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Education Summit: Strategic Directions

The elders met on June 25, 2009 and discussed the information developed at the first three Education Summit meetings. We talked and prayed through as many of the key issues as possible, and prepared the following summary of our thinking and the direction we would like to set. Then we brought this information back to the fourth Education Summit meeting and had a great discussion of how some of these ideas can be implemented. In the summary below, ideas that were discussed or added at the Education Summit meeting are shown in italics.

Based on the input to this process and a sense of some larger needs in the body, the elders identified the following significant needs at Trinity:
(1) the need for community and connectedness in relationships
(2) the need for strong small groups to achieve community
(3) the need for a vision oriented sense of purpose
(4) the need for shepherding

Next, we asked ourselves what structures and programs would achieve these goals. We agreed that having a second staff person (full or part time were mentioned) goes a long way toward effective ministry, and that we should begin to work toward that. We also agreed that having every family assigned to an elder-type as shepherd would be a great help in stewarding community.

Trinity Vision Small Groups

As laid out in Bob’s blog entry, the Trinity Vision Small Groups are part of a disciple making pathway that emphasizes several of the items mentioned above. Therefore we decided to move forward with this program. The goal is to have the seven week study materials ready for the fall. The elders split up the assignment of writing the weekly Bible Studies for these groups, with drafts due July 23rd. Each week of the study is to have five daily studies focusing on one Scripture passage with three to five significant questions. After the studies are edited for consistency, they will be distributed to all current and potential leaders of small groups and study groups for pre-view.

Sunday Morning Service Times

The elders discussed the pros and cons of moving to one service, along with the pros and cons of staying with two services or moving to some other version of two services.

Recognize the strong current need for community and connectedness, we concluded that the significant limitation of one service – a maximum of 325 chairs and thus about 270 max attendance (by the 80 percent rule) – was livable if we commit to a model of planting a new church every three or four years.

A question was asked about whether this limitation to growth could be accepted. We feel that a church population between 280 and 300 is needed before planting a new church. We also feel that the judicious use of ushers and greeters can go a long way to diffuse the 80 percent rule in practice.

Given these conditions, we are proposing the following Sunday morning structure:
* Worship Service: roughly 9:15 to 10:35, possibly ten minutes longer on communion Sundays.
* Fellowship Time: roughly 10:35 to 11:00
* Sunday School: 11:00 to 12:10 (but the end time is flexible)

The rational for this rather radical swap of the worship service with the Sunday School time is further discussed below. However, very valid comments were made about the fact that worship at 9:15 is not as likely to appeal to first time visitors as later worship. We hope that this will not have too much effect on outreach by word of mouth or through the web-site, and that the attractiveness of the church will be significantly enhanced by the community that is visible among us. (“By this will all men know that you are my disciples: that you love one another”)

Small Groups

The elders feel that small groups are central to achieving community and relationships and that a combination of several components is needed to make small groups effective: prayer, sharing, informal relational time, and Bible study.

We also believe that small groups on days other than Sunday are the best vehicle for achieving these goals, as time limitations are less significant for those groups. However, we also want to make provision for Sunday morning small groups, especially for people who can’t easily commit to a small group during the week. This goes along with a renewed expectation that every member will be involved in a small group in an ongoing way.

We also want to emphasize that every small group session needs an end date, after which there will be an expectation that people can switch groups, topics will be re-publicized and groups will start again with a new end date.

Midweek and Sunday Small Groups

Midweek Small groups with several different organizing principles are preferred. These might be men’s, women’s, young marrieds, family, or adult small groups. The midweek format has several advantages: (1) a more relaxed time frame; (2) the communication that church, fellowship, etc. do not take place just on Sunday; and (3) the closer fellowship that can be had in a home rather than a church building setting.

However, we also want to make provision for Sunday small groups. This is the main reason we swapped worship and Sunday School in the schedule above, so that Sunday small groups can meet during the Sunday School hour (11:00 – 12;10), but extend their meeting time past the end of that block to include lunch, fellowship, extended sharing and prayer, etc.

Sunday School

We would like to have age graded Sunday School up to about third grade, with a scope and sequence intended to achieve elementary level Bible story and Bible truth knowledge in our youngest children. The age graded Sunday School classes would end promptly at 12:10 and children would be escorted to their parents.

The cut-off for this age graded segment was the subject of much conversation at the meeting. It appears that most people would like this cut-off to be moved to sixth grade so that families with children who want to attend an adult focused small group or study group can have a place for their kids to get age appropriate input. Another rationale for this approach is that visitors normally expect Sunday School to be available for their kids at least up to this level.

For people who are involved in a Midweek small group, we propose that they attend a Sunday Morning teaching group. These could also have different organizing principles, but would be characterized by emphasis on the Bible Study component of group life, and by ending promptly at 12:10 p.m.

If a child is in Sunday School and their parents are in a small group rather than a teaching group, their small group would be expected to receive the children at 12:10 and care for them until the small group is done.


Toward the end of the meeting we took up the issue of organization. While not fully resolved, there was a consensus that the Small group / Study group side of the equation needed a team of about three to five people to identify leaders, coordinate topics, and provide publicity and communication. This team was envisioned as doing their job for one year, and then handing the job over to a new team.

Several people volunteered to be part of this team or the planning associated with it. In particular, Nancy Jones volunteered to work on a survey to see where individuals and families would like to fit in the proposed structure.

The elders are planning to meet briefly this week to do some evaluation. Then we will contact those we hope will be part of the small group planning team.

In addition to this team, it seemed clear that some kind of ‘C.E. Committee’ needs to be reformed to coordinate the activities of Awana, age graded Sunday School and Junior Church. While we didn’t have time to pursue this in any depth at the meeting, the elders will also be thinking about who might be asked to serve in this capacity.

UPDATE: The elders met briefly on Thursday, July 2nd after General Board and started to put some potential names with these potential organizations.  We also talked about a number of different implementation details.

For the next two weeks or so, we’re asking you to think and pray about these directions, and to talk to any of the elders about your ideas, concerns, etc.  While you are doing that, we’re going to be preparing a survey  about your small group and Sunday school preferences.  This will help the two organizations (small group and C.E) to decide how many of what kind of groups to try and organize.  Please be ready to take the survey (which will be available both as paper and online, on about the 18th or so of July.

Other Initiatives

We want to have up-to-date bulletin boards and signage so that people know when things are happening and where.

We want to have an organization chart, both on the web page and printed, so that people know who to contact about the programs of the church.

We want to have a good up-to-date calendar online so that people can find out where and when events are scheduled.