“Marks of a Faithful Regional Church” is an important document that all regions have adopted and reaffirmed over the years. These marks are excellent signposts for regional church life. In the coming months we will be lifting these up for own information and edification.
Caring for Congregations is the second of twelve marks. It says that “the Region resources congregations and extends consulting services in such areas as ministerial transition, problem-solving, conflict resolution, renewal (transformation), and planning for the future, as well as celebrations of congregational life such as anniversaries, dedications, installations and retirements.”
Many of our churches know the Ohio Region because of the ways they experience Regional staff present in their congregation fulfilling one of these roles. Local churches know that they can call on the expertise and service of a Regional Minister to guide them as they go through a pastoral transition. “Search and Call” comprises a large part of the time Regional staff devote to congregational care, as Regional Ministers help congregations discern what God is calling them to do and be and then help them identify a candidate with the gifts they need to flourish in their setting.
Congregations often need a “third party” listening ear when they are caught in conflict, or uncertain about their next direction. Regional Ministers avail themselves for these important conversations. Often the challenge has been faced and overcome at a sister congregation. The Regional Minister’s opportunity to travel allows for an interchange of ideas and solutions that build up the whole body.
In our Region, a dedicated group of Regional Elders helps to fulfill this “mark” of a faithful regional church. Our Regional Elders are each assigned the congregations in a particular District. They get to know the leaders and ministers of those churches and try to join with them in moments of celebration and sadness.
Caring for congregations is really a continuation of the work of the Apostle Paul, who was after all the first Regional Minister! Remember what he did? He recommended pastoral leaders (Search and Call). He admonished at times and tried to intervene in difficult situations (conflict resolution). And he helped local churches cast a vision for the work of their church that was unique to their context (renewal and transformation).
Ultimately, the work of caring for congregations as a Region is not solely a staff role. We are strongest as a Region when we express our covenantal relationship to each other as congregations caring for each other. Do you know the members and minister of the Disciples church closest to you? Have you taken opportunity to visit a Disciples church of a different ethnicity than your own? Do you have resources to share to assist a new church get their best start? Have you thought about connecting with others who share your congregational responsibility in a sister church?
There are lots of ways our care as a Region can be expressed. We give thanks for all those who have faithfully done so over the years.
To read the other articles in the continuing "Marks of a Faithful Regional Church" series, click the linked titles below. All 12 articles will be posted by the end of 2020.