Blake Brinegar, Pastor at Yellville First Presbyterian Church

Life-Nurturing Environments:

TheySupport Missionary Congregations

In last month’s article I talked about the difference between maintenance and missionary congregations. I went on to talk about how missionary congregations reach out into their communities, expect the miraculous to happen and that there will be a transformation of some sort of the members of the faith community and those who join or affiliate with the faith community. I want to talk a little bit about life nurturing environments and how a life nurturing environment is conducive to a missionary congregation. The information I am going to share with you all came from a pre-presbytery workshop I attended in June of this year. The workshop was entitled, “Increasing the Life Nurturing Culture of the Congregation; thriving in change.” This information came from the group assembled for the workshop.

Let us begin by defining what a life nurturing environment is. In this type of environment, there is spiritual nourishment. It is non-judgmental and non-threatening. People feel they are valued regardless of their contribution (financial, time, talent, a lot, a little), and there is a common purpose with room for differences. People are given an opportunity to grow in their faith. There is also recognition of the cyclical nature to life and the members are comfortable with that. The faith community values the faith community and because of this people want to be in this faith community. There is a sense of vibrancy, positivity, and acceptance of one another and all of their quirks. These are things we all would agree we like to experience, to see, and indeed we would like to be a part of a community of faith where these things take place. So, this takes us to the next step, which is, what are the behaviors of members of a faith community like this?

Individuals in such a faith community or environment seek to understand one another first, they are trusting and willing to take risks; being vulnerable with one another. They are self-disclosing, letting other people know them for who they are, and not who they want to be. There is open dialogue with respectful words and processes even when members don’t always agree. The members of these faith communities speak truth in love, expect one another to change, and supports people in their changes. The members of these faith communities want to be heard, and are supported individually and as a member of the group. They are known by their name and feel that they have a role to play in the community. When individuals are helping sustain a life nurturing environment, through their individual participation in the faith community, the community benefits, and can even grow.

Here are some ways the faith community benefits as a whole from these behaviors. When members embody these characteristics and behaviors, there is a fullness of gifts in the faith community which are being offered and utilized. There is a reduction of stress and conflict because individuals are truly known and valued, they share a common purpose and there is room for differences. There is also a reduction in fears, more openness, more growth, and an embrace of creativity in these sorts of communities. This helps members look beyond themselves, there is room to fail, there are happier people, and more growth. These communities radiate a sense of joy, loyalty, and openness. These communities are not afraid of change, people want to come, and they want to invite their friends to come as well.

What I have shared in this article is only the tip of the iceberg of what we talked about in the workshop. Hopefully you have been able to see the benefits of a life nurturing environment, what the behaviors of members of this type of faith community are like, and what the results are of a life nurturing environment. May we work together to help this congregation a more fertile life nurturing faith community as we reach out to the community and invite others to join us.