, we included organizations and ministries that a number of our congregations and leaders have already used. There is no pressure to use any of the listed programs or resources, but what we do hope congregations will do is to take the time to figure out where God is calling them and what next steps can be taken to fulfill their vision.
We are always joyful when new congregations join us and are taking steps to move towards furthering God's kingdom here on earth. We hope you prayerfully explore the resources, get inspired, and use what would be most helpful to your congregation and your mission. And in doing so, my prayer is that you would grow to love and serve Christ even more as you love and serve His people.