Covenant’s 5-Year Vision Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

David Kling

April 28, 2022

How can I get involved? 

Begin by praying for this vision. Each of the 6 goals has been written as a prayer to facilitate your praying for Covenant’s future. 

Next, begin praying for your neighbors. Over the next five years we will be working together to make Covenant a wonderful place for our neighbors to encounter Jesus Christ. After praying, bring that person to worship with you and help them make friends during hospitality hour in the Fellowship Hall.

Attend worship regularly. This Vision will challenge and stretch each of us in new ways and we can only do that if we are being formed by the Spirit of God and united together in love. Even if you’re traveling or homebound, take an hour each week to share worship online. 

Join a group or form a group. Our heart is that everyone in our community would have a group of friends to share life together. As Covenant grows this will be more important than ever. By joining or forming a group you will be directly providing Christ’s love to your friends. This love is foundational to our Vision. We do not want to grow only in quantity of participants but even more so in the quality of our love for one another and our understanding for God’s word. 

Volunteer. The volunteer needs have been reduced during Covid while we navigated the crisis of the pandemic, but we should see more and more opportunities to serve in Covenant’s ministries with each successive month over the next five years. Current needs include (1) technology operators for Sunday Mornings, (2) volunteers to take communion to the homebound, (3) volunteers to adopt an elderly person as a “Loving Care” recipient, (4) hospitality team members to welcome people on Sundays, (5) Youth and Children volunteers for the Fall Semester. As volunteer positions open up we will continue to inform you and match you to opportunities to serve. 

What’s the difference between our Vision and our Mission?

They are very similar! Our mission statement is “Making disciples of Jesus Christ who love God, love one another and serve in the world.” This statement clarifies WHO we are. This mission statement won’t change. 

In contrast, the Vision statement answers the question of WHERE we are headed. The vision statement paints a specific picture with measurable goals of where we pray God leads us over the course of 5 years. 

The mission statement will remain unchanged but the vision statement will need to be refreshed every 5 years. Our most recent vision statement was approved a little over 5 years ago, so it is time to refresh. 

How will we accomplish this vision? It’s very big!

Our ministry Strategy answers HOW we will arrive at our vision. In the same way that if you choose a destination there are many ways to travel there, so too, once we clarify the vision there are multiple strategies that could fulfill this vision. 

Because the vision is so big, we will not be tackling it all at once. Instead the Session will be choosing 2 or 3 important objectives to work on annually. To help with this work, each year 2 or 3 “Strategy Teams” will be formed around each of these goals to provide expertise and guidance. 

What are the current strategy teams? 

In March of 2022 three teams of some of Covenant’s best leaders were launched to help with the objectives of: Small Groups, Youth & Children, and Reaching Newcomers. These are the three strategic objectives that we are working on this year. 

The captains are chosen by session, given specific objectives and timelines, and then asked to recruit between 6 and 8 other teammates. The teams last until the end of the year. 

The Small Group Strategy Team is captained by Tom Pendergrass. The Youth & Children Team is captained by Ray Rowley. The Reach Team is captained by Richard Cole. 

Each team has begun meeting and will be providing the Elders with brainstorms and plans for the Elders’ consideration. 

What was the timeline for creating this vision?

December 2021 – The Elders start with a blank sheet of paper and spend two full days with a professional facilitator to pray, study the bible, research our local mission field, and create a rough draft of the 5-Year Vision. The three annual strategic objectives for 2022 of (1) “Small Groups,” (2) “Youth & Children,” and (3) “Reach” are identified.

January 2022 – After a month of prayer, the Elders discuss the 5-Year Vision, adjust the metrics, and approve the document for wider discussion with the Trustees. Offers are extended to Strategy Team Captains. 

February 2022 – The Elders and Trustees meet jointly to share the research behind the 5-Year Vision and edit the 5-year metrics. Strategy Team Captains recruit their teams.

March 2022 – The Trustees and Elders meet jointly and revise the 5-Year Vision as a series of prayers with scriptural mandates. The Strategy Teams convene and commence work. 

April 2022 – Following a final month of prayer, the Trustees and Elders make adjustments to the metrics and then unanimously approve the 5-Year Vision. The Elders then develop a communication plan to share the 5-Year Vision churchwide as soon as possible following Easter. 

What is the role of an Elder in the Presbyterian Church regarding strategic planning? 

Different denominations handle leadership differently. In the Presbyterian Church the Elders have responsibility for the strategic direction of the church. In the Presbyterian Church our polity is a representative democracy just like the Federal Government. We elect our Elders to make strategic decisions on our behalf just like we elect Congress to make laws on our behalf. The Presbyterian Church empowers the congregation through the democratic process of electing Elders.

How is our 5-Year Vision different than the current trajectory of most Presbyterian congregations? 

Most Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregations are in steep decline, in contrast our vision outlines a prayer for strong growth. 

Before the pandemic, if you looked at the PCUSA’s 9,000 congregations, 65% of them had less than 75 people attending on a Sunday. Only 1% of PCUSA congregations had 500 or more people on a Sunday. The PCUSA as a whole has lost 24% of its membership since 2015. To put things in perspective, 75 people cannot sustain even one full-time pastor. The denomination is now primarily very small, part-time, and rapidly shrinking.

So Covenant’s vision is to literally be a statistical “outlier” in the denomination. We are praying that God leads us to grow into the 99th percentile of PCUSA congregations. To do so, we will have to engage new behaviors and try fresh experiments. Some things will feel different than what we’ve been comfortable with in the past. 

Our goal is to keep the best parts of being Presbyterian while avoiding the Presbyterian pattern of decline. 

How does this Vision fit in with other changes that have been implemented over the last few years? 

This Vision builds on changes that have been ongoing over the last 2 years. We have been doing research on how different churches operate at different sizes. This research is unfamiliar to many Presbyterians, but it has a lengthy track record of 50 years of empirical study. The research reveals that churches typically behave in accordance with their size. If our prayer is to become a larger church, then we have to adapt our behavior to that of a larger church. 

In January of 2020 we noted that there were two behaviors that Covenant needed to change to prepare for God growing our congregation: (1) reduce the size of our elder board and committees, and (2) revise our strategic planning process. 

In response to this research we changed our bylaws in 2020 to reduce the size of the elder board. The 5-Year Vision and our new Strategy Teams developed in 2022 are designed to address our need to implement a fresh strategic planning process. 

More detail on this can be read in the packet we shared about our bylaw changes from 2020 here: https://www.covhsv.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020.01.14-Bylaw-Change-Informational-Packet-v2.pdf 

What are the financial implications of this vision? 

As we look at the future, we believe that the most responsible thing to steward our resources will be to grow our congregation. The numerical metrics in this 5-Year Vision have been carefully chosen to reflect what we believe will be the long-term financially sustainable size for Covenant. 

Here are some of the things we have thought through regarding Covenant’s finances: (1) We project that expenses will rise over the next 5 years to operate quality discipleship and worship for four generations. (2) We have a heart to continue to honor Covenant’s long legacy of generosity in funding local and global missions. (3) Our extensive building and grounds are designed to be used and maintained by a congregation twice our current size. 

None of these areas are items of immediate concern, but they are helpful to consider when making long-term strategic decisions. We are financially strong today. The growth outlined in this 5-Year Vision will empower that same strength in the future. 

How were the different numbers of the vision chosen?

The numbers we used in the metrics for this 5-year vision are consistent with percentages observed in the healthiest churches in America today, regardless of denomination. The 500 in worship number was chosen because in terms of Church Size Theory this is the number that we believe will set Covenant on a strong pattern of ministry for year’s to come, but will continue to be small enough to have a “family” feeling in our community. The other numbers are all chosen to reflect what a very healthy church of 500 people in worship could expect to see, based on current trends for growing healthy churches. In other words, we don’t just want to grow large, we want to grow deep. We envision the highest possible percentage to the church engaged in gathering, growing and going forth to share Christ across four generations. The percentages of these numbers all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Here is a visual representation to see the relative proportions:

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