Watershed UMC: A Case Study in Discerning Long Range Vision

Date Posted: 5/25/2017

Leaders at The Watershed UMC in League City, Tx have been working for months to have 20/20 vision with regard to what Rev. Lance Richards is calling the “15/1500 Vision.” Knowing that the area is expected to reach 250,000 residents over the next few decades, The Watershed leadership began last year to refine the long range vision of the church to connect more people with the opportunity to grow their faith and impact the community.
“Basically,” explains Rev. Lance Richards, “in 15 years, The Watershed hopes to gather as 1500 worshipers each week who are growing as disciples and Christian leaders working to meet the spiritual and physical needs of their neighbors. And as we approach 1500, we want to plant another campus in a growing area that needs a church.”
Having purchased 11.5 acres in 2009, the church has celebrated a number of milestones in recent years, including completion of a building in 2012. The 15/1500 campaign has followed by laying groundwork for a capital campaign that will provide funds for additional growth in the decades ahead.
Inspiration Meets Perspiration
Several books by “vision clarity evangelist” Will Mancini, a variety of articles and the book, Holy Conversations by Gil Rindle and Alice Mann provided the pastor with the inspiration for this extensive visioning process to provide guidance for 2017-2032. “Initially, we had to clarify that our Vision Focus Team did not plan to change the vision, just look further out in the distance to define a picture or mountain top in our future so we could map out the milestones to get there,” Lance adds. “Vision always remains connected to a church’s core identity or DNA.”
With the approval of the Church Council, The Watershed formed a task force of six volunteers representing the segments of our diverse membership, led by chairman Skip Hatfield and the pastor. The team surveyed the membership and lay leaders at the church by asking the same four questions: 1) How is The Watershed helping you to grow as a disciple? 2) How can the church better help you and your family strengthen your walk with Christ? 3) Where are the broken places in our community that you feel God is calling The Watershed to shed God’s love to? 4) What are your dreams for The Watershed?
The task force subdivided into mini teams to also tackle a community survey and MissionInSite demographic study. “My conversation with the mayor has already led to several positive things,” adds Lance. “I booked a 30 minute appointment to discern his vision and how we could partner with him and he ended up spending several hours with me. He has since created a clergy forum that has already met twice to get acquainted and collaborate on behalf of League City.”
The Vision Focus Task Force also held four “Listening Tours” and the church voted unanimously at a Charge Conference to approve the 15/1500 Vision this spring. In response to a question, Skip noted, “We know, realistically, this won’t be exactly what is in place 15 years from now, but we know if you don’t have a goal you are likely not to do anything differently.”
For leaders wanting more information about this visioning process, the original charter, along with an extensive white paper summarizing the process and key findings and a video of one of the meetings is available. More information is online at http://www.thewatershedchurch.com/vision.
What’s Next?
The detailed data resulting from all of the surveys has presented The Watershed with a number of targeted opportunities ranging from providing ESL classes to possibly adopting a public school. “We are also focusing on developing a discipleship pathway to help people take steps toward our Deeper Groups, we are considering our staff and lay positions that will help us grow the number in worship, and we are hoping to update our facilities plan,” he says. “While we dream of the day we have 1500 in worship,” he adds, “we plan to grow small, by developing community through lots of small groups throughout the area.”
Pastor Lance is currently preaching a sermon series that expounds on each of the adopted values that also serve to align with missional measures. “We will know when we are successful in fulfilling our vision when the children around us have what they need, marriages and parents are stronger, members feel connected and stronger in their faith, and we are able to shed God’s love to the greatest extent possible.”