Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Would you close down churches?

Adam Hamilton from Church of the Resurrection shares an interesting observation of questions the UMC could ask from observing what's going on at GM. (Read the full post here.)

He suggests that if the UMC were to close "dead" or "dying" churches two things may occur:
1) The UMC could use the pastors and resources from those churches create new congregations
My two cents is that, although this would be heart-wrenching and difficult, done with grace, its the right thing to do.
2) Seminaries would be forced to shift the focus of their training
Currently, in my opinion, seminaries train students for models of ministry that are at least one generation behind the current generation - no wonder 18-35 year olds are the largest missing segment of the church.) This issue with the curriculum isn't necessarily theological. Rather as Hamilton points out, practical. Seminaries need to give students tools for leadership, dealing with conflict, managing budgets, running a meeting, in addition to worship and pastoral care skills.

Lastly, a commenter on the Hamilton's post raises another good point about the difference between shifting structure and shifting culture. So often we do the former without considering the latter. My hope is that we could do both in order to make the emphasis of the church to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world, not church members for the sustainability of the denomination who are really well organized.

So, what do you think? How does our structure need to shift? How does our culture need to shift? How do we make this happen - so that our denomination is about something bigger than itself - the mission of God in the world.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Suffering and the Church...

I've been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. Today's money quote:

"But the church knows that the world is still seeking someone to bear its sufferings, and so, as it follows Christ, suffering becomes the church's lot too and bearing it, it is borne up by Christ. As it follows him beneath the cross, the church stands before God as the representative of the world."

Earlier this week a 17-year-old in our community chose to take his own life. While he or his family was not connected with our church, our congregation has really been impacted by such a tragic event. More than once this week, the question has come up, "how do we as the church in our community engage suffering?" We...must...be...present...to...it.

Jesus conquered suffering by going through it, so the church as the Body of Christ in the world, must seek to conquer suffering (ours and others' suffering) by engaging it and being present to it.

We must hold the family who has lost a son. We must surround those whose life is crumbling before them. We must be present on the streets with the homeless. We must sit in the hospital room of the dying. If for no other reason than to point to (and maybe even sometimes be) the presence of God in the midst of suffering.

We can't remove others' suffering, but we can bear it with them, just as Christ on the cross bore our sin.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Starfish, Taxes, and Tea...

This opinion piece about the Tax Day Tea Parties WSJ is a great illustration of decentralized movements. Regardless of one's politics, it is a great example a starfish movement.

What can the church learn from this kind of movement? What are historical examples of this in the church?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pastoral Analogies

This weekend I began reading M. Craig Barnes' book The Pastor as Minor Prophet. (Hat Tip: Scot McKnight.) Which started me thinking about all the possible analogies for pastors. (i.e. pastor as ceo, pastor as family chaplain, pastor as teacher, etc.)

What analogies do you believe best describe the role of a pastor? If you are a pastor, in what analogous role(s) do you see yourself operating?

As part of my own journey I am trying to more clearly understand my call to pastoral ministry and the analogous role that best describes that call. At the same time I'm working to understand the analogous role that the congregation I serve both needs and wants in their pastor (which could be two different and sometimes opposing roles.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Generation F?

I just ran across a great post (here) from Gary Hamel on the Wall Street Journal's management blog about managing "Generation F" (similar to "generation me"). Very interesting list of ideas on how the "rules of the workplace" may need to shift to attract young, bright minds.

Some of Hamel's suggestions resonate with a great book I just read, The Starfish and the Spider, about the power of decentralized organizations. (I hope to write more in a later post about this book and how it may (or may not) relate to the church. But for now, let me just say its a great book!)

What do you think about Hamel's suggestions? How would your place of work respond to such ideas?

Monday, April 06, 2009

North Alabama's New Process for Pastoral Appointments

If you are UM (laity or clergy) you may find this of interest. Bishop Will Willimon shares the process the North Alabama conference will use to make appointments this year. This is the process straight from Willimon's blog (I added links to some of the things he references):

  • We shall look at the church statistics on the Conference website to get a longitudinal picture of the pastor’s leadership at the present appointment.
  • We will examine the statistics on the Conference Dashboard to get an up-to-date report on the results of the pastor’s leadership.
  • Every pastor to be moved will complete a Strengths Assessment Inventory (available through the book by Buckingham, Now Discover Your Strengths). The Cabinet has used this Inventory on ourselves and found it marvelously revealing. This enables us to get an accurate assessment of each pastor’s individual strengths, focusing on the specific gifts and talents of the pastor, rather than focusing upon any alleged weaknesses. This gives us the ability to match a pastor and his or her strengths with the needs of a congregation.
  • Every fulltime pastor who may be moved will be interviewed by a team of three District Superintendents who will guide the pastor through a conversation that will uncover a pastor’s own dreams, abilities, and strengths. Those conversations will then inform the discussion in the Cabinet.
  • The Bishop and District Superintendent will listen to and respond to a sample sermon from each full time pastor who is moving.
  • Every church will be asked for a statement of mission and goals for the future so that we can match a pastor’s gifts with a congregation’s needs.
  • Each District Superintendent will present the proposed new pastor to the congregation’s lay leadership and explain why the Cabinet believes this pastor is the leadership suited for this congregation’s mission.
  • Every newly appointed pastor will be asked to design and present to the DS and to congregational leadership a “First Ninety Days” plan for ministry in the first three months of the pastorate. This is after participating in a workshop that trains pastors how to devise these plans. The execution of this plan will be observed and shared with the DS who will work with the pastor on any needed modifications in the plan.

What do you think of the above process? Pros? Cons?

I'm still not sure what I think about it, it seems like quite a few layers. However, I like the way the cabinet will get a good feel for each person moving. I'll be curious to see how this works.

(HT: Shayne Raynor)