Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Appealing to the 'Nones'

The GPS task force is moving toward completing its job of recommending ways for Second to be the church in the next few years. (For a timetable, see our Dec. 10 blog posting.)

As that happens, it's helpful to look again at the reality of religion in America today and to remember that there are lots and lots of spiritually hungry people outside of churches who might be willing, under the right circumstances, to consider what being a disciple of Jesus Christ might mean for them.

To help all of us get a sense of what such folks are thinking, we could read this piece by someone who considers himself in that unaffiliated group -- often called the "Nones" because when they're asked which of a long list of religions they subscribe to they cite "none of the above." It's a piece worth our attention.

The GPS report will suggest ways to engage the "Nones" while also making sure that we take excellent and compassionate care of the folks already inside Second's walls.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A timetable for the GPS report

The GPS planning team has been at work since mid-July, listening to the congregation, assessing where Second Church is now, praying for guidance and trying to discern where the living God would move us in the next few years.

We are closing in on a report to be presented first to Session, then to all the church officers and then to the full congregation.

Here's at least the tentative timetable:

After conversations with some individual church leaders, we'll be presenting a report to Session on Jan. 17. The report will be full of recommendations as well as ideas for how to implement those recommendations. When Session receives our report it won't automatically be approving all of our ideas. Rather, Session -- and later the whole congregation -- will need a chance to digest the report and decide how best to proceed, though there are some actions we hope the Session will consider quickly. The GPS, after all, has no authority to implement anything. Rather, the GPS is in the analysis and recommendation business.

The report will be presented to all the officers on Feb. 3 and 4 at the annual officers retreat at the Heartland Presbyterian Center in Parkville. At the retreat held early this year, officers kicked off the GPS work by participating in a workshop about our future led by Leta Anderson, the professional planner the GPS has been working with.

The full congregation will be introduced to the GPS report at the annual congregational meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Once the report is presented that evening, the work of the GPS task force will be done, but the work of the officers, staff and the whole congregation will have just begun.

Members of the GPS are excited about the work we've done and the many wonderful ideas about how to be the church in the years ahead that have arisen from our process. Thanks to all of you who have participated in our work. Second is full of people who are passionate about being disciples of Jesus Christ and proclaiming the gospel in word and deed. And our prayer is that each person in the congregation -- and eventually many people outside, too -- will find something in the report to embrace with passion so Second can move confidently into a future full of promise and hope..

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some notes from the choir

As the GPS continues its discussions with various groups at Second, some of us spent some time with members of the choir on a recent evening.

We were interested not just to hear their thoughts about choir but also their broader dreams for the church.

Here are some things they told us:

* There's a nice mix of ages at Second now.
* We should encourage members to do their charitable giving through the church rather than individually to community organizations.
* It's wonderful to see so many children come forward for the children's sermon and to see so many new people attending worship.
* The Parish Ministry Team is doing an excellent job putting more emphasis on caring for our own members.
* Our efforts at being more hospitable are increasing and succeeding, though we need even more emphasis on that. 
* Second should advertise more and better.
* We should have more community events in the sanctuary, such as music programs.
* We should narrow the focus of mission by cutting down on the number of mission partners we support.
* People in church who used to join families at the Y camp in Estes Park, Colo., miss doing that now and need an alternative.
* The recent volunteer effort to help Harvesters is doing well.
* Change is both good and painful.
* We need more small group opportunities.
* Choir members need an opportunity to participate in Sunday School and other events that they can't do now because of rehearsal times.
We really need to improve youth group so we can attract families with children.
* The idea of Second creating a coffee shop near UMKC is great.
* Second needs a volunteer coordinator.

If you agree or disagree, let us know -- and give us your thoughts, too. You can e-mail us at or drop a note in the church file folder of GPS moderator Bill Tammeus.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

1865, 1866, 1867, 1868. . .

The GPS closing ceremony to remember Second's history

Sometimes it takes more than words to help us remember what needs to be remembered. Sometimes it takes an intentional ritual.

Which is why -- among other reasons -- the church creates rituals for the sacraments of baptism and holy communion as well as rituals for weddings, funerals and other special times.

But it's possible to create ad hoc rituals -- rituals on the fly, if you will -- to help us focus on something important. And that's what the GPS team has done. We have devised a closing ritual for our meetings -- a ritual that reminds us of the nearly 150-year history of Second Presbyterian Church and of our hope for a bright future.

In our work of looking toward the future, we want whatever we recommend to be in harmony with our past, so at the end of each meeting we do this:

We each take a small strand of red rick-rack -- sort of a serrated ribbon -- and we tie it on to the previous piece of rick-rack, and as we do that we name one of the years of Second's past. When we have tied on the next strand of rick-rack, we say: "God was with us in 1922 and we pray God will be with us into the future."

The first strand represented 1865, the year of Second's founding. As of our meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16, we are up to 1957. Paul Rock brings to our meetings a year-by-year history highlight of Second, and as we name the various years, he often will remind us of some event from that year in Second's history.

It's one way of helping us understand that Second was here long before us and that we hope Second will be here long after we're gone. Part of our GPS work is to help ensure that future so Second can be part of proclaiming and demonstrating what the reign of God looks like.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A conversation with deacons

Several members of the GPS met with the Board of Deacons on Monday, Nov. 13, to hear members' thoughts about the future of Second. It turned out to be a wide-ranging discussion that revealed both their deep commitment to the church and some of their frustrations about being congregational leaders.

We first asked them to describe what gives them the most satisfaction in their role as deacons and what they find frustrating.

Clearly they enjoy being able to connect with Second's mission partners and to alert the congregation to the needs of the agencies Second supports financially. In some ways, however, that also is a frustration in that Second supports so many agencies it's been difficult to focus our resources and in that despite the many efforts of deacons it sometimes seems that the congregation doesn't connect enough as volunteers with our mission partners.

But several deacons expressed their gratitude for being able to learn in more depth about the work of our mission partners.

We talked some about whether Second's financial support to various local mission partners should be more limited to those agencies at which members of our congregation are active volunteers. Although there was some sympathy for considering this, a couple of deacons suggested that some agencies might need our money more than they need our volunteers.

It was also mentioned that many members of the congregation are connected with non-profit agencies that the church does nothing to support financially.

There seemed to be general agreement that internal and external communications about our mission efforts need to be better than they are now.

Our final conversation was about whether it's time to rethink the reality that Second's deacons are charged with oversight of much of our mission outreach. Since New Testament times, deacons traditionally have had oversight of caring ministries focused on the needs of the church family. But when Ron Roberts was an associate pastor some years ago, he suggested that because Second then had an active caring ministries program operating outside the purview of the deacons and because the deacons seemed then to be under-used, perhaps the deacons should be given oversight of our mission outreach. So that change was made.

Several deacons acknowledged the need for more coordinated internal care but wanted to make sure that if a committee headed by a member of Session eventually was given oversight of mission outreach that the detailed work the deacons do to evaluate and connect with mission partners not be lost. Bill Tammeus, GPS moderator, assured the deacons that if GPS recommends such a move, their concerns would be reflected in the recommendation and that there would necessarily be a time of transition so make sure that both the caring ministries of the church and the mission outreach will be handled well.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ministering outside the church building

What would happen if we intentionally gathered outside the church building for various church-related functions, from staff meetings to Bible studies?

Well, we might wind up meeting people and affecting their lives (or they ours) in ways that would not happen if we simply stayed inside our edifice.

When the Rev. Jan Emiston (pictured here) of the Chicago Presbytery spoke to a gathering at Second Church on Saturday, Nov. 5, she told a story about what happened to her once when she was a parish minister and decided to spend part of each Monday working outside her office that was located in the church building.

"The mission field today," she said, "is actually in the local coffee shop, the local office, the local bus stop. One of the things I have done as a pastor. . .is take Monday as a monastery day. Every Monday I would take a monastery day and do the things you'd do in a monastery but I'd do them in a coffee shop or the food court of a shopping mall or in an art gallery because The Smithsonian is all wireless." (Her church was in the Washington, D.C., area.)

Usually, she said, she was working on her next sermon and thus would have with her a big annotated Bible plus her laptop computer.

Even though she was seeking to work alone, "100 percent of the time, someone came up to me for a conversation."

One day she was in the corner of a Starbucks courtyard outside, working alone in this way. A man wearing a Muslim prayer cap was seated in the opposite corner, "and he yells across, 'Hey, is that a Bible?'" She yelled back, "Yes." And she began noting how the courtyard began to empty of people overhearing this odd conversation.

"And this guy goes, 'So are you a Christian?'" Yes, she replied. "So are you like a priest or something?" Yes, she replied, identifying herself as the pastor of an area Presbyterian church.

The man asked if he could talk with her. Sure, she said. It turns out "he was a Muslim guy who was divorced from a Jewish woman." He told Jan that he wanted to raise his children in a religiously devout family, but he was at loose ends knowing how.

He said, "'I'm just really lonely and I wonder if you would pray that I would find a Muslim wife.' And so there I was in this courtyard at Starbucks praying with a Muslim guy that he'd find a Muslim wife. And I was thinking, you know, if I were working at the seminary library on my sermon this never would have happened."

The point, of course, she said, is that we must find ways to move outside the church building and to encounter people and their needs where they are to see if we can respond to them as members of the body of Christ.

As Paul Rock likes to tell us, the church is not just "a place where" but also "a people who."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Going from good to great

One of the resources that the GPS has drawn on as we think about what to recommend for Second's future is the small monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, a highly popular study of companies that went from being pretty good to being excellent.

This past Wednesday evening, Paul Rock described to a class at Second some of the ideas Collins writes about and how they apply to Second and the work of the GPS.

One idea is not to get all focused on measuring what Collins calls "inputs" but, rather, to pay attention to the "outputs," or the results of what you're doing.

In a church setting that means not obsessing about membership numbers, meeting budgets, minutes, policies, maintaining tradition, the number of baptisms and so forth. Rather, church leaders should be assessing how the work and witness of the congregation is helping to transform lives, meet member and societal needs, give more of our time and talent, serve more people and so forth.

Among many other points, Collins emphasizes the need to "get the right people on the bus and in the right seats," which is a reference in church terms to leadership. What that means for the Nominating Committee going forward is that it will have to do an even more focused job of matching talents and passions of our members to our governance needs.

Well, there is much more in the Collins book that has been helpful to the GPS, and it's a little booklet (and quick read) we recommend. You can even order it on by clicking here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What if they can't even find us?

We hope you've been able to attend one of the first two Wednesdays Together classes about the GPS at which Paul Rock and Molly Hundley have been the speakers. (That's Molly in this photo in front of the screen on which she showed some PowerPoint slides.)

Both presentations have been excellent, with Paul giving an overview of the way many churches today are struggling to find ways to speak to new generations of spiritually hungry people and Molly sharing some of the epiphanies she and others have had as the GPS looks at where Second Church is today and where it wants to go in the next few years.

One finding that particularly distressed Molly, she said, was that Second Church is almost invisible to people on the Internet searching Google for churches in the Brookside area -- and Google is the way most people looking for churches in our area today will start the search.

Molly used these search terms "Kansas City, churches, Brookside." Try it yourself. Second's Web site finally shows up at the bottom of the third page of returns. On Yahoo, a reference to Second shows up on the first page of returns but Second's own Web site didn't pop up until the third page.

So Second simply must do a better job being visible, both on the Web and in person (meaning both our people and our building, which many people driving by on Brookside have no idea is a church).

There's one more week of GPS conversation as part of Wednesday Together. Join us this coming Wednesday, Oct. 26, as Molly and Paul wrap up these sessions. They'll be in Witherspoon starting at 6:15 p.m. after the 5:30 meal in Westminster Hall.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An idea from our teens

A couple of GPS members met with a small group of Second's teens for lunch on Sunday, Oct. 16, and out of that conversation about church and the future came an idea that may result in an initiative long before the final GPS report is even issued.

We were talking about how the church can help them make sense of events in the news and the public issues in the world and in our own community, such as homelessness.

Paula Isgrig reminded us that our youth would be participating in the second annual "One Homeless Night" event next month, when they will spend a night outside on the church lawn.

Suppose, someone suggested, that next morning the youth meet with some adults who can help give them an accurate picture of homelessness in the Kansas City area and a description of who is doing what about it.

This might even be a model for periodic youth-adult gatherings to consider other issues in the news. It's no secret that many teens don't pay much attention to the news. But one task of the church is to help everyone, young and old alike, understand what the Christian faith calls followers to do about various public issues.

Talking together about homelessness and a Christian response to it seems like a good place to start. So Paula and the teens now are thinking about how to make this adult-youth conversation happen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thinking about worship

Worship, as you know, does not always have to happen in a sanctuary or chapel. It can happen almost anywhere and on any day.

The other evening the GPS task force was thinking aloud about the worship opportunities that Second Church offers and imagining what possibilities there might be beyond our traditional 8:15 and 10:15 a.m. Sunday services -- and what it is about those services that we might want to suggest making better.

Well, put eight or ten committed Presbyterians in a room to talk a bit about that subject and the ideas begin flying.

For instance, what if we moved worship once in awhile to a place like Loose Park, as we used to do for our Easter sunrise service? What if we offered an occasional Taizé service? (Don't know about Taizé? Click on the link and learn.) What if we had a regular rotation of lay liturgists who would be thoroughly trained for voice projection, pronunciation and other skills? What about some kind of alternative Communion service offered on a day other than Sunday? What if we participated with other faith communities to offer an interfaith worship experience to the diverse student population at UMKC? What if the preachers inserts a sheet in our bulletin with points from the sermon they would like the congregation to take home and think about? And on and on.

What ideas about worship do you want us to think about? What do you most love about worship at Second? What would you like to consider changing or improving?

Let us know either by commenting here on the GPS blog, sending an e-mail to or by dropping a note in the church file folder of Bill Tammeus, GPS moderator.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Join us on three 'Wednesdays Together'

You have a chance to hear about the GPS planning work and to make your voice heard about your own visions for Second when Dr. Paul Rock and Molly Hundley, a GPS team member, host Wednesdays Together sessions on Oct. 12, 19 and 26.

As is usually the case, each evening will start with a simple 5:30 p.m. dinner (if you're coming, please call the church office at 816-363-1300 and say so). Then the GPS gathering will start at 6:15 and go for most of an hour. If you can't make dinner, try to be at one or more of the sessions.

This will be a great opportunity to get a sense of what the GPS is up to and to share your dreams, your hopes, your fears, your wisdom.

The GPS needs to hear from all its members. So see you on Oct. 12, 19 and 26.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some adult education thoughts

The GPS representatives met on Sunday, Sept. 25, with people who attend the Covenant and Bible Speaks Today adult education classes.

Here's what they thought Second Church does best:

* Food and fellowship.
* Welcoming newcomers
* Preaching
* Local mission
* Music
* Preservation of our art, architecture and our whole building.
* Our office management team seems well lined up now.

We asked people attending to dream aloud about how to make adult education at Second better. Some of their thoughts:

* We need a comprehensive, long-term Bible study program. (Think of such models as the Bethany, Alpha and Kerygma material.)
* Some Bible study should be clergy led, some lay led and some located outside the walls of the church.
* Consider a "progressive" model that moves from home to home.
* We should figure out how to make good Bible study available online with occasional meetings of the groups following the study program.
* Passion for Bible study -- and all of adult education -- must come from the people in the pews.
* Let's look into using Bible games, whether in-person with printed materials or online.
* Let's ponder the Village U model (from Village Presbyterian Church) to offer leadership training, Bible study, book study and speakers.
* Help people listening to sermons by using more graphics during the sermon.
* Prepare adults to engage sermons more fully by giving them material ahead of time to study.
* Focus adult education offerings on people's current needs and make these offerings relatively short-term.
* Don Fisher could take a more active role in helping to create adult education offerings beyond the Witherspoon Class.
* A crucial part of all adult education efforts should be fellowship.
* Let's create more mission trips for adults and create a strong educational component to such trips.
* The current third-floor classroom locations for the Covenant and Bible Speaks classes make it difficult for newcomers to find the classes. Let's rethink these locations.
* Let's try six-week series of Bible studies. Well-focused, well-prepared but limited in terms of time commitment.
* Many adult education offerings can be lay led but should have strong inspiration and leadership from the church staff.
* Let's draw on local seminaries to use some of the professors to lead some classes or speak occasionally.
* Let's find at least part-time space on our staff for a local seminary student to help us with adult education.
* Adult education offerings need to have much stronger staff support in the area of communications and marketing so people inside and outside the congregation know what's coming up.
* Let's more intentionally link adult education to upcoming sermon series so we can be more coordinated in what we offer.
* Why not create online chat opportunities in which anyone could connect to one of our pastors for an hour or so once a week to talk about the Bible, theology or any issues about which those who connect have questions. But let's not forget that not all of our members use the Internet.
* We need to train our people much more thoroughly to lead small groups and be leaders of adult education classes.
* Let's offer various adult education resources, such as Bible study material, on the Web site. Maybe even a blog about what people are studying there.
* We should make sure that the education hour for both youth and adults does not get interrupted by other things. Keep it sacrosanct.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking care to consider all thoughts

As your GPS team met Wednesday night and thought about the ministry Second is doing now and what it might do in the future, we were well aware of two (well, at least two) emotions running through the congregation as we do our work:

* Excitement. Our future can be bright with promise, and there is hope that our work can help guide us to that future.

* Anxiety. Change is never easy, and there is fear that we may propose things that will upset people.

We're well aware of both emotions. In fact, at our very first gathering in July we read from the third chapter of the book of Ezra how, when the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem from an exile of about six decades, they began to build a new temple. The result was that there was lots of shouting for joy at what was coming and yet at the very same time there was great weeping from people who remembered the first temple.

So we know that whatever we recommend for Second's future will produce both joy and weeping, at least in a figurative sense.

We also know that the task of the church is to introduce people to Jesus Christ, who can transform their lives. And that's what the GPS continues to keep as our focus.

What we want to avoid is for the emotions of anxiety to lead to unfounded rumors and unexpressed questions about our future. And that means that everyone in our congregation has an obligation to speak to us about hopes and fears. You have several ways to do that:

* E-mail us at

* Leave a note in the church file folder of Bill Tammeus, GPS moderator.

* Attend presentations by GPS member Molly Hundley and our pastor/head of staff Paul Rock the Wednesday evenings of Oct. 12, 19 and 26 after the Wednesdays Together meal.

* Talk to any GPS task force member.

We are trying to be as open and transparent as possible in this work and we really want members of our congregation to be that way, too. And as we do this work, we continue to ask for your prayerful support.

By the way, some of us GPSers have been reading a 2007 book called Who Stole My Church? by a pastor named Gordon MacDonald. It's about how a fictional church deals with change and is quite well done and helpful. To learn more about it, read this entry on Bill Tammeus' "Faith Matters" blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Young adult responses

After church this past Sunday, one of our GPS members, Anne, met with Second members in the 20s and 30s age group and asked them some of our questions.

Here's what they had to say in response to the question of what Second is best at:

* Being a community. Everyone is accepted. Paul provides a great atmosphere that everyone can relate to. Tera and Paul make everyone feel involved.
* Welcoming new/potential members to the congregation. Second relates well to a young crowd.
* Accepting people
* Getting groups together to share similar interests. Getting involved.
* Second is best at making people who have already accepted Christ feel comfortable and included.
* Fellowship
* Meeting new people, events.

In response to the question of what Second needs to to or transform to survive and thrive, they said:
* Needs to make sure new members become involved right away. Needs to make sure we talk about our faith.
* Reach out to younger groups through social media tools.
* Get the younger generation involved.
* Bring more contemporary aspects into the church.

In response to the question of what potential roadblocks might keep Second from getting where we want to go, they said:

* Making us understand that this is more than just church. Members need to be involved in more than just one thing. Need to work on building costs.
* The economy and the difficulty of different schedules within the group.
* Tradition. Tradition is a great but a lot of younger students would like a contemporary worship service.
* Making non-members get baptized before joining. Why not allow them to join and learn more about the baptism process?
* Not enough youth attending.

In response to the question of what's the one thing you wish Second were doing that it's not doing or could do better, they said:

* Grabbing new members once they join and making sure they are involved. Challenge the young 20s and 30s people  to be more active and to contribute to the church in talent and skill.
* More opportunities to travel abroad
* The church needs a church-wide phone book with pictures to get to know everyone’s faces.
* More contemporary music or a contemporary worship service.
* More activities for holidays such as Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

In response to the question of how we can find and develop resources to achieve our dreams, they said:

* Tap members for skills through mailers/emails. Make members feel involved in the process.
* Reach the college campus.
* Look to social media in order to reach out to other groups.

In response to the question of how we balance the risk of moving to aggressively with change against the risk of not moving quickly or far enough, they said:

* Get those who embrace change to move at first and then show those who resist that it can be done by implementation.
* Keep conversation channels open and constantly ask for suggestions.
* Simply move at a slow and steady pace so that people do not get overwhelmed.
* Take the risk and move aggressively - wait for the response and act accordingly. Know that some make not like it but change is necessary in most cases. 

Finally, in response to the question of how much weight we give to potential alienation of members who may feel that progress is not what they're after, they said:

* This should have great weight. What kind of progress is such that it doesn’t include our current members?
* Create a group for them to communicate with one another.
* Not too much weight since we have to progress to survive, evolve, adapt, grow.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New church life grows in Midtown

Our GPS team held its weekly meeting Sept. 14 at Jacob's Well, the church at 42nd and Wyoming that used to be Roanoke Presbyterian Church.

Tim Keel, JW's founding pastor, talked with us about how JW has succeeded in the same building in which Roanoke eventually met its demise.

He first asked us to imagine three intersecting Venn circles, such as the ones displayed here.

Let "C" here stand for a congregation's context, which means who its members are and where they're located, among other things.

Let "B" here represent a congregation's theology, which means, among other things, answering the questions "Who is God?" and "What is the Gospel in this time and place?"

And let "A" represent a congregation's systems, or structure, which means, among other things, how a congregation orders and governs its life.

Many churches, Tim said, will fully engage one or two of those circles and do pretty well with them, but not all three. The result is that in one congregation members are willing to shift theology a bit or context a bit but no one is allowed to mess with that church's governing system.

Another church might be willing to make adjustments in governance and context but if you don't get its rigid theology exactly right you won't be welcome there.

In reality, all three of these areas are moving targets and it's difficult to keep track of all at once and to discern what might need to change in each. But if churches don't try to manage all three areas they probably don't have a long-term future. That's one reason the GPS team is at work trying to imagine a future for Second that pays attention to all of these areas and that recognizes when and where and how change must happen.

In the end, Tim said, congregations must invite people not to a church but to a way of life -- to what we on the GPS have been calling a sense of transformation.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Friday group responses

Three of us GPS task force members met on Friday, Sept. 9, with Second's longtime First Friday dinner/study group and asked its members some of our questions. Here, in brief form, are some of the responses:
Yes, the Jeters served ribs. Yum.
In response to the question of what Second does best (or at least well):

  • Being friendly.
  • Welcoming people.
  • Providing a variety of opportunities for people to plug in.
  • Good Bible teaching.
  • We care about one another.
  • There’s a diversity of mission efforts.
  • Metro Mission of Deacons is especially important.
  • We do worship well.
  • We serve educated, professional people well.
  • We provide leadership in various areas for the community.
  • We have lots of talent in our membership but sometimes struggle to marshal it.
  • We have some great art in the church — and artists, too.
  • The church is an energizing place where we can get recharged.
  • The history of how our church formed is important.
  • Our music program is helping with our relationship with UMKC.
In response to the question of what must change for Second to survive and thrive:

  • We much teach both our children and our adults biblical literacy.
  • We must figure out how to keep young families in our congregation and how those families can keep their children connected.
  • We must create meaningful mission opportunities for young people.
In response to an invitation to share their dreams for Second:

  • Provide love and care for our children by our adults.
  • Biblical and spiritual education through mentoring young people.
  • We need to bring back Scouting to Second.
  • We need to stand more publicly on the side of poor and voiceless people, especially on local issues that need our advocacy.
  • We should use our music program to reach out to the community. Like the drumming group Cory is helping with.
  • We should be training our people to become leaders at all levels of the PCUSA.
 Two additional comments:

“My vision for this church is to be freakishly good in terms of leadership."
“As a church we don’t think Christian education is very important.”

If you have comments you'd like to share with the GPS team, leave them here, e-mail them to or drop a note in the church file folder of Bill Tammeus, GPS moderator.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

For the Aug. 31 meeting of the GPS team, we gathered at The Children's Place, one of our mission partners that has been designated to share in the mission portion of Second Church's recent capital campaign.

The GPS members (not all visible) at our meeting at The Children's Place.
David Matson, president and CEO of the agency, welcomed us and told us a bit about the agency and the needy children it currently serves.

Then we got down to the business of adopting a tentative draft of a vision statement, after which we began to take an inventory and assessment of the various pieces of ministry going on at Second now.

A vision statement tries to paint a picture of the reality toward which we are intentionally and prayerfully striving. Here's what ours says at the moment, though it's subject to change -- and will be supplemented later with a mission statement (to describe how we'll seek to reach our vision) and a values statement (to describe the standards we'll try to employ as we work toward our vision).

Second Presbyterian Church:
Where God’s amazing grace transforms lives

Second Church is not just a place where God is worshiped in the midst of our city and where souls cared for, but is also a people who — transformed by Jesus Christ — learn to love God, love our neighbors and love ourselves so we may serve our community and our world as the body of Christ.

At Second we:

  • Joyfully worship God out of gratitude
  • Teach ourselves, our children and others to be disciples of Jesus Christ by sharing the gospel with all who will hear
  • Nurture souls within our congregation and outside our walls, especially the poor and voiceless
  • Use our many talents and resources to work toward individual and social transformation by doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God
We'd love for you to react to the picture of Second that our draft vision statement is trying to paint. You may leave comments here, send e-mail to or put a note in the file folder at church of the GPS moderator, Bill Tammeus.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Young families respond to questions

Ask Second Church members questions and you'll get answers -- thoughtful, insightful and helpful answers at that.

Some of the crowd at the Rock home Aug. 20
That's what the GPS team did last Saturday, Aug. 20, when some of us gathered with young Second Church families at the home of Paul and Stacey Rock.

Their answers will help guide the GPS as we work toward a 3- to 5-year plan for the church. Here they are:

Answers in response to what Second does best:

  • We do worship well and offer alternative times.

  • Godly Play is a great program. Keep it.

  • We have lots of great mission partners to get involved with.

  • The Wednesdays Together programs have helped keep people active and connected to others in the church.

  • Second does well at getting people involved in ministries of the church without being coercive.

  • The many groups that exist in the church offer ways to connect.

  • Allowing people to come to church in more casual dress is helpful.

  • The children’s programming beyond Sunday School, such as kids choir and including kids in worship services. We do well with young kids.

  • We do community well and are good at welcoming new members

  • Our sermon series. Relevant to all members.

  • We welcome a diverse membership.

  • We have an excellent music program.

  • Second does well marking and celebrating the seasons of our liturgical year.

  • Welcoming, nurturing and familial ministries.

Answers in response to the question about what Second should be doing that it’s not or doing better:

  • Programming for older children, especially teens, needs to be improved. Young families want their children to go off to college thinking about where to find a church there.

  • Second appeals to people who understand church but does less well with welcoming people who are mostly clueless about church.

  • Second members sometimes ignore new members and seems unfriendly to seekers. People of various age groups should be intentionally assigned to greet anyone in the service they don’t know.

  • Some ideas for educating our children better:
--      Sunday School needs to start earlier. Age 3 and up.
--     More engaging curriculum for all levels of children education. 
--     Have Sunday School during one of the worship services to allow parents to enjoy service without children and make Sunday mornings not a 4-hour routine.
--     Provide a Questionnaire/Survey for Parents of Children grades 3-7, to complete with their children asking about ideas for a more engaging and exciting Sunday School experience. The idea behind this is two-fold. First, it would allow us to provide a better experience the children would enjoy being a part of, thus keeping them involved in the church through high school, college and beyond.

  • Provide more interactive mission work for all ages. That would provides togetherness amongst members and community

  • Better communication across the board

Answers in response to the question of what Second needs to do to survive and thrive:

  • If we take on ministries requiring major commitments, we need to make it known in the community that we’re doing that.

  • We must make sure that our contributions to programs and ministries outside our church walls are visible to people who are served by or who walk through those facilities.

  • Let’s think about what the community needs and wants from our church building, such as a café, a meditation or reading room, things for kids to do, etc.

  • We need to send postcards or other communications to people living near our church asking for their ideas.

Answers in response to the question about roadblocks that might keep us from getting to where we want to be:

  • We might rely too much on our history — which is to say, having too much pride in our history and not enough focus on our future.

  • We might be thinking too small.

  • We’d hurt ourselves if we ignore the suburbs as a place from which to draw members.

  • If we can’t find ways to engage and keep our members in their 20s and 30s, we’ll be in trouble.

  • We’d make a big mistake by not finding ways to get connected to UMKC in some prominent and intentional way. (Mostly this doesn’t mean expecting students and faculty to show up at Second but finding ways for us to be on campus.)

  • We’d injure our future if we didn’t consider some alternative worship service times and styles.

Answers in responses to the question of how we can find and develop resources needed to achieve our dreams:

  • ConnectFest is a good start, but some people just need to be asked.

  • Let’s explore and develop opportunities to contribute our time, such as painting a room or helping with grounds-keeping.

  • Because people give to things that excite them, we need to motivate them to consolidate giving to Second in a focused way.

  • We need to consider creating a marketing/publicity plan or program.

And, finally, here’s a “wish list”

--      Provide a contemporary, or alternative, service
--      How about a Saturday Evening service?
--      Church Night for all once a week for Christian education and community service
--      Shorter services (45 minutes)
--      A workout facility/gym at the church
--      Village U type offerings (walk/jog, handworks, bible study)
--      A children’s indoor play gym (i.e. McDonald’s)
--      A coffee shop

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Meeting at our mission partners' sites

As the GPS team seeks to suggest a map to Second's future, we thought it was important that we not do all that work inside the walls of the church.

After all, if we keep our faith secluded, whose lives will we touch?

So we held our Aug. 17 meeting in the boardroom at Hope Care Center, the 24-hour skilled nursing facility for HIV/AIDS patients that Second helped to create in the mid-1990s.

Mike McTavish, Hope Care's CEO, was more than gracious in allowing us use of the facility, and even provided a tour for those on the GPS who had never visited Hope Care.

As we continue our work, we'll look for more opportunities to gather at the site of one or another of our mission partners.

Let us know if you want to suggest one. Just leave a comment here, e-mail or drop a note off in the church file folder of GPS moderator Bill Tammeus.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Witherspoon class responds

On Sunday, Aug. 14, the GPS asked members of the Witherspoon class to respond to some of the questions we're asking of the whole congregation.

Here were some of the responses to the question of what Second does best:

  • Lives in harmony with a theologically and political diverse congregation.

  • Owns a structure in a great location from which to do ministry.

  • We take some public stands on social issues but not enough.

  • We’re good at giving financially to support the church but not good enough. We need more emphasis on tithing.

  • We have a good reputation for being involved in the community and being present with others in need.

  • We know our fellow members well, but not well enough.

  • Second is a very welcoming church. (Said by a member who moved away from KC once and later came back.)

  • We know we need to do better in different areas and we are not uncomfortable talking about that need or considering new ideas.

  • The church historically is good at empowering individuals to do ministry in the community – whether done under the banner of Second or not.

  • Our biblical literacy has improved remarkably under the teaching of Don Fisher.

  • We maintain our building well, not just for ourselves but also for use by the community.

  • The congregation is filled with people of many talents – so much so that in some ways leaders feel as if they’re herding cats because sometimes it’s hard to get so many talented leaders to get behind one decision.

And here's what Witherspoon attendees said in response to the question of what Second needs to change or transform to survive and thrive.

  • We need to do better with stewardship of finances and talents.

  • We must do a lot better with internal and external communications at all levels.

  • We must do better giving public recognition to the valuable ministries people do and being much more consistent about that. (George Dooley’s  Messenger items are a step in the right direction.)

  • Our youth programs need attention and fixing.

  • We must get over our fear of change.

  • We need to figure out – and be consistent with – our relationship with UMKC, not expecting students to come in our doors but expecting us to go out our doors and over to campus when it’s appropriate.

  • We must find better ways of discovering and harnessing the talents and gifts of our members.

  • We must learn how to adapt to our coming new software system and use it to communicate better and be more efficient in all kinds of ways.

  • Our expanded small-groups effort is going well and needs to be even more of an emphasis.

  • We should be bringing in outside speakers of national note and hosting big events for the whole community. This point raised complaints about our failure to use the Hage Endowment Fund much in recent years.
If you have your own responses, please e-mail us at or put a note in the church file folder of GPS moderator Bill Tammeus. And thanks.