A question I wonder about a lot is: “When God imagines Trinity in the days to come, what does God see?” Our leadership has spent a lot of time thinking…and praying about this question. We are confident in our mission, (Remember the mission? “Through Jesus’ love we welcome, connect, learn and serve.”) But what does it look like to be a place that does that? That lives that out?
So, we have created a picture, of sorts. We call it our “Vision Script.” It is “a day in the life of Trinity,” set in the future. And as Trinity’s Congregational Council was talking about it last week, we decided that it was important that this vision script be shared with the congregation. And that today, the day when we are thinking about what it is to be “Trinity Together,” was the perfect day to share it. And so, I’ve enlisted some help, and we want to share this vision…this image of our future…with you.
So, please settle back and listen; time travel forward with us. The date is October 1st, 2025, and you are standing right out there, in the narthex, and you are looking around, taking it all in….here is what you experience:
When you walk in the doors of Trinity, you can sense that you are in a vibrant, dynamic place. It’s hard to describe, but yet it is palpable. You can feel the energy.
The Trinity staff smiles as they walk through the building, and they welcome you graciously. They are focused on their work; they move with purpose. At the same time, they are not too busy to stop and greet you. Just talking with them, you get the sense that they are glad to be there and feel a deep sense of call to their ministry.
The staff that God has called to work together at Trinity are simply the best.
- Their level of commitment and energy to their work is second to none. They have a passion for their ministry.
- They relate well to each other and to all they encounter.
- They are creative and innovative, willing to try new things and take programmatic risks.
- They are competent. They learn from their mistakes and are eager to grow in their skills.
The staff is committed to the work of the congregation because the congregation is fully committed to the staff. This is shown through generous salary and benefit packages that make it easy to recruit people, even to a smaller community outside of the Twin Cities.
It is also shown in the congregation’s strong commitment to staff development. Each staff member has a continuing education budget that allows them to participate in conferences, seminars and to take classes. This is reinforced by at least one of the staff meetings each month focusing on continuing education and staff development. The staff has become a learning community. And learning communities foster experimentation and innovation.
These values and actions have created a culture of mutual support and great relationships. Walking down the hallway, you hear laughter. It is clear when you spend any time at Trinity, that the staff loves coming to work.
If you stand in the center of the narthex on any given weekday, you begin to grasp the scope of the work of the congregation.
First you can’t help but notice the wonderful smell of food coming out of the kitchen as a dinner is being prepared for a group event taking place in Fellowship Hall that evening. From Fellowship Hall, you hear the sounds of tables and chairs banging around as they are being set for the event. 200 people are expected for dinner and a faith formation presentation in that space.
Looking over at the Welcome Center, the building host is greeting and directing a steady stream of people coming in for different meetings or events. Some head across the narthex and up the stairs to visit the Trinity Counseling Center, a partnership with Lutheran Social Service. They are going to spend time with a counselor who is present one day a week. Some of the people making use of this are members of the congregation, but many are not.
Some head downstairs and to the right, where they are volunteering at the Community Resource Center. They are going to spend time with a couple who are a part of this ministry. Until last month they had been without a home, living on the margins. A volunteer takes their two kids upstairs to the nursery to play and read stories while the parents receive coaching on applying for and interviewing for a job. After this session, they will go with a volunteer in the church van to Community Pathways, to access clothing for the interview.
In the kitchen downstairs, the Youth Homelessness Caseworker, a part of Trinity’s partnership with Lutheran Social Service is teaching a group of young people basic cooking skills. It is a part of a series of life-skill classes that are taught regularly.
There is a meeting in the lounge, where staff and volunteers are together to review media and to plan for the upcoming worship services. Ever since the church added the online, streaming element of worship, the staff has had the opportunity to work with media to tell the story of God’s great love.
One of Trinity’s “buddies” is giving a tour to the young person they have been paired with, showing her the room where her confirmation group will meet. Since the addition of the Ministry of Inclusion, the buddy program has grown as more and more individuals with special needs discover that Trinity is a place where they can belong and be engaged.
Down the hallway and around the corner comes one of the classes from the Trinity Preschool. They are on a “field trip” to the Sanctuary where they will have their weekly “Praise and Worship” time. Heading upstairs to Room 210, a group of women are gathering for a Bible study. The projection screen there is on, because there are several of the women who will be joining the group online. Two of them are snowbirds who are in Arizona and one is home recovering from a surgery. Thanks to the online element they can stay connected to their group.
Two kids come in the main door and run past the offices on their way upstairs for their weekly music lessons, and voices from a community group that is meeting in the Mezzanine drift down into the narthex, while a different group that is on its way to Community Pathways to help sort and shelve food donations is packing boxes at the donation center in the back of Fellowship Hall.
For all of these ministries (and more) to happen, Trinity is dependent on the time and energy of the congregation members. Trinity has put into place a system for identifying gifts in our people and needs in the community, and strives to match people up with serving opportunities. There is a system for onboarding and training volunteers as well as following up with them. Trinity works to help its people identify their “sweet spot,” where the needs of the world and the gifts and passions of the individual all meet.
The people of Trinity believe boldly that God has a vision for our community and for the world, and that every single person, youngest to oldest, has something to contribute to that mission and vision. Our people understand that when they serve at church or in the community, they are the hands, feet and heart of God, loving in Jesus’ name.
There is an energy in the Trinity building that can’t help but draw you in. The building is full today of a wide variety of people, all focused on our mission to welcome, connect, learn and serve.
The number of people who feel in some way connected to Trinity far surpasses the number of people who are members of the church. As the ministries of the congregation have evolved, the opportunities for people to participate in the congregation’s ministry have expanded. People in Owatonna, even those who do not attend Trinity, know that it is a dynamic and vital part of the fabric of our community.
Worship and faith formation are presented in face to face and digital format. Because of these expanded opportunities, overall worship attendance has grown over the last five years. This has led to a greater sense of overall engagement and belonging to the church. It has also provided opportunities for people to learn and grow in their faith in ways they otherwise could not have.
As the congregation invested in the equipment and staff time to grow these ministries, they learned to innovate. This was a strategic commitment that the congregation made to:
- Provide tools and resources for people to live and grow in their faith at any time. No longer is faith formation tied to a single hour or two once a week at the church.
- Make faith practices accessible to those who cannot physically get to the church building.
- To provide a digital belay, that is a means of support, to those who are disconnected from the church because of distances. This includes college age young people who are away from home, business travelers who are on the road and snowbirds who are away from Owatonna for extended periods of time during the winter months.
People who connect with Trinity digitally do so via live-streamed worship, live-streamed speakers or faith formation teachers and online courses that are pre-recorded and archived on Trinity’s YouTube channel, allowing individuals to take courses at their own pace.
In the past, Trinity’s ministry was always vitally important for those who were a part of the congregation. It had a rich history of faith formation, especially for the young, and excellent music. If you were a member of the congregation, there is no denying that Trinity had a big impact on your faith and life.
This is still true today. But this “internal vision” has been supplemented by an “external vision.” The boundaries of the congregation are no longer defined by the church property, and the congregation is no longer the focal point. Trinity has learned to look beyond its own walls to see the entire community as “its people.”
Drawing together the energy of other congregations in the community, Trinity is at the forefront of a movement that is working to eliminate homelessness in Owatonna. Mental health resources are available at the church for anyone in the community, and the building has really grown into a community gathering place for all of Owatonna. Groups and organizations have meetings throughout the space. And Trinity continues to provide resources, human and financial, to our partner organizations throughout the community.
As the congregation’s impact has grown, so has the faith of those who make Trinity their faith home. Faith is grown both by going deep in learning and by practicing it at church and in the community. As faith has grown, so has the level of commitment of its members. As that has grown, so has engagement with the community.
Like a flywheel set into motion, Trinity continues to grow in breadth and depth and generosity. The more that people see God’s vision becoming a reality here, the more they want to participate and to give. And the congregation is confident that because of Jesus’ great love, they will remain committed to welcoming, connecting, learning and serving.
So, there you have it. That’s the vision for our congregation. On October 1st, 2025, this is what you will experience when you walk into Trinity. I think this describes well the activities…the things that are going on.
But what’s behind this…what I want you to see, behind the vision script, behind the stories and the activities…is the people, the people we serve, and the people who do the serving. And through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is the members of the congregation who will make this a reality. And I want you…to see…you…here…in this story…in this vision.
Because here’s the deal: A vision like this cannot be carried out by the pastors, or the staff…a vision like this will take all of us to make a reality. It will take a community of people who have been blessed by the Holy Spirit, and who are firm in their identity as children of God, loved beyond measure, and who are confident in their call to live this out…to make this vision a reality.
It will take this community. It will take you, dear children of God. It will take your time, your energy, your compassion, your love, your laughter and yes…your financial resources. You are a character in this story…your whole self!
With God’s help, this vision can happen…this vision will happen. There are 1,438 days until October 1, 2025. That’s 1,438 days to work together and to become what we believe God calls us to become.
And this is possible. It is possible because we have a God with big dreams…a God who loves you, and who cares for all of God’s people. And it is possible, because through Jesus’ love, we are…Trinity Together.
Thanks be to God!