“What would ya say…ya do here?” – Bob Slydell, Office Space (1999)
I’ve had one question that seems to keep coming up in the past few months. It’s very much like the Bob asks of Tom Smykowski in the 1999 cult movie Office Space. It’s a fair question. As I’ve re-entered the orbit of NSUMC, I know it’s something many of you are curious about.
So, let’s jump in!
A little over eighteen months ago, Bishop Hoshibata appointed me to a new project, Orontes. With the generosity of our UMC conference and private donors, we began a research project. This research asked why a growing number of adults have left the church, and what they feel they are missing in life.
To make a very long and winding story short, we were delivered a depth of wisdom into the growing number of “spiritual explorers” ( a term we developed through the research), and how we can offer the Gospel to them.
To clarify, spiritual explorers aren’t church shoppers. You won’t find them visiting different churches to find “the right one”. Instead, you’ll find them everywhere but the sanctuary of a church building. They are folks who crave the discovery of purpose and compassion in life on their own terms and believe they can no longer find it in church. They experiment with volunteering, spiritual discovery and disciplines, and a journey towards the divine on their own terms. But there is something that they (and we) believe they are missing.
If we distill the results of The Orontes Project research, it would be that these people still need community in their life to move forward in their journey and most feel they lack it. That may not seem like a groundbreaking revelation, but there has been deep discovery within the layers of that larger truth.
In its simplest terms, The Orontes Project (now called Social Thread) and the effort within our church, will be towards building communities (small groups) that allow people to connect and commit to one another. In creating groups where people can experience nonjudgmental acceptance, we believe we can assist them in living a more authentic life.
And so, The Orontes Project is launching a program to offer something for those who don’t take part in church but still crave the community it offers. We call that program Social Thread. We also believe the research has given us a foundation of understanding to assist programs within the church. You will begin to see some of those learnings expressed in our Student Ministry (6-12th grades) and in some of our adult small groups.
I’m deeply grateful for the partnership I’ve immediately developed with Pastor Rennick, and his openness to let us integrate our learnings to the life of this church. I’m grateful to you all as you walk with us in another chapter of discovery as we build a more resilient, adaptive, and nurturing community of faith.
In the coming months, you will see and hear more about how we will apply the discoveries of Orontes both in and beyond the church. My hope is that you will continue to be in prayer about how we act boldly in faith to provide people what they need in their journey towards a purposeful, compassionate, and full life.
I feel like I may have just hit you with a firehose worth of information, so I’ll stop here for now. I’m grateful for your continued support an encouragement.
Stay tuned for more updates and ways you can support this exciting moment in the life of the church.
To see the fruit of our labor, please check out getsocialthread.org, and if you are so inclined, consider generously offering a one time or recurring donation so that we can continue this effort to build healthy communities.