A strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) exercise, conducted as part of the visioning process, identified these weaknesses and threats -
Increasing polarization, anxiety, and anger in wider society
A breakdown of trust in institutions, including organized religion
Church membership is in decline across all denominations and generations.
A fast-paced online environment impedes reflection and spiritual growth.
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 is and can be. 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. Our Broadcast Ministry has brought over 10,000 people through our virtual doors.
Our growing Facebook presence 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.
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, 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 (Appendix A) provide meaningful in-person, rewarding experiences for those seeking involvement in social/humanitarian efforts and fulfilling, new ways to experience reflection and spiritual growth.
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. Our people are a HUGE strength - they do great things with the resources we have. Our laity is a light to the community and it’s our lifeblood. 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 our new property to serve those in need of food, clothing, and other necessities. The Community Kitchen is 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 from the Convergence Report 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.