2 Who Is God Calling Us To Become?

Who is God Calling You to Become as a Congregation?

In 2018, UCCDG leadership and members undertook an ambitious visioning process. Based on three distinctive sessions of congregational input, we concluded with a strong sense of who we are as a church  and who we want to be in the 21st Century.


We questioned critical areas of our church -  

  • What is exciting about our church?

  • Why does it matter that our church is in Downers Grove?

  • What is our unique message to the world?

  • Why do we do what we do?

The responses (link here) to this were enlightening and inspiring, with strong common themes identified as the strengths and opportunities of our church - 

  • the pastor’s sermons

  • music that is stirring and inspiring

  • a congregation that is open and caring

  • involvement in social justice issues

  • activities for youth

  • comprehensive programming for children

A strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) exercise was a part of the visioning process.

A great strength and opportunity for UCCDG is our well established online presence which was established in 2014 for our homebound members. In March 2020, we successfully transitioned to a completely online format due to the pandemic. This transition was made easier by the fact that we had a professional broadcast system already in place and resulted in welcoming new church members who hadn’t even set foot in our brick and mortar church.

Our reputation in the community as the church that cares is a significant strength for us. UCCDG has been a highly visible, unifying, and active part of our community since our founding. Our central location is an essential strength in serving the elderly, youth, disadvantaged, homeless, and people in need of social services. Our church is walkable and accessible by public transportation. 

In 2020, our church had the unique opportunity to purchase property immediately adjacent to our church. We have engaged in formal visioning sessions to determine how we want to use this property in support of mission projects, community outreach, and future needs that align with our church’s vision. There are many possibilities - transitional housing, music, recreation, community gathering space, green space, additional parking. 

Pandemic needs prompted us to create a Community Kitchen at the new property to serve those in need of food, clothing, and other necessities. The Community Kitchen was a great success and has fed our collective excitement about possible uses for the new property. 

At the end of this visioning process, the key recommendations were:

Focus Your Goals

Clarify your goals being a hybrid congregation including Faith Formation and Mission and Justice. You have communicated excellent music and preaching through online services. Determine how to engage this audience into becoming an active part of your congregation. 

Complete Your Search for Your Faith Formation Minister

Complete the search for your Faith Formation Minister and determine how this new staff structure can help you achieve your mission and goals.

Utilize Your Properties to Reach You Goals

While your congregation identifies top priorities as worship, children, youth, and mission/justice ministries, it is unclear which priority should be the focus of the property development. Use focus groups and interviews with your congregation and community partners to further clarify these priorities into specific goals. 

Engage Your Congregation & Community

Use your clarified goals to build a plan to increase the number of people who are actively engaged in your mission and ministries. Include discerning how to bring your neighbors and online-only people into the work from where they are. Use your work with community partners, your pastor’s networking and communication skills and the technology and engagement skill of new staff to clearly communicate your mission and goals to the surrounding community. Actively invite them into engagement with your work. 

Describe how God is calling you to reach out to address the emerging challenges and opportunities of your community and congregation.

Our visioning process and SWOT analysis identified these weaknesses and threats - 

  • Church membership is in decline across all denominations and generations.

  • A breakdown of trust in institutions includes organized religion

  • A fast-paced online environment impedes reflection and spiritual growth.

  • We are becoming more individualistic, lonely, polarized, and disconnected. 

  • Millennials rely on technology vs. in-person events for communications. 

  • Sports, social activities, family time, consumerism, and relaxation take precedence on Sundays.

  • Social/humanitarian efforts can be pursued outside of church.

These complex challenges have pushed our congregation to expand the traditional notions of what a church family is and can be, particularly as a result of the pandemic. Our online worship services, started in 2014, drew a wider audience, including new viewers, when online worship ceased. To engage our congregation further, and to attract new followers, we added Daily Devotionals, a Bible Study, and a Clergy Cafe Zoom after Sunday worship services - all online. The Broadcast Ministry has brought over 10,000 people through our virtual doors.

Expanded Facebook and Instagram use takes our online message even further. These online efforts speak to those who rely on technology, a fast-paced online environment, and on demand services.  

Live and archived online services are on our website and Facebook where attendees often use the comments feature to welcome each other, share thanks, offer support and prayers, and provide a sense of community. This addresses the need for those who feel lonely and disconnected to join our online community.

We continue to live our mission outside of church walls by serving the community through DuPage Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS), Hope’s Front Door, The Night Ministry, Bridge Communities, English-as-a Second-Language (ESL), The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Caring for Creation, Prison Ministry, the Community Kitchen, Two Way Street Coffee House, scouts, and mission trips. These ministries provide meaningful in-person experiences for those feeling lonely and disconnected; rewarding experiences for those seeking involvement in social/humanitarian efforts; and fulfilling, new ways to experience reflection and spiritual growth.