Planning Conversation

Central Baptist Circle Model
The Central Baptist circle model. While the council is in the center, the model is that the further you go from the center the more important it is. We like subverting ideas.

This past week I had a conversation with some folks who make up the worship circle at Central. We discussed two topics.

First, how were we going to lead worship on Sunday’s I’m not present 1. This was handled quickly, and in a way which includes a larger body of folks who said they wanted to be part of this ministry circle.

The second topic surprised me in the turns it took. Around this time each year I begin the process of mapping out the sermons for the coming year. Typically, this process is completed by the end of July. One of the things I enjoy when I being this process is to ask the congregation what “itches they’d like to scratch” for the upcoming year’s sermons. For the last several years, however, I’ve not gotten a lot of response – the question is just too broad that people tend to skip over it. My intention in bringing up the mapping process, then, was to converse about what sorts of questions we could ask the wider congregation to get some responses back. What we ended up doing is actually creating a rough map. I’ve still got to fully flesh it out, but the hard part is done 2.

This surprised me, but it really shouldn’t have. I’ve known for years the folks who make up Central Baptist are remarkably reflective when given both a welcoming space and time to ponder deep questions 3. The two people with whom I was chatting stepped up and took off faster than I though we’d be able to do. I was most impressed.

What I learned through this conversation is important.

First, it’s an example that Central’s circle model really does match the personality of the congregation. We seem to function best with fluid collaboration as it encouraged creativity and increased “ownership” of the wider congregation ministry. In the days of our board structure, everything was pigeon-holed.

Second, the fluidity of these circles allows for conversations to be dynamic. Everyone who said they wanted to be part of the worship circle, for example, doesn’t necessarily want to sit down and figure out the worship map for the coming year. It’s simply not how they think. Folks bring different gifts and strengths to the wider worship conversation and it’s on the onus of the worship circle leader to help those different gifts flow through the circle in their unique ways.

Third, it’s yet another reminder that I’m not alone in this calling. A “solo pastor” I may be, but I don’t have to shoulder all the weight of this call’s burdens. Even with a ministry task like preaching, which is understandably pastor-centric, the congregation wants to help carry the load. I just have to remember to make space for this to happen.

My goal as a pastor is to be needed as little as possible. This isn’t because I’m lazy, it’s because I want Central to be truly healthy. Pastors come and go, and when my time is finally over here at Central I want the next pastor to step into a community of fluid and energetic partnerships – one which sees itself as a people who share burdens so that they can accomplish remarkable goals.


  1. This used to be the job of the Deacons, which we no longer have. 
  2. Typically, I follow a lectionary for Advent, Lent, and Easter. I then preach several series during the times in-between these seasons. 
  3. It helps that we have a large portion of introverts in the congregation. 

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  1. I can see your vision unfolding

    Sent from my iPad

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