WordServe UMC Finds Power in Clarity

Date Posted: 2/13/2014

WordServe UMC has a compelling before-and-after story that has recently unfolded in the small town of Fulshear, Tx on the outskirts of West Houston. “After planting the church in 2009 as an offshoot of Grace Fellowship UMC, we did not experience the rapid growth we had expected, which then led to a quick plateau in energy and enthusiasm,” shares Communication Director Christy Tennant. “So, in essence, this frustration motivated our year-long visioning process that concluded with a renewed sense of missional clarity in 2011 followed by a new location in 2013 and new signage to reflect our mission.”

Adds Rev. Nolan Donald, “In our inaugural years at Huggins Elementary, our core members were there and committed, but all suffered from a foggy vision of exactly what we were trying to do as a church.” Adds Nolan, “Instead of continuing to measure success based on numbers in the building, we began a facilitated process of introspection into the passion and heart of who we had become in our young history.”
Like many other churches of all denominations across the nation, WordServe UMC partnered with a visioning consultancy called Auxano, founded by Will Mancini, author of Church Unique. Through a type of guided lab setting, leaders began to hone the specific mission of the church by collectively asking themselves:

  • What are we doing? Our missional Mandate.
  • Why are we doing it? Our missional Motives.
  • How are we doing it? Our missional Map.
  • When are we successful? Our missional Marks.
  • Where is God taking us? Our missional Mountaintop + Milestones.
“What happened at the end of that guided visioning process,” adds Christy, “was that we emerged with a way to articulate our kingdom purpose and how we would measure our success differently.  It was no longer just a pastor with a vision for a church, but a group of leaders who could all clearly state our unique vision. The clarity has definitely resulted in unity within the church as well as a shift in momentum and excitement.”
Nolan recaps WordServe’s new mission as:  Guiding people to grow as joyful servants of Jesus. “That phrase was a brief and memorable benchmark by which everything else could be measured,” explains Christy. “We didn't develop programs for the sake of having programs, but started new projects only as they fit in with this new mission and strategy.  From a pastoral perspective, this made Nolan's job a bit easier because it gave us a guideline for new ideas. Internal conflicts (when everyone wants to do their own thing under the umbrella of church) are mitigated because new ideas are now sent through that unifying filter.  In other words, it’s no longer the "Pastor" saying no to something, but the identity, vision, and purpose of the church guiding the development of any new initiatives with the expectation that each thing will have to demonstrate how it will grow joyful servants of Jesus.”
Before the visioning process, WordServe UMC measured success as “lots of people attending events.”  WordServe UMC members are learning that Jesus moves in ways less visible than worship attendance. Adds Christy, “We are measuring success through our very specific and personally identified “Life Marks” and relationships that lead to life transformation.”
By the conclusion of the process, WordServe UMC had developed a tagline, and a value system spelled out through the acronym of SERVE. Additionally the church had a visual mission map that describes the path to growth as involving Compassion, Community, Celebration and Connecting faith to everyday life. “Our new logo and visuals featured in these photos work together to create a unifying focal point at our new location,” she explains. “This helps members and newcomers to know what we are about, where we are going and how we plan to get there -- together.”
WordServe UMC was featured in Auxano’s Unique 19 newsletter at the beginning of the year. For information on this experience, contact Christy Tennant ctennant@wordserve.org