Annual Review for Clergy – District Superintendent Version

As a United Methodist clergy person, part of my annual routine is a conversation with my District Superintendent about life and ministry. My conversation with the Topeka District Superintendent, Rev. Kay Scarbrough, is next week and thought you might be interested in the written responses which I provided in advance. I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, or opinions about what you read here.

How is it with your soul – personal celebrations and concerns?

My soul is better today than it has been in some months. Our family has navigated our transition to the Topeka area relatively successfully. I have been intentional about creating space in my weekly routine for work, family, and recreation. I have maintained a commitment to a practice of meditation, reading the Bible in a year, and spending time in prayer each day. I have also recommitted to my practice of running, including registering for four half marathons in the appointive year ahead.

Review your ministry during the past year – accomplishments? frustrations? areas for improvement? (If you are in first year of setting, you can either share about previous setting or skip this question.)

One of the key accomplishments in my ministry during the past year was leaving First UMC El Dorado as well as possible. I was able to create space for the congregation and our family grieve what was ending and to be intentional in preparing for what was ahead. An area for improvement is engaging a wide variety of stakeholders when making significant changes in the life and ministry of the congregation.

Describe the opportunities in your current mission field / community – needs to meet? affinity groups to reach?

One of the key opportunities in my current mission field is to connect families with elementary-age children into meaningful community to grow in their faith. There are a number of these families who are present in worship, though are not yet connected with either Sunday school or other small group opportunities.

There is also an opportunity to share a balanced approach to faith with the community which includes the evangelical and social gospel and sees good in both sides in many theological and social issues. This could be most effective when offered in ways that comes alongside the day to day life of families and does not demand that they adapt to the logistics of practicing faith that have been effective in previous generations.

I believe that there is also an opportunity to coordinate the outreach and discipleship efforts of congregations in the Shawnee Heights school district to more effectively connect with the community. I am hopeful that the work of our network will be able to catalyze connections for youth and adults across the community.

Share your plans / priorities for the coming year in leading your congregation(s) to greater vitality (or to the next phase in its life cycle). (If you are in first year of setting, the 100-day plan will suffice for this part.)

One of my priorities for the coming year is to strengthen lay leadership and equip current leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders. I hope to make progress in the communication tools to reach both the current congregation and surrounding community. I plan to help the congregation improve financial practices for annual giving and to develop a plan for long-term vitality of the congregation.

What specific assistance do you need from the DS or the conference to realize your goals? to be effective/fruitful in ministry?

The DS and conference can assist by providing as much clarity as possible about future organizational changes and shared initiatives for Great Plains United Methodists. Also, encouragement, institutional backing, and, perhaps, financial support to experiment with new ways of organizing to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the wold.

Baking Bread and the Life of the Church

“A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough.” – Galatians 5:9

I love baking bread.

There is something incredible about the power of yeast. As the author of Galatians notes, just a bit of yeast is able to be effective when mixed in with the right ingredients. Just a few tablespoons of yeast can be effective for many cups of flour.

When I am kneading the dough, I feel connected with many who have come before me. All those in my family who have used their hands to make bread – both those in the kitchen using the flour and those who have planted and harvested the wheat in the field. It is a practice that is deeply connected with my family. Far beyond my family the practice of baking bread extends across the world and for many generations.

Of course, the practice of baking bread is one that has fallen out of common practice for most families. Homemade bread is a bit of a rarity instead of the norm. Sometimes I think about the life of the church in similar ways. Some generations ago being connected with a local congregation was very common for families across the communities of the United States. However, there are far fewer families connected with a local church today than there were generations ago.

There are any number of resources for families to craft their spiritual life to whatever extent they may choose. Yet, just as store bought bread is no comparison to homemade bread fresh from the oven, so I believe that local communities of faith with people who you know from your neighborhood, workplace or local school create the best environment for children and adults to grow in their faith.

This does not mean that church and congregations are going to look the same as they have in the past, however it does mean church leaders are called to a continued commitment to the communities where they serve and must be willing to innovate and iterate so that God’s love might work through the entire community.

Reading John Wesley’s Sermons in Community on Twitter

In response to one of the questions from the #dreamUMC conversation on Twitter, I shared this update.

My Twitter friend and fellow UMCer Matt Lipan (@mattlipan and check out his blog here.) responded.

There was a good deal of interest from this conversation. Matt and I followed up with an email conversation to put together a framework.

What is the plan?

  • We will host a Twitter chat each Monday night at 8:30pm cst/9:30pm est starting on June 4th.
  • We will use the hashtag #jwchat for our Twitter conversations.
  • We will read and discuss Wesley’s first 8 sermons over an 8 week period, reading & discussing one sermon a week. You can find these sermons online here and here.
  • Here is our reading schedule:
    • Salvation by Faith (6/4)
    • The Almost Christian (6/11)
    • Awake, Thou That Sleepest (6/18)
    • Scriptural Christianity (6/25)
    • Justification by Faith (7/2)
    • The Righteousness of Faith (7/9)
    • The Way to the Kingdom (7/16)
    • The First Fruits of the Spirit (7/23)
How do I participate?
  • Read the sermon for the week in advance.
  • We will use these 3 questions to guide our discussions each Monday:
    • If you were to preach this sermon in 140 characters, what would it be?
    • How did you hear God speaking to you through this sermon?
    • What did you discover that is most relevant to your community?

Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or plan to join us.

Leadership Institute 2011 #li2011

It is Leadership Institute time again at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. This year there are over 2,000 church leaders from 700 churches, 46 states, Brazil, Scotland and South Africa here for 2-3 days of teaching, inspiration, worship and community.

I love these days. There is something that is powerful when there are hundreds of leaders from across the denomination that at some level are seeking the same thing – new life in their congregation and community. Personally, it is fun to see colleagues and peers who I know from seminary, social media or the annual conference.

If you are at Leadership Institute this year or have been in the past, what did you find to be most helpful about the experience?

Resurrection West – Increase Participation in Missions

Earlier this week, I met with the Resurrection West Missions team. This is a fantastic group of people in the congregation who are committed to transforming communities. This team is responsible for one of the strategic objectives that we have as a congregation at West for this year. Here it is:

“In order to be more visible and active in our community through service, we will increase mission participation so that 75% of the worship attendance serves outside the walls of the church by 12/31/2011. As we open our doors to the new facility, we not only want to invite our neighbors in but also to send our congregation out.”

I am excited by this objective and achieving it will make a positive impact on our congregation as well as the surrounding community.

Class Meetings at Resurrection Online

Hanging out on @tinychat tonight with the @phpc.
Image by Ben Ramsey via Flickr

I have been inspired by Kevin Watson’s series of posts about the Methodist Class Meeting. It was part of what made the Methodist movement powerful. I have hoped to use the following series of posts as a guide for leading class meetings when I am the lead pastor at a church one day.

Then I thought, what about now? I am leading Resurrection Online and hoping to create opportunities for people to worship, grow, give and serve. Isn’t this one of the powerful ways that the Methodist movement grew in faith and size? Would a class meeting work online? What are your thoughts, feelings or opinions about this possibility

Speedlinking – August 13, 2010