Home > Features > Embracing a Mission-Driven Approach – Reverend Rod Fisher at The Gap Uniting Church

Embracing a Mission-Driven Approach – Reverend Rod Fisher at The Gap Uniting Church

By Andrew McKaysmith, Synod Writer and Content Creator.

The COVID-19 pandemic, changing demographics and increasing costs of living have presented continuous challenges for The Gap Uniting Church (UC), the largest congregation in the Moreton Rivers Presbytery. The Presbytery designed the ‘Reimagined’ program to aid congregations in finding their genuine purpose, identifying their distinct strengths and areas for enhancement, and understanding what they are summoned by God to achieve.

The reimagining process undertaken by the Gap UC reflects its commitment to addressing the evolving needs of its community. Reverend Rod Fisher hopes to identify areas where it can improve and build on its strengths by gathering feedback from stakeholders, including members, volunteers, and partners. “We wanted to put our mission at the centre of what we do and embrace the opposite of playing it safe,” he said. To do this, they embraced social media through the Gap Grapevine Facebook page to help identify areas to focus their efforts. While using data from the National Church Life Survey, they also collected feedback from a diverse cross-section of their community, including business owners, small community groups, young people, and the general congregation.

The Gap UC has taken bold steps to seize opportunities for growth. “We can’t afford to let opportunities slip by,” Rev Rod said. The review process revealed a critical insight regarding the budgeting process for each activity. Instead of allowing finances to dictate the mission, the church’s teams and individuals agreed that the mission should drive the budget. “Financial limitations shouldn’t constrain our mission,” he said. 

The Gap UC is meeting this challenge by adapting to a digital world. By leveraging digital technology, they have created virtual worship services, allowing congregants to participate in services from the comfort of their homes. “We had to prioritise reaching out to those not part of our congregation,” Rev Rod said. This has made worship accessible to those who may not have been able to attend in-person services due to various constraints. In addition to virtual worship services, The Gap UC has created events ranging from social gatherings to educational workshops, providing a platform for people to come together and learn from one another, and implemented community outreach programs, such as messy play days, fitness classes, and creative workshops. 

By leveraging digital technology, Rev Rod said they have reached a wider audience and provided a platform for people to connect and engage with one another.”We needed to be proactive in initiating change and doubling down on our efforts to reach out to youth and young adults. In response to this aspect of the mission, the church has created new roles that directly serve their objective, such as hiring a youth and young adult pastor who can build strong relationships with the neighbouring high school. “This has required making tough decisions and letting go of beloved programs and activities not serving this purpose,” he said. Additionally, a critical task has been identifying the changing expectations and ensuring smooth functioning within the team. “To avoid confusion and ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and expectations, we have been drafting unambiguous position descriptions for both paid and volunteer roles,” Rev Rod said.

The Gap UC is trying to alleviate the burden on its volunteers by allowing them to serve in areas that match their strengths and gifts. “To ease the mental burden that many people have carried for years, we needed to create a welcoming environment for new volunteers by selecting one or two areas to focus on,” Rev Rod said. The church is also focused on avoiding relying too heavily on a handful of individuals and streamlining roles and responsibilities for the long-term sustainability and health of the congregation. “It is crucial to ensure that team members take time off and do not carry excessive mental burdens, as it can impact their well-being.” He also emphasised, “Allowing individuals to serve in areas they are passionate about makes them more likely to feel fulfilled and contribute to the community’s growth and development.”

Rev Rod advocated for a new approach to team management. He believes this approach will create a sustainable and supportive environment for everyone involved. According to him, the team’s goal is to create an environment where every member feels valued and supported and where each person can thrive. Rev Rod acknowledges that his team has to be willing to accept that some tasks may need to be restructured or left uncovered. “By doing so, we are working towards creating an efficient and effective ministry team that promotes self-care and uses the strengths of each member to serve the community,” he said.

The Gap UC’s approach to team management is centred around creating a culture of support and empowerment. By valuing each team member and leveraging their strengths, Rev Rod hopes to create a sustainable and effective ministry team. “We want to inspire others to think beyond budget limitations and focus on their mission and purpose,” he said. “If we lead by example, other congregations may be encouraged to take similar steps towards innovation and growth.”

Read the companion article featuring Kath Ruhle, Families Pastor at The Gap UC, here

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