Let's Get Connected
Stories from the field
Abiding Presence was an early adopter of New Connections, starting their campaign in 2017 and ending in 2019. Senior Pastor Meredith Keseley noted in her final Campaign write up, “We are grateful for the support of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod through the New Connections Campaign that has helped us to live out our mission of Connecting People to Christ through Community. Without the synod’s support, we would not have been able to call Rev. Heidi Eickstadt as our Pastor for Discipleship. As both Pastor Eickstadt’s term call and our New Connections grant comes to an end, we want to give thanks for our partnership and share what the synod’s support has enabled us to do these past three years.”
So, how did it go?
Abiding Presence connected 187 new people who became members to the congregation in three years (64 in 2017, 76 in 2018 and 47 in 2019). Tracking "new connections" was more challenging than tracking those on a new member track. Kesely stated, “The first step for us was to define an ‘active non-member,’ which is what we consider ‘active participants in the life of the congregation.’ The church council defined an ‘active non-member’ as someone who is not a formal member of the church, but who falls into one of the following two categories 1) regularly worships or attends Sunday School, 2) regularly participates in one of our weekday church-based ministries and considers Abiding Presence to be their church home.”
Abiding Presence focused on making new connections by emphasizing a "community center" style of ministry that allowed them to make connections with people in their community who might not otherwise walk through the doors of the church. Ministries like Mainly Music and MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) were successful in this emphasis. Further, they built partnerships with community organizations using their space so that the church could become a place of resource. One of these resource areas was in mental health ministry where they hosted support groups and provided space to a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) family support partner. Then, Covid-19 happened.
When asked, "What ministry has happened as a result of Covid?" Pastor Keseley elaborated, “In the midst of COVID, like all congregations we've pivoted in many ways. One of the most exciting ways is that we have launched the Abiding Presence Summer Internship Program for our college students. We heard that many of our college students were having their planned summer jobs/internships canceled and were being left without plans.”
The congregation quickly pivoted to launch an 8-week internship program that is providing a stipend, resume building job experience and the opportunity for intentional vocational discernment grounded in faith, scripture and prayer. They have 11 interns (way more than they anticipated!) who are participating in the program and helping them to rethink ministry in this new age of the church. Interns are working remotely in areas such as food ministry, mental health ministry, communication, children's ministry, racial justice, church history and worship ministry. Check out the Intern page at: https://abidingpresence.net/summer-2020-interns for more information about the intern and the program.
Additionally, Pastor Keseley and her council president, Steve Lucky recently reached to parishioners to talk about ministry during Covid and what in-person will look like in the foreseeable future. Specifically,
"First and Foremost, We Have Never Stopped Being the Church!
A lot has changed in many aspects of life these past three months, but what hasn’t changed is our ability to be the church. We’ve focused on three priorities – worship, relationships and feeding people. While some ministries have paused, others have expanded or even been born out of the unexpected possibilities of this time. A few highlights:
Abiding Presence is keeping their facility closed and worship online for now. They are continuing to work with public health officials and members who are experts in the field to guide their re-opening process.
Thank you, Pastor Keseley and Abiding Presence for your partnership and for being a progressive, creative and passionate leader in our Synod in reaching out and drawing in new connections.
King of Kings (KoK), a thriving ministry in Fairfax County for almost 50 years, spun off a “new start”, KoK 2.0, or Dulles South, in 2019 with the intention of developing Missional Communities in this fast-growing region. The vision was to develop a faith community that would proclaim the good news of the gospel in a way that spoke to those who didn't yet have a church home. “Our passion and hope as a church is to focus on the vital, essential elements for being people of God living in community, learning to be disciples, and loving our neighbors.” (Senior Pastor, Lynn Miller)
Why Dulles South? The Dulles South corridor is a rapidly growing, increasingly diverse, and family-centric hub of Loudoun County. Between 2017 and 2026, the population is predicted to grow by 123% and will continue to see significant development as the Metro Rail comes to the area. About 2/3 of the ppulation are families with children and by 2025, Loudoun County is predicted to be a minority majority.
What is a Missional Community? Missional communities (MC) are mid-sized groups in specific areas gathering regularly for communion (centering on God), community (sharing life with one another), and co-mission (sent into the world). Each MC is called to a specific group of people to love, serve, and proclaim the gospel. These groups can be neighborhoods, marketplaces, schools, or a network of relationships. MC's are to mimic Jesus' ministry on earth in order to see the places we live, work, learn, and play to be blessed by God’s people on God’s mission. MC's will come together collectively for worship and to hear stories of the Spirit at work.
How’s it Going?
2019 was a building year. KoK hired a mission developer, Pastor Garrett Wolf, to explore and implement the vision. By the end of 2019, KoK Dulles South had a core group of 20 people gathering on a regular basis and learning to shape their first missional community together. They started by hosting a monthly brunch church in a local restaurant on Sunday mornings for the first four months. In June, they pivoted to find a more permanent location for their gatherings and began a monthly dinner church in a local community center Sundays at 5:00 PM. In addition, KoK added a mission component by partnering with the JK Community Farm, a local non-profit solely dedicated to harvesting food for the food insecure.
During the same time, they developed a leadership team, established a neighborhood discipleship group, and drafted an initial budget. By September, there was a desire to meet weekly adding a monthly worship gathering, contemplative practice, and community forum. They had planned for 2020 with specific goals and…then...Covid-19 happened.
How did Covid-19 impact KoK 2.0? They pivoted online and continued partnering in the community in some of the following ways:
Pastor Garret shares two stories of impact:
Story from John...
"John describes his journey as a long and tiresome road. As a young adult, he was an agnostic and then spent several years in a more evangelical church setting but grew tired of the judgement, shame, and inconsistent gospel message. Slowly, he wandered away from church, still describing himself as spiritual, but yearning for a church home that would be open to exploring, accepting, and vulnerably talking about faith together. In April 2019, he found King of Kings Dulles South via our website and now sits as a vital contributing member on our Dulles South leadership team.”
Story from Jean...
"Jean describes her journey with church as a road with many twists and turns. She started her spiritual path as a child, loving to learn about foreign missions. As a young adult she co-led children/youth mission groups, leading youth mission trips to serve the economically insecure and developing a passion for local mission work. However, after a divorce and the loss of loved ones, Jean struggled with the bumps and turns on a previously joyful journey, drifting away from the faith community. Eventually, with a desire to reignite the joy she once had, Jean sought to reconnect with a church community again. She heard about King of Kings Dulles South and attended a local Brunch Church in February 2019. After learning about the mission and vision, including the importance of partnering with the community to serve the less fortunate, she felt the Lord had led her home. Jean now serves as a vital member on our Dulles South leadership team."
Pastor Garrett commented, "Overall, we have 88 people on our current email list that have connected with our community and we hope to foster these relationships while continuing to build new ones!”
Check out Kok 2.0 Dulles South on our Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/pg/kofkdullessouth/posts/?ref=page_internal
With the onset of Covid-19, Pastor Dave and Phillip (Rockstar a/v guy), pivoted to use equipment they already had on the campus in another building to build the capability to livestream church services. In his recent letter to his council, Pastor Dave said, "Online worship went from being, 'we should move forward when we get new cameras,' to, 'we should move forward immediately so we can offer worship in a time we can’t gather!' We are learning very quickly how to do live stream worship. It’s not perfection but we will keep tweaking and making improvements. Our goal is to provide the best experience we can for as many as we can. It’s different preaching...but, we clearly have a sense that many are worshiping with us online. It’s hard to describe but 'you sense it'." Part of what makes this work is that Good Shepherd has some folks assigned to interact with others during worship via social media and throughout the morning.
"The virus is terrible but we all should be realizing that our ministry really is a movement that can’t be contained to a facility. He encouraged his Council and staff to think of the really positive things that have happened as they quickly adapted to changing realities.
Collaborate, try something new, learn, pivot, and try again.
Pitch what doesn’t work; Keep what does!
Christy Hartigan is the New Connections Director for the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She is passionate about spreading the Good News and WIDENING THE CIRCLE of faith...becoming the church outside the walls of the church.