Today, we’re taking a break from our usual techie stuff to talk about some of the exciting things God is doing in the midst of Upper Room. I find it good to do this once in a while, as it’s easy to forget that we serve a higher purpose than great audio and video…
First, a little background. Upper Room started about 7 years ago as a third expression of worship at Christ Presbyterian Church. Initially geared toward the next generation, and combining both sacred practices and experiential worship, the community has grown beyond the expectations of those who were there at the beginning. Today, upwards of 1,500 worship with us each week, and we have a staff of 11. Upper Room is in the unique position of being a “church within a church.”
This has proven very advantageous on many fronts. Because both communities share common facilities, overhead costs are reduced. Having both staffs in the same building is sort of like being a church plant with a mentor down the hall. And, as much as Upper Room has learned from CPC, CPC has learned from Upper Room. It’s been a very healthy and positive relationship.
It’s not been without challenges, however. CPC is more rooted in a traditional/contemporary worship style, while UR is more modern/post-modern. This creates a lot of work each weekend as we change the space back and forth. Trying to work through sub-ministry issues has taken a lot of energy (though not in a bad way, but like all relationships, it takes work). And there’s been a growing sense that UR is being held back missionally because of our physical location.
About 1 1/2 years ago, the leadership of UR and CPC began to meet, discuss, pray and discern what our relationship would look like going forward. Having joined the UR staff in the middle of this process, I can say it’s been one of the most thorough, God-honoring processes I’ve ever witnessed. The spirit has been fantastic, and it’s exciting to see two communities so committed to each other and to the mission God has set before them. About 4 months ago, the working groups brought forth a recommendation that they felt would serve the interests of both communities best, and allow each to thrive and grow in the work of the Kingdom.
This recommendation was brought to the Session, which approved it unanimously. UR staff were present when the recommendation was proposed, and I was again struck by the spirit of cooperation and support. Rarely have I seen a church be the Church like this. Last night we announced to the community the results of the discernment process and what we feel God is calling us to as a church.
Sometime over the next 12-18 months, Upper Room will be commissioned and sent off as an independent church in a new location. In short, we’re planting a church! To say that this is exciting is an understatement. Right now, there are as many unanswered questions as there are people to ask them. We don’t yet know where we’re going (other than somewhere in the Minneapolis metro area), or what kind of building we’ll be in, how we’re going to get there.
Going forward, there is a well thought out visioning/ownership process in place that will guide us as we seek to further discern what this all means. I continue to be impressed with the leadership of both communities as we move forward. The potential is here to launch a church really well, and I think we’re going to do just that.
For me, it means a shift in my role. I will be taking on more of the IT needs, and expect to be involved with the build-out and/or rehab of whatever space we end up with. For years I’ve been asking God to let me start from a blank slate, and it looks like I’ll finally get the opportunity. I can’t wait to spec a system out from scratch and hopefully avoid all the problems that I’ve been fixing at the other churches I’ve been part of.
Personally, I’m very excited about this. I find it utterly fascinating that God brought us here for such a time as this. When many looked at my background they said, “Really? How does this qualify you to work in a church?” On the surface, it looks like a hodgepodge of jobs that don’t fit together. In fact, it all makes perfect sense. Ten years in professional video production, for example, is an easy fit. But working for a company that produced huge corporate meetings? Well, I did learn a ton about live production, and I was also promoted to IT manager when I designed, installed and maintained the first computer network they had. Even this seems to fit once it’s explained.
But owner/builder of a chain of tanning salons? How does that fit in? Perfectly, it turns out. It was a serious education on commercial construction, design and building, not to mention learning how to design and install electrical systems of the 800 amp, three-phase size. Add to that HVAC, working with sub-contractors, building officials and the permitting process.
Selling home-improvement products? Again, I learned a lot about construction, contracts and managing expectations. It’s like a perfect storm for using all of the experiences I’ve had (except it should be less destructive than an actual storm…).
All of this is why I’m so excited to go to WFX in Houston in a few months. They are having what appear to be some excellent sessions on building, design and re-purposing existing buildings. Not to mention a huge trade show that will again expose me to many much-needed products and services.
I’m also excited to have a growing network of fellow tech directors around the country that I can draw on as we make a few thousand decisions about gear selection, vendors and design. As I said in the beginning, sometimes we can get so wrapped up in what we’re doing, it’s easy to forget what God is doing. This is one of those times when I remember I’m a part of something much bigger than myself.
The next year or two are going to bring many surprises, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there. But just as I have been prepared for this in my area of expertise, so has the rest of the staff. And I think we’re all looking forward to seeing just how things turn out.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned…there is going to be a lot of exciting techie things to report on coming up!