I met Rev. Chad Abbott, pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Alexandria, KY, at a clergy gathering in the Cincinnati area more than a year ago. As we were chatting after the formal meeting ended, he mentioned his vision for having a “caregivers gala” that offered a night of music, food and respite for those who care for friends or family members in their homes. This event would be free of charge and open to anyone in the community and surrounding churches. (I’m using his name and telling this story with permission.)
He asked me if I knew of any grants available. Being new to the staff of the Ohio Conference UCC at the time, I did not know of any, but I said I would keep my eyes and ears open for potential funding.
Several months later, I emailed him with an idea for using a church crowdfunding site to get support for his endeavor. “Creativity coaching” then ensued. As Chad moved forward with the project, he would call or text me for counsel and encouragement. One day in particular, he left me a nervous voicemail. He was about to sign the contract with Carrie Newcomer, the folk musician he was hiring for the gala.
I just love getting these messages.
When I called him back, I listened to his shaky, but still excited voice on the other end of the phone as he described the situation. He wasn’t sure where he was going to get all the money to pay her.After several minutes of listening, I reassured him, “If you weren’t flirting with the edge of disaster, you wouldn’t be doing ministry.”
He paused and said something like, “Right.” Then we began to brainstorm potential sources of funding.
The money, the food, the invitations, the music and the Blessed are the Caretakers event a reality this past September.
This inspirng story provides a really good example of the role the wider church could serve. What if those blandly named “judicatory staff” like myself started thinking of our primary role as “creativity coaches.” Local church pastors and leaders could turn to us when they want to do a new thing and need to plug into additional support or resources to make their big idea happen. We wouldn’t even have to provide all those resources, just help those people connect to the resources themselves.
What kind of ministries would our churches do if they knew they could always call someone who would help them dream and implement the new thing God is calling them to do? What if we collected connections and resources (but not necessarily provide them all)?
I’m going to leave you with a song from Carrie Newcomer called, “You Can Do This Hard Thing.” Hope the gorgeous song inspires you to take that next step outside your comfort zone and maybe even imagine a new wider church structure.
Nicole has been experimenting with wider church structures in the past year and a half as she lives into one of the first shared positions between a United Church of Christ conference and the national setting of the church.