After the annual general meeting followed by lunch in March of this year, about 30 members of the Ocean Grove congregation participated in an asset-mapping exercise. People were asked to list the assets of the church in five categories: physical, economic, associative, institutional and individual.
People had no difficulty at all identifying these, listing the church property, and citing the building (15), its prime location near beach and shops (11), heritage (4), attractiveness (5), car park (2), hall (5), the Dove op shop (14), kitchen (4), garden (8), meeting rooms, storage space (4), manse, the comfort of the church (2), the church’s acoustics, its bell plus the Newington property.
In addition to money in the bank, the people noted the income from the Dove, renting the hall and the manse, and the regular giving of the members of the church and from money-raising activities such as street stall. As the Newington property is to be sold, this is also counted as an economic asset.
Through the connections made by individual members, the church is in contact with several other organisations: the police, Rotary, ProBus, tennis club, cancer support, play groups, book clubs, various music organisations in the Geelong area, University of the Third Age, Zumba, Yoga, Arts Trails, environmental and heritage groups, local schools, Relay for Life, OxFam, Order of Australia, cricket and football clubs, Senior Citizens, Loaves & Fishes, Progress Association, Film Club, Stamp Club, Lions Club, 2nd Bite, gym, coffee group.
The church has more formal connection several groups; namely, the other churches in the area, the local police, Carols in the Park, Uniting Barwon, the Wave, Barwon Health and Coles, Bakers Delight and other local shops that contribute to Loaves and Fishes.
Although there are many assets held by members of the congregation, including their own economic assets, in addition they have talents (music, financial management, art, literature, cooking, public speaking, woodworking, making and fixing things, sewing, organisational skills, parenting and grandparenting, networking, sense of humour ), qualities (commitment, work for positive change, concern and energy for people in need, offer of friendship, steadfastness, time for visiting, honesty, diligence, integrity, efficiency, patience) and ideals (justice, sharing, teamwork, family) and experiences. The two assets that were overwhelmingly shared by many people were interest/talent in making music and the offer of fellowship/friendship (13 each). I was struck particularly by the word “thinking” that one person submitted as a pastime/talent. We could use a few such people.
Putting Assets Together:
The next step in the exercise was to find ways to combine and use these assets for the work of the church. The lateral thinking that is useful to make these connections is not second nature to most people, so there was less certainty than with the listing of the assets, but the point of this step is to spark new ideas for action.
The best chance of success comes when an individual sees a connection that he/she can become passionate about, and then infects others with that passion. For example, the combination of a pleasant, comfortable sanctuary with good acoustics, a group of people who love to make music, plus the penchant for fellowship and a desire to care for others suggests concerts to raise money to meet community needs. This is unlikely to happen just because someone suggests it at a church meeting. It will happen because one person gets passionate about the idea and turns it into action.
The intersection of a talent for cooking, a good kitchen with plentiful helpers, added to the organisational skills of another, and vacant room on the same premises as an op shop that brings in people from the community, and you have the recipe for a conversation cafe, not just to raise money, but to raise awareness and create a greater sense of community.
This is not to suggest that the congregation is not good at such projects, for many good things are happening already. Nor is it intended to prick people’s consciences and sense of responsibility for carrying out the work of Christ. Rather, we are hoping to create an atmosphere in which people can flourish and be fulfilled by enabling them to live out the best of themselves with the encouragement and support of others.
The Barwon Heads congregation did the same exercise in the spring, and the results were similar. The notable asset held by Barwon Heads, which Ocean Grove does not have, is a large plot of land on the main street.