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Gathered and Scattered: with a side order of bacon…


Gathered and Scattered: with a side order of bacon…

Okay, maybe not the bacon, but definitely something you need to sink your teeth into.

The words “gathered” and “scattered” are used to refer to our categories of service at Southwood. As a large resource church there are areas of service that we will all work on together. We call those areas “gathered” areas of service and focus. There are also areas of service where our members serve in the community as individual Christians. We call those areas of “scattered” service for Southwood.

In both cases Southwood is serving. But the level of corporate commitment by the entire body of Southwood is different.  This is best explained by an example.

For gathered service, let’s take Student Ministries. Imagine that the winter retreat for High Life is upcoming. What would our participation look like? There would likely be budget dollars allocated, staff time devoted, volunteer help recruited, promotional materials printed and dedicated focus across many levels of the church given to help accomplish this event. You would read about it in Branches before it happens and probably after it is finished. You will see t-shirts, brochures and banners galore for this “gathered event.” It is an area of “gathered” focus and service and as such will garner this level of endorsement and support.

By contrast, consider a “scattered” ministry passion like Scouting. (Note: I personally enjoyed my time in the Boy Scouts of America and have a deep appreciation personally for scouting!) Suppose one of our members has chosen to serve as a troop leader in order to invest in the boys of our community through this organization. I am presupposing that this individual would have already invested much prayer, one on one time and personal passion into this Scout troop. If this person were to ask, “Based on this ‘gathered’ and ‘scattered’ paradigm, how is Southwood going to support Scout troop 78?” this would be the response:

“First, you need to know that your service with Scout Troop 78 is amazing. Your love for Scouting and passion for kids is wonderful. It is awesome to see the body of Christ embracing opportunities to share their lives with others through venues like Scouting. Secondly, we believe that the first level of support you will get is the same level of support that every member of Southwood gets: encouragement from the Word of God on Sunday; opportunities to be with other believers in a small group; shepherding from the elders and the body as well as other opportunities to be instructed in the faith through Sunday Seminars. Third, you can request the use of meeting rooms in our facility for your troop meetings. If space is available and usage terms are agreeable, then you’ve got a place to meet! Finally, we are developing an online place where you can make your need for volunteers with Troop 78 known to the Southwood community.”

Now all that sounds great, but it is right here I need to make something abundantly clear: beyond the ways listed in the paragraph above, there will be no corporate participation on the part of Southwood with that ministry or event. That may seem a bit overstated and precise, but even having made that above statement to individuals, with the clarity I thought it carried, I have still had people ask further questions to clarify exactly what was meant. Please know in advance that I disdain speaking so bluntly, but find it necessary and better in the long run to make it clear and remove all possibility for confusion: this practically means that no staff member will make copies, design flyers, make phone calls or send out emails about the event. No teacher or facilitator will make announcements about the event in any public venue, class or worship service. No budget dollars will be allocated to this event, ministry or idea. And no staff liaison, deacon or elder will be assigned to help, facilitate or assist with any portion of this ministry.

Even having re-read this paragraph countless times, I don’t honestly know any more merciful way to say it. Candidly, if such a ministry is not able to exist, continue or thrive without the above levels of support and endorsement, then that ministry is not actually asking Southwood for “help,” it is asking Southwood for sponsorship. Southwood has been the default “sponsor” for many ideas in the past, and she is now publicly declaring and focusing on the areas of service that she actually intends to sponsor. Those are our “gathered” areas of service: Student Ministries, Shepherding and Community Development.

Our goal is simply to clearly declare which ministry areas we are endorsing, facilitating and cultivating and invite you to corporately participate in these amazing endeavors. We will cheer for, encourage and pray for your areas of personal passion, but we are seeking to be just as focused AS A CHURCH about our three areas of service as you are about those ministries which may be near and dear to your heart!

Below are descriptions of our three “gathered” areas of service:

Student Ministries (Cradle to College)

Student Ministries is identified as one our three strategic ministries that is part of our DNA. It is a core competency we do with excellence. Both Southwood and the Huntsville community would weep if it did not exist. This is a highly dynamic, fluid ministry that teaches and shepherds both adolescents and young adults through the myriad of personal challenges they face in today’s world.

Student Ministries includes all children and youth from cradle to college. A ministry re-alignment of Children and Youth departments into one unified staff is integral to this plan. We envision every child within our covenant community would find themselves experiencing and expressing grace from the time they are brought forward in baptism until the day they graduate from college. In Student Ministries every infant, child and youth, through a partnership with parents, students and church, transition through age-appropriate ministries, which seek to experience and express grace.

Shepherding (Pastoral Care)

In Shepherding, we express the grace of Christ to each other by caring for one another, carrying each other’s burdens, and moving toward the pain and brokenness that exists in all of our lives. Our overarching strategy as a church will be to focus on providing care rather than formal counseling. Consistent care occurs primarily in small groups, where we share life together in true community and thus are best able to care for each other and experience the healing and transforming power of God’s grace together. When crises of any level or type arise, our typical approach will be for pastoral staff to meet, assess, and refer as necessary. In crisis situations we have particular opportunity to show Christ’s grace moving intentionally and redemptively toward people via Restoration Fellowships and/or Session commissions.

Community Development (Mercy Ministry)

Community Development, as Southwood would understand this, is the ministry model of Lincoln Village. It is asking the question, “Where is God at work?” and moving toward those strategic areas with Gospel compassion and resources, both human and financial. “Community Development” as a concept takes the passion, motivation and desire exhibited at Lincoln Village and asks deep philosophical questions BEHIND the work - what does holistic restoration look like? How do we address the problems beneath the symptoms that we see? Are we empowering people to address foundational issues, or are we engaging in paternalistic sniper shots of “mercy” designed more to ease our consciences than to relieve long-term, systemic and generational suffering? Included under this heading is a desire to partner with other organizations whose missional understanding complements our own.