What is the Extreme Center?

I recently wrote a post about my hope that by blogging I will contributing to a middle way / extreme center theological position online. Kim left a comment asking what exactly that means. Here is a summary from our Bishop, Scott Jones, describing the extreme center in Adam Hamilton’s book, Christianity’s Family Tree: What Other Christians Believe and Why it applies to Methodism:

“In the Christian faith, there are people who are extreme right and people who are extreme left. But whether it’s clergy clothing or how our services of worship are conducted or how we read the Bible, we tend to be people of the extreme center. The extreme center means that The United Methodist Church at its best is conservative in some areas and liberal in other areas. We don’t fit a stereotype very well. For example, some denominations are good at helping nominally religious and nonreligious people enter into the Christian life. Well, that’s part of the gospel; and it’s part of what we do as United Methodists. Other denominations want to help the poor and address social issues, however they define them. Well, that’s part of the gospel; and Methodists embrace them as well. The center is a very hard position to maintain because there are always people who are sniping at you from the extremes. Sometimes it’s easier to hold an extreme position because you can be really clear and really forceful, but what you are lacking is the perspective of your brothers and sisters who disagree with you. By occupying the extreme center, we see the value of both sides and try to carve out a position, whether it involves theology or social justice, that embraces the whole gospel.”

You can find more information at Bishop Jones’ blog  - Extreme Center.

I find that there are plenty of strong voices online at polar opposites of a variety of issues both inside and outside The United Methodist Church. I hope to contribute to conversations online in a way that represents an extreme center theological position.

In what ways have you found an extreme center approach to faith to be helpful? unhelpful?

A Tool to Succeed at Everything

I am a fan of technology. Technology can be used in a variety of ways that vary from mundane, productive, entertaining and more. I have recently started using an app that has made a tangible difference in my behavior in the real world. An app that is helping me make progress on things that I care about in my real life.

I recommend Lift to you.

Lift is an iPhone and Android app that “employs coaching, community, and data to help you be your best.” According to their website, it provides:

  • Coaching - Stay motivated with guidance, encouragement, and optional reminders.
  • Community - Learn from thousands of experts and users following similar goals.
  • Data - Lift makes it easy to track, analyze, and celebrate progress.

I joined the Better Blogging in 30 Days plan which has helped me begin to update this blog after a long time away. I use Lift for a variety of daily habits I want to maintain or start and commend it to you.

What tools do you use to make progress on those things about which you care the most?

Some Things Change and Some Things Stay the Same

It has been 649 days since my last blog post.

Much has changed since then.

  • Our children are 3 and 2, respectively.
  • I switched from WordPress.com to a WordPress installation, thereby starting over on traffic and links.
  • I am beginning my third year as the pastor appointed to serve First UMC of El Dorado, KS.
  • We have a brand new back lawn and a new roof at the parsonage.
  • I am a member of the Great Plains Annual Conference.

What has not changed is that I am blogging to contribute to the renewal of the church. My hope is that this  will be accomplished by:

  • Making resources available which I have developed for use in the local church
  • Contributing to a middle way / extreme center theological position online
  • Sharing who I am with the congregation to which I am appointed and the annual conference in which I serve.
  • Sharing a distinct voice with background of serving as an appointed pastor for six years at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and currently at First UMC El Dorado.

Will you please share your thoughts,  feelings and opinions about what will help accomplish this purpose?

The #li2012 Word Cloud Project

The #li2012 Word Cloud Project for October 3

I am part of a team from First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS attending Leadership Institute 2012. I collected Twitter updates tagged with #li2012. Then I used Wordle to create word clouds with the text of updates during the conference. I edited out Twitter usernames, RT and #li2012 to get a better view of the conversation. I hope that you enjoy the results!

  • You can find the raw data of Twitter updates tagged with #li2012 at http://j.mp/VvLjlU. Feel free to use these updates and World to create your own word clouds.

You can download the full size images using the links below:

  • The #li2012 Word Cloud Project up to and including October 2 - http://j.mp/UdSFN2
  • The #li2012 Word Cloud Project for October 3 - http://j.mp/PSJgUW
  • The #li2012 Word Cloud Project for October 4 - To be created…
  • The #li2012 Word Cloud Project for October 5 - To be created…
  • The #li2012 Word Cloud Project for October 3 to October 5 - To be created…

Enjoy!

The #li2012 Word Cloud Project up to and including October 2

Spending Time on the Balcony and the Dance Floor

As a leader there is value in spending time both:

  • On the balcony – getting a big picture perspective removed from day to day responsibilities and
  • On the dance floor – accomplishing day to day tasks to make progress as an organization.

Spending time in either location can be productive, however you cannot spend your time in one place or another.

As I have entered into a new leadership setting – as pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS – I have found that it has been particular important to make sure that I spend some time on the balcony. The day to day responsibilities of transitioning into a new role can overwhelm the time needed to take a breath and reflect on the big picture of life and ministry. As I prepare to begin my fourth month in this appointment, I have been making progress on spending time in both places.

Is Your Congregation Viable or Vital?

There are at least three different possibilities for the life of a congregation:

  • Vital – A vital congregation that is one that is creating places for new people to love God and love neighbor. The ministry and impact of the congregation is expanding.
  • Viable – A viable congregation is one that continues to exist at the same ministry level and opportunities as years past.
  • Inviable – An inviable congregation is one whose financial and mission reality is not sustainable.

The goal for congregations could be to move from one level to another – inviable to viable and viable to vital. Vital congregations can look for ways to expand their ministry and help move other congregations toward vitality.

Learnings from the Kansas Leadership Center

I have had the opportunity to engage with the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) in the Leadership and Faith: Transforming Communities program over the past year. I wanted to share some of the learnings that I have gathered from my interactions with the KLC.

  • If you can be competent in four things – you will make more progress on your leadership challenges. They are:
    • Diagnose situation
    • Manage self
    • Energize others
    • Intervene skillfully
  • It is helpful to diagnose the situation more often and longer than one may think necessary.
  • It would always be nice to have more information before taking action. This is not possible. You have to take action.
  • Be ready to entertain more than one interpretation about any situation
  • Be ready to ask – What story are people telling about me?

Back to Blogging

I have started my third month serving as the pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, Kansas. It has been fantastically busy, fun, exciting and full of opportunities and challenges to have a baby, move to a new home and start serving as the lead pastor at a new congregation in the past three months.

While I am still continue to make the transition to our new home, it is time for me to start blogging again. I know, it has been months. However, I plan to begin with  a few posts a week and see how it goes. While I have a lot of ideas about what to write about on this blog, I want to write what would be most interesting, helpful or intriguing to you. So, what will it be?

What would you like for me to write about on this blog? What would be interesting to you? What would you want to share with others? I am looking forward to beginning this blogging adventure with you again.

Transition Preparation Document for First UMC El Dorado

One month from today, I will begin serving as pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the key leaders and staff from the church. I shared a document with everyone that I met outlined some of my personal priorities as well as top five objectives for the first six months and a few of the questions that I will be asking as I arrive. Here is what I shared:

Personal Priorities and Dates

  • June 12 – Expecting the birth of our second child
  • June 25 – Move into parsonage
  • Care for self and family

Top Five – First Six Months

  • Be a good guest and allow the congregation to host
  • Love the people
  • Learn the history and culture of the congregation
  • Learn the history and culture of the community
  • Help discern an appropriate vision

Questions – First Six Months

  • Who are you as a congregation?
  • How did the congregation get to where it is today?
  • Where do challenges and opportunities exist?
  • What has changed the most / least since you joined the church?
  • When have you been most proud to be connected with this church?
  • What means the most to you about this church?
  • Why does this church matter to people?
  • What do you sense God is doing right now?

Contact Information

The #kwc12 Twitter Word Cloud Project

2012 Kansas West Annual Conference Twitter Word Cloud

As a follow up to the The #gc2012 Twitter Word Cloud Project, I completed a similar project for the Kansas West Annual Conference. I collected Twitter updates from May 22 to 27 that were tagged with #kwc12, #ksw12 and #kswumc. Then I used Wordle to create a word cloud with the text of all the updates for the conference. I edited out Twitter usernames, #kwc12, #ksw12 and #kswumc to get a better view of the conversation. I hope that you enjoy the results!

  • You can find the raw data of Twitter updates tagged with #kwc12, #ksw12 and #kswumc at http://j.mp/LlgkSN. Feel free to use these updates and World to create your own word clouds.
  • You can download a full size image of the word cloud at http://j.mp/L2ZwlA

Enjoy!