First Christian Church First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has considerable strength and stability. It has also experienced much transition in recent years. Thus, the leadership believes that the time is right to undertake a process of self-examination and discernment that will help First Christian Church build on its strengths and move into the future with renewed purpose and vision.
First Christian Church 5 Step Process 1. Development of a “contextual analysis”
First Christian Church 5 Step Process 1. Development of a “contextual analysis” 2. A time of discernment through prayer
First Christian Church 5 Step Process 1. Development of a “contextual analysis” 2. A time of discernment through prayer 3. Development of a “future story” (vision)
First Christian Church 5 Step Process 1. Development of a “contextual analysis” 2. A time of discernment through prayer 3. Development of a “future story” (vision) 4. Development of a strategic plan
First Christian Church 5 Step Process 1. Development of a “contextual analysis” 2. A time of discernment through prayer 3. Development of a “future story” (vision) 4. Development of a strategic plan 5. A period of coaching
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Eugene, OregonContextual AnalysisPart of a Visioning ProcessCoached by Dick Hamm
Eugene’s Origins • Eugene, Oregon traces its beginnings to Eugene Franklin Skinner, who settled in the area in 1846. His cabin was a trading post and in 1850 became a post office. He founded the city in 1862 and ran a ferry across the Willamette at the site of the present Ferry Street. • The University of Oregon was started in 1876 (after Columbia College failed due in part to a series of fires). It has about 16,000 undergraduates. Other colleges in the area include Lane Community College and Northwest Christian College, which was begun by the Stone-Campbell Movement in 1895 as Eugene Divinity School.
Eugene, Oregon • Today, the Visioning Committee describes Eugene as generally a liberal community, though there are conservative communities nearby. The population is very diverse economically in terms of rich, poor and everything in between and religiously, with most religious traditions represented. The city has a strong focus on education at all levels from primary through higher education. The University of Oregon is a powerful cultural influence in Eugene. The downtown has a strong “Hippies” vibe from the 1960’s. Nearby Springfield, however is a much more conservative city.
Eugene, Oregon • Eugene covers parts of five zip codes: 97401, 97402, 97403, 97404, 97405, and 97408. Percept reports high growth for Eugene between 1990 and 2000 (16% compared to the national average of 13%), but slower growth during the next ten years (8% rather than the 10% projected nationally). Except for 97405, the percentage of residents described by Percept as “Affluent” is far below the national average of 15%. • The city is comprised mostly of “Middle Americans” (solidly middle class) and “Young & Coming” (young people who are at the beginning of their professions but have not yet made very much money). Racially, the city is predominantly white, with the second largest group being Asians and very few African Americans. Culturally, Hispanics are, compared to the national average, a relatively small but growing presence.
Eugene, Oregon Generationally, “Millennials” (4-24 years of age, born between 1983 and 2003) and “Survivors” (25-45 years of age, born between 1962 and 1982) each comprise about 30% of the population, totaling together 59%. The education level of the population is very high, which again reflects the large number of college students and the faculty and staff of those institutions. The number of persons with college degrees and post-graduate degrees is extremely high (there are half-again as many post-graduate degrees as the national average). The average household income is slightly above the national average, yet there is a relatively high percentage (17%) of people under the poverty line ($15,000) compared to the national average (14%).
Eugene, Oregon • A very high percentage of people in Eugene have no faith involvement (44%, compared to a national average of 35%), reflecting the fact that religious disestablishment has progressed further in Oregon than in most parts of the country. Still, about the same as the national percentage are strongly involved in religion while a much smaller percentage than nationally are only somewhat involved. Thus, there are primarily two groups religiously speaking: those who are strongly involved and those who are not involved at all.
Eugene, Oregon • In addition, about twice the national average (16% compared to 8%) are involved in non-Christian religions. This means that a relatively small proportion of the population is open to Christian faith. This represents a sharp change from 25 years ago and helps explain the drop in total numbers of members at First Christian. Another factor in the drop in membership has been the suburban spread of the city and the fact that many people tend not to come downtown. A third factor is the presence of Disciples congregations in the suburbs.
First Christian Church • First Christian Church was officially begun in 1866 with 51 members, but there were meetings for worship and communion as early as 1861, a year before the city was officially founded. • The congregation’s first building was at 9th (Broadway) and Pearl Sts. From the beginning the church had strong mission ties locally and overseas, especially in the Congo. The present core building was erected at this site in 1911. • By the early 20th century, the church was reported to have 400 in Sunday School and 1000 members! However, attendance waxed and waned through Depression, wars and prosperous times.
First Christian Church • Through the years, First Christian Church has been a loyal Disciples of Christ congregation. A typical Disciples congregation, it is theologically moderate to liberal. This congregation understands that taking the Bible literally (as so many Christians do today) is not always the same thing as taking it seriously. Unlike many congregations in the community, women are welcome in positions of leadership including eldership, committee leadership and pastoral leadership. The congregation has a longstanding tradition of open membership and an open Table. The congregation is “open and affirming” by practice.
First Christian Church The building is partially handicapped accessible and has access to adequate parking to accommodate current worship services and regular programming. The congregation has a building endowment fund of about $750,000 and numerous special invested funds totaling about $450,000 plus a scholarship fund of about $120,000 making a total of a bit over one million in invested funds.
First Christian Church Senior ministers serving First Christian since 1945: 1945-49 Hugh McCallum 1949-59 Carroll Roberts 1960-74 Carlton Buck 1975-80 Benny Boling 1982-90 John Moore 1991-present Dan Bryant Senior pastors have tended to stay with First Christian Church for full-term ministries (6-8 years or more).
DISCIPLES YEARBOOK CHART: Statistics for 1995-2005 • Partici- Bap-- Trans- Worship SS CWF Local Local Total • pating tisms fers Attend Attend Memb Ops Cap Outreach • 1985 380 3 8 185 100 0 200,000 1,785 47,675 • 1986 380 10 34 220 120 0 204,700 3,733 24,643 • 1987 387 8 29 222 85 103 170,000 35,000 32,000 • 1988 391 1 20 224 92 150 194,602 7,504 33,026 • 1989 411 5 38 225 96 153 211,427 33,576 33,462 • 1990 388 8 19 210 100 150 187,569 1,697 30,514 • 1991 343 2 22 215 100 110 226,904 3,048 36,004 • 1992 347 9 30 205 116 116 215,541 32,065 42,614 • 1993 354 3 18 183 107 65 239,418 25,240 43,027 • 1994 352 5 15 191 92 45 264,630 132,095 38,402 • 1995 312 4 15 198 92 42 266,917 28,607 22,376 • 1996 333 11 21 188 90 44 192,427 0 9,978 • 1997 295 4 11 227 100 36 284,573 245,000 24,638 • 1998 305 5 8 212 110 60 305,716 63,267 31,498 • 1999 316 4 26 221 117 35 359,641 51,575 38,930 • 2000 270 1 20 207 102 54 296,334 36,796 19,106 • 2001 270 8 9 216 129 54 308,511 20,280 22,175 • 2002 275 2 7 219 130 53 256,278 68,790 20,298 • 2003 270 5 8 210 125 36 257,389 52,500 21,272 • 2004 261 1 10 203 - 37 257,389 17,167 67,772 • 2005 262 3 19 199 - - 262,997 5,160 85,707
First Christian Church 1. The numbers of baptisms rise and fall, but have remained in single digits for almost all of the past twenty years. This is an indication that the congregation typically baptizes children rather than actively seeking adult converts also. It should be noted that many “Boomers” and some “Survivors” are open to the possibility of connecting or reconnecting with a church through baptism.
First Christian Church • 2. Christian Women’s Fellowship numbers have been steadily dropping in recent years, which is typical of most Disciples congregations. The original “CWF” format was developed at a time when most women were stay-at-home-moms and has not translated well into an era when most women are working outside the home. Typically, older women continue to enjoy the fellowship they have developed over the decades, but younger women are uninterested or incapable of participating. Nevertheless, the CWF and other Disciples Women programs continue to offer important ministry, mission, service, education and relationships for some women.
First Christian Church 3. First Christian Church has remained a congregation deeply committed to outreach, though the proportion of the budget and the spending power of the dollars going to outreach has steadily dropped over the past 20 years (2005 and 2006 were exceptional years).
4. The congregation has typically sustained a fair number of annual additions by transfer, but these have been required to keep the worship attendance fairly constant. This is because: a) Members die. b) Significant numbers of First CC members are highly mobile and many move away to other communities. c) There have been occasional conflicts in the life of the congregation which have occasioned some people’s departures. Conflicts are common in congregations and may be between individual staff members, a minister and the congregation, or between members and or ministers over decisions about program, direction and/or theological differences. There is not a high rate of conflict in First CC. d) The congregation is not effectively organized to retain all those who join the church.
5. The congregation demonstrates a pattern of plateauing over the past 20 years at a maximum worship attendance of around 200. This is typical of a congregation that has a “pastor-centered” style of organization (“pastor-centered” is not a criticism of a pastor, it is a descriptive phrase used to differentiate between a number of congregational sizes and the types of organization needed to sustain those sizes including: “family church”, “pastor-centered church”, “program-centered church”, and “corporate church”). 200-225 in worship constitutes a kind of “glass ceiling” which, though an invisible barrier, is about the maximum number that a “pastor-centered congregation” can consistently support. More will be said about this.
First Christian Church 6. Sunday School attendance has remained remarkably stable from 1985-2005, which is atypical of most congregations in all mainline denominations. 7. The congregation’s regular giving (stewardship) has remained stable in real dollars through the years, dipping only during times of transition or conflict (such declines in giving during times of transition and conflict are typical of most congregations).
Age Gender Chart Age M F Married Single Divorced Widowed 0-4 10 3 5-9 10 11 10-14 5 6 15-19 9 8 0 17 0 0 20-29 7 18 7 13 0 0 30-39 5 10 9 3 1 0 40-49 12 23 24 4 0 0 50-59 24 41 30 10 2 1 60-69 14 26 26 4 0 1 70-79 17 26 29 0 4 6 80-89 6 26 29 0 4 6 90+ 3 8 2 0 1 5 112 206 156 51 12 19 The “age-gender chart” shows all generations are present, but the congregation is top-heavy in age. There are 92 adults under 50 years of age and 191 adults over 50 years of age. This means that the congregation is the opposite of Eugene at large, in that the city is 60% Millennials and Survivors, but the church is 70% Boomers, Silents and Builders.
First Christian Church Map The map, which features pins representing 100% of the households of the church, demonstrates that far more than half the congregation is over 60 years of age. Remembering that the largest generational groups in the city are is 4-25 years of age (Millenials) and 25-45 years of age (Survivors), and recognizing that most of those people who have been moving into the community since 1990 are of that same generational grouping, it is clear that First Christian Church has not been effectively reaching people of that age group. While the city as a whole has been growing steadily, First CC has been standing still numerically.
First Christian Church Youth Group The youth groups at First CC meet most often on weekends for monthly lock-ins and programming is provided for all ages. The program is connected to the Regional youth and Regional camp and conference program. Vacation Bible School has typically attracted about 30 children and youth in the summer, though it is not currently being held. There is an annual mission trip. The CYF involves about 17 youth and Chi-Rho involves about 15.
First Christian Church Men’s and Women’s Ministries The men’s group (Vision Builders) is a group that meets to do repair work on the church and occasionally on a home. The group enjoys fellowship. As mentioned above, the women’s ministries group has been declining in numbers in recent decades. Nevertheless, this group provides crucial support to the overall mission of the congregation. Most members are over 65 years of age for reasons mentioned above. The CWF meets monthly. There are also two non-CWF circles of women, including some younger women, meeting weekly.
First Christian Church Length of membership: by survey 0-5 years 115 (37%) 6-10 years 70 (22%) 11-20 years 68 (21%) 21+ years 60 (19%) This chart shows that a remarkable number of the members have joined in the past five years (about one-third).
First Christian Church • The congregation is comprised of mostly white collar workers and professionals. The large numbers of educators is not surprising in the face of the fact that Disciples have always attracted educators with our emphasis on faith and reason and Northwest Christian College is strongly related to FCC.
Staffing Staff patterns have been very stable. Based on a standard consultant’s rule of thumb, First Christian is staffed for decline. Generally, a congregation should have at least one fulltime minister for the first 150 participating members plus another full-time minister/program person for each additional 100. With 262 participating members, First has 1 ½ ministers/program staff rather than the two required for maintenance. Growth would suggest more than two full time (or equivalents).
First Christian Church Small Groups for Adults in Which Participation Is Emotionally Significant Prime Time SS class 25 Early Bird group 11 Helping Hand Room 9 Forbidden Hour 4 Good Samaritan 5 Naomi Circle 9 Vision Builders 17 Sarah’s Circle 5 Loyal Friends SS class 9 CWF 24 Shawl Ministry 4 Choir (traditional service) 30 Quilters 6 Readers’ Theater 4 Soup Kitchen 10 New Celebration Singers 7 Power & Light 7 Thursday morning group 6 Bell Choir 17 Newsletter group 4 Sojourners 7 Office Volunteers 10 After New Celebration discussion 27
There are 23 groups for adults with combined membership of approximately 252 to meet the spiritual and social needs of individuals. Since there is much overlap in these groups, we estimate perhaps 130 total actual participants in such groups (which means that about half of the membership has no small group involvement in which participation is emotionally significant). The rule of thumb is 7 groups per 100 participating members. At First CC, this would suggest a total of 19 small groups for 262 participating members, so by this guideline the congregation has an adequate number of small groups. However, most of these small groups are designed for current members (especially Silents and older), which means there are fewer places for new members and potential new members to “connect” with the congregation in a relatively easy and safe way. This is especially important to note in a congregation that practices “associational evangelism” (that is, people are invited into association with First Christian Church where they hear the Gospel from the preacher, the choir, the classes and so forth and experience the Gospel in small groups.). In addressing this matter, planners will want to pay special heed to developing small groups that address the spiritual needs of new people as well as long-standing members.
Evangelism • According to the Vision Team, the congregation considers Eugene as its primary evangelism area, with Springfield and other adjacent areas as secondary targets. The congregation may need to become more intentional about reaching into the suburbs. • “Associational evangelism” is the most natural approach for First CC. Part of the attraction of First CC for many is the fact that it does engage in associational evangelism rather than the more aggressive tactics of many fundamentalist churches. Nevertheless, the congregation could be much more intentional and consistent in its evangelistic outreach. Small groups are key in this regard.
Also key is specifically and intentionally reaching out to new young families in the suburbs. Some of those to whom First needs to reach out are young people who have never had a church connection. Another group is comprised of the “de-churched”: people who have been abused, or felt abused, by previous experiences of church and those who are unaware that there are non-fundamentalist approaches to the Bible, faith and the life of the Spirit.
Outreach The congregation considers the downtown area as its core “local outreach target area” (outreach in terms of charity and justice activities). The congregation has a significant list of local outreach involvements through various local organizations. The congregation supports Disciples causes through the Disciples Mission Fund, the Region, Week of Compassion, Reconciliation, etc.
When asked why people belong to First Christian Church, the answers given by the Vision Team Committee were (in order): 1) Dan’s sermons (10) 2) Progressive, intellectually stimulating theology with freedom (10) 3) Non-condemning approach to Christianity (10) 4. Active children’s program (6) 5) Acceptance and hospitality (6) 6) Music and building architecture (5) 7) A pastor who is a leader in social justice (5)
Asked what things the congregation does best, the Vision Team responded: 1) Public worship 2) Children’s education/youth ministry 3) Sermons (preaching and teaching) 4) Small group ministry 5) Diversity and acceptance of all peoples 6) Local outreach/community visibility
The things identified by the Vision Team as those the congregation does least well are: 1) Portions of the public worship (could emphasize more mystery and awe) 2) Adult and young adult Christian education 3) Better and more complete communication 4) Better fellowship and community building 5) Evangelism 6) Global outreach
Asked to identify “significant signs of renewal,” the Vision Team responded: 1) Worship and Wonder 2) Have addressed theology well through personal education 3) We are opening and affirming, which is bringing new interest 4) The “New Celebration” service 5) Willingness of the congregation to go through this visioning process
Asked about “signs of decline,” the Vision Team identified: 1) Aging population in the second service 2) Declining worship attendance 3) Ongoing struggles with finances 4) Core volunteer burn-out issues 5) Decreased a ministerial staff position from full-time to half-time.
The self-image of the congregation is described by the Vision Team as: Concerned about dwindling attendance. Progressive. Support for the marginalized. Loyalty of older members. An overall positive self-image with concern for the heart of Eugene.
Conflict Sources of conflict in recent years have included issues around remaining downtown, being open and affirming, our understanding of the Bible, deciding to have two services, tension between doing outreach (charity and justice) and doing evangelism, malfeasance around 1990, and personnel matters.
Capital Needs There is an identified list of capital needs, improvements and repairs including: the elevator, windows, endowment for building maintenance, bell tower, new entrance from the parking lot, master plan phases 4-5 (phase 1-3 have been completed). Some fresh work will need to be done on this in light of the ultimate future story.
Desired outcomes of this process (named by the Vision Team): 1) A clear concrete written action plan to accomplish the following: 2) the church gains consensus on core values and future direction (eg. social justice, liberal theology, personal transformation or all three). A precisely stated mission. 3) Internal personal experience of God that will lead to external service to the world. 4)church growth: especially young adults and families. 5)services for the aged, which is a large part of our congregation 6) revitalized, revamped program process fueled by passionate people.
Governance The congregation has appropriately sized governance bodies (15 on the board, less than 10 on other governance bodies) though attendance at board meetings is somewhat low. Most functional committees are functioning (except Program). It may be that an Annual Planning Event could help reduce the number of meetings required of various committees/ministries while enhancing coordination of planning and events. (Hamm has information about this approach.) The policies of the church (building use, wedding, etc.) are in good order. The position descriptions for ministerial staff are adequate.
Reflections from Dr. Hamm (which the Vision Team has affirmed) First Christian Church is a healthy and diverse congregation. The membership is committed to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has commitment to local and world outreach. The congregation’s theological stance is a reflection of important core values inherited from its Disciples parentage and which the congregation must teach and regularly reaffirm if they are to be maintained. First CC represents an important theological and spiritual voice in a spiritual wilderness of American fundamentalism. It is important that the congregation remain tied to its Disciples roots and that it choose ministers who reflect this theological perspective, and that it teach the content of this heritage.
A question that has confronted First Christian before is whether or not to remain downtown. The congregation has decided to stay at least twice and is committed to staying now. However, it seems to this observer that the congregation must now decide whether it will continue to focus primarily on the downtown of Eugene or whether it will also seek to reach people in the suburbs. • Another fundamental question that now confronts First CC is this: what size will the church become? The congregation has pressed against the upper limits of a pastor-centered size church during the past 30 years.
Consciously or unconsciously, there are differing desires on the part of the membership. There are members who would like to see the congregation provide a much broader array of programs (which in turn requires a larger congregation with more resources and a move toward a program-centered style of organizational life and ministry) and reach significantly larger numbers of people. Others prefer to maintain the intimacy of a smaller congregation (the current size and the current pastor-centered style of organizational life and ministry).
On the one hand, it is frustrating to members who want much broader programmatic offerings to see the congregation repeatedly come to the “breakthrough” point of nearly 225 in worship only to fall back into current patterns (pastor-centered-style). On the other hand, those who want a smaller fellowship (less than 200 in worship) begin to feel uneasy or even threatened whenever the congregation nears the “breakthrough” point. Since there are now two worship services, this sense of threat does not come from seeing either worship service too full (there is plenty of room in both services). The sense of threat comes from seeing many new members that one does not know personally.