by Melissa Atchison

Based on Interviews and Observations for my Understanding the Church’s Contexts course

April 31, 2020

In the same way a plant grows toward sunlight, congregations grow toward God’s plan for Shalom. The Appreciative Inquiry method used in my project aims to find which direction – which ways of being church – the life-giving energy from God is pulling the congregation.

Here are the ways of being church that have been working well at Peace Mennonite Church, and would be good to continue:

  • You have a strong identity of working for justice and mercy in Lawrence. You likewise have a strong presence of working for inclusion in the broader Mennonite Church. As early church writers put it, you are wise doves, just as bold as Jayhawks but choosing the Way of Peace.
  • You are at peace with one another, maintaining a loving laid back openness where laughter and casual dress are typical in gatherings, and theological diversity is accepted. Making decisions by consensus is a vital piece of how you move toward God’s Shalom.
  • Other ways you have been energized include being pastored by Joanna, Sunday worship (especially the music), being in your remodeled building, caring for the outdoor space, and maintaining a healthy financial state. Generous sharing of time and abilities with the church energizes you, while it also exhausts you. Small groups and friendships in the congregation are life-giving too.

My recommendations for leaning into God’s Shalom energy all radiate from a common dream among interviewees, named eloquently by one as a hope for Peace to have:

“as many as are meant to be here.”

This combines the dream of numerical growth with a surrender of the details to God’s plan, implying the overlap of spiritual growth in your current body of believers, enabling you as wise doves to be aware of which direction to go next. Just as there have been other times in your history in which people were drawn to join you, this season of global pandemic is a time when people are seeking Peace.

  • Pray through contact lists, Facebook friends, address books, with awareness.
  • Organize prayer walks in North Lawrence to connect you with immediate neighbors.
  • Outdoor singings could feed you spiritually and give others a glimpse of Peace.
  • Organize drive-by/walk-by scavenger hunts in North Lawrence.
  • Create on-site creation care learning opportunities.
  • Reach out to Haskell to collaborate on Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.
  • Consider signage on your property identifying you as allies in Justice Matters.
  • Use Spirituality Type evaluation tool to discern more opportunities for growth.

For more information, you may request the full Report from the church office.