SEASON OF LISTENING
As we finish a year filled with fruitful ministry on the UPS campus, TCM has also had to have some frank conversations about the future. The long and the short of it is that TCM, like many other churches and small nonprofits, is feeling the pains of financial struggles and an unsustainable ministry model. God is at work among the students we serve and we see signs of impact everyday. But in the midst of this, we are also hearing God call us listen to the spirit and reevaluate so that we can have a sustainable ministry into the future.
In Greek, there are two words for “time,” chronos and kairos. Chronos is the way that the world measures time through the use of calendars and clocks. This measurement of time is linear and methodical. Kairos is God’s time. It is around us all the time but it takes spiritual practice to become attuned to it. Kairos is a time of fullness or ripeness. It requires interpretation and deep listening to respond to emerging issues of faith. Kairos is a moment of opportunity, the “right time,” a moment of readiness that we must either seize or let pass by.
Tacoma College Ministry has been ticking away at more than 30 years of chronos time. During those years, we’ve seen changes in directors, students, and the state of our city and world, but we have essentially done ministry the same way. A few months ago, the board and I were feeling some of our own ministry groanings more acutely than normal–dwindling financial support, an unsustainable organizational structure, and struggles recruiting new board members. It caused us to question the ministry model altogether. But instead of rushing to troubleshooting, we decided to pause and listen. To be compelled so completely to stop and listen signaled to us that there was something larger going on. God was inviting us to hurry up and listen.
We were able to discern that TCM was indeed entering a new season in its ministry life: a new kairos. While we continue to strongly believe that a faith-based, progressive, LGBTQ affirming space for college students is imperative for the health of our city and world, we feel it is also time to address and explore some of the structural and financial challenges of our current model of ministry as well as listen closely to the valuable voices that can help shape our future.
TCM needs to carve out time to listen in this moment of grace and honor this kairos moment. In light of this, TCM will launch a yearlong “Season of Listening” beginning in August of this year. As part of this process, the Board has asked Christy to facilitate and lead us through this season. We need this year to research why support is declining, explore other ministry models, and envision a way forward. This decision was not made just to “shake things up” but came out of a sincere need for the ministry to reevaluate from all angles. And we’re excited about what God will reveal.
This will be a holistic process where we will not only look at the current and historic work of TCM but broaden our listening to our entire city and experiences in college ministry and of college students as a whole in our country. Our city is a rich resource of so many that either are currently college students, work to support them, or care deeply for them. How can TCM create a sustainable model that will provide spiritual support for those that we are being called to? We pray we will honor these communities with our listening.
Because true discernment and listening requires focused attention and time, for the next year TCM will support only essential program responsibilities to students at Lighthouse on the UPS campus. A portion of time will be spent with students at Lighthouse and the rest will be spent listening to you– community stakeholders, students, alumni, and friends, both local and around the country. We will be researching, facilitating focus groups, collecting data, and helping to imagine what God is calling our ministry to be over the next thirty years.
We believe Tacoma College Ministry is on the precipice of a very exciting year. We don’t want to pass by our kairos moment without giving it the time and energy it deserves. And so we take this risk—embarking on a year that will look different than any previous year TCM has been in ministry. We are confident that by taking this time to listen, God will guide and sustain us toward the way forward and we will all be better for it.
But, if we’re truly honest, taking this leap of faith is also scary. We can’t predict what our outcomes will be or what direction God will lead us. Not being in control feels vulnerable and hard. You, our friends and those that know us best, can help “hold up our arms” during this season, just as Aaron and Hur did for Moses when he was called to do something difficult (Exodus 17:12). Right now, we need your support through prayer, finances, and input perhaps more than we ever have. Please join us in our “Season of Listening.” We’ve listed ways to do this below and if you have other ideas, please let us know. We are ready to open our ears and eyes for what the Lord would have for us this year.
Rev. Christy Fisher and the TCM Board of Directors
All Your Questions Answered!
Are my financial gifts still needed? What will my gifts be supporting?
Yes! Though Christy will be our only paid staff person (thanks to some amazing volunteers that will assist with continued administrative needs!), we still need to support her position as well as the important work she’ll be doing this year. We also have some other ministry commitments and expenses such as insurance, administrative supplies, etc. that will be required even during this unique year.
What is the goal of the Season of Listening? How will we know we’ve reached the goal?
The goal of this year is that we would find a way forward that could be both sustainable and life-giving to all involved—staff, students, and supporters. We are confident that God has led us to this place and will continue to guide our listening throughout this year. From this posture of listening, we believe the path ahead will be made clearer and some next steps will be evident at the end of this time. Once those steps are formulated, we’ll be sure to communicate them to you as soon as we can.
How can I participate?
Join a focus group. We will be hosting small gatherings throughout the year of alumni, students, stakeholders, and other interested parties to listen to your thoughts. For more information or to sign-up, click here.
Meet for a one-on-one. Sign-up to meet with Christy for a one-on-one conversation. To sign-up, click here.
Join a Prayer Group. Support this moment by praying with our community. To sign-up, click here.
How often can I expect communication from TCM throughout this season?
We will be sending out monthly updates to our email list and on social media. We will also be organizing some smaller events throughout the year where you can come and hear more about what we’re learning. If you would like to receive these updates, please sign up here.
What is happening with Lighthouse at UPS?
Lighthouse already has a core group of student leaders that are excited to step up this year and take on more of a student-led ministry model. The students will continue to meet in small groups, regularly serve at Hilltop Urban Garden, and lead weekly gatherings for spiritual formation and community building. Christy will spend part of her week with Lighthouse students in a variety of ways, including pastoral care, preaching, and teaching.