I can’t remember the details (like names and places), but I love this story out of professional basketball. It seems there was a coach who regularly had his players lie down on the court, faces to the ceiling, and close their eyes. He then asked each player to imagine making the winning basket. He went on to have them visualize working smoothly together as a team, running the ball consistently down to their goal and making basket after basket together.
One of his players questioned this technique, thinking it was all a waste of time. Whereupon the coach replied, “If you can’t see it… you can’t be it.”
There is no discounting the value of a good visualization. It helps to know and it is even better to “see” where it is we want to go, what we want our future to hold. This is what is at the heart of our current strategic planning process.
Let me share with you some of the trends the Ministry Conference, Parish Conference, and Staff have been uncovering. In the last ten years, FUMC has lost 16% of its members. Currently our membership stands at 806. If this trend continues, ten years from now, our membership would be 677, and in 20 years we would have only 57% of the membership we had in 2005.
Our worship attendance has declined 20% in ten years. Currently we average 333 in worship each Sunday. If this trend continues, we’ll only see 266 in worship in 2022.
In the last four years we have lost 14% of our pledging units. Currently we need an average pledge of $2,929 from 292 pledgers in order to meet our $855,331 budget. If this trend continues, we’ll need an average pledge of $4,255 from 201 pledgers in 2022 in order to meet today’s budget.
Now might be a good time for each of us to lie down on our backs, close our eyes, and begin to visualize! Because I do not believe we are destined to stay on these downward paths. I do not believe that our future needs to be determined by our current trends.
And yet, I think there is some wisdom in the saying “If you can’t see it… you can’t be it”. So here’s what I am “seeing” as I imagine the future at FUMC. I am seeing vibrant, lively worship which draws an average of 500 to 1000 people each week. This probably won’t happen in just one weekly worship service – but will be a cumulative number taken from a variety of worship services at different times, in different places, and in different styles.
I am seeing worship attenders who choose to become church members because this is a place where they can also become disciples of Christ, through active mission and ministry in the local community and in the larger world.
I am seeing a church budget – fully subscribed – which reflects our priorities and provides adequate resources for growth.
I am seeing a church which is unapologetically progressive, inclusive, and faithful to the vision of God revealed through Christ.
I am seeing a community where lives are healed, people are transformed, and hope is a constant.
I am seeing…. Well, I could go on a long time. But I wonder, what is it you are seeing? Because we can’t be what we cannot see.