Experiment: Facebook Live Book Study

I am running an experiment this fall in the local church with the purpose of engaging people in discipleship. The experiment is a Facebook Live Book Study. Some of the observations that lead to this experiment:

  • High engagement of video on the church’s Facebook page
  • Congregants sharing the value of study’s led by the preacher
  • Desire for discipleship opportunities outside of Sunday morning

We will be reading Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World by Shelly Miller (Amazon.com) using a reading plan that you can find at the church’s website. My plan is to go on Live on the church’s Facebook page each week to share some highlights from the reading and invite responses. I hope to be able to engage with people who are able to join online at the time, however the content will also be available to engage with through questions I will post in the comments.

I hope that we will be able to connect with new people who would not otherwise be able to fit a discipleship opportunity like this into their schedule. No matter how it goes, there will be valuable learning.

Let’s do this.

Preacher FAQ: Why do you park so far away?

Last Sunday, a member of the congregation asked me why I park so far away from the church building. So, in this edition of frequently asked questions for the preacher, here goes: I park far away from the entrance for two reasons – the mission field and my health.

The mission field is the community to which I have been appointed. There are just over 18,000 people that live within five miles of Berryton United Methodist Church. Over 10,000 of these people are not involved in a religious congregation or community. This is the mission field.

Parking away from the entrance to the building makes sure that there are spaces that are closer for people who may show up for the first time that day. I want to do everything that I can to help welcome people who come to the congregation and a little closer parking spot may help. Also, as I am walking toward the building I am mindful of the cars that will fill the lot and pray for all those that will gather for worship. The walk also offers time to consider those in our community who are not yet connected with a congregation. I am able to reflect on these persons and consider how the choices that I make as a leader in this congregation is helping share God’s love with those who have not yet heard.

Also, I want to stay as healthy as I am able. One healthy habit that I track is parking at the far end of the parking lot each day. This small step adds activity to my day and health to my life.

So, why do I park far away? For a healthy congregation and body.

Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement

I am spending my day in Wichita at a professional development experience – Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement. It provided by the Disney Institute and hosted by the Wichita Independent Business Association.

The concepts planned for the day, include:

  • Fostering a Workplace Culture
  • Selecting the Right-Fit Talent
  • Training the Culture
  • Communicating to Inform & Inspire
  • Creating a Caring Environment

I am interested to see how these concepts apply to Berryton United Methodist Church and the Great Plains Annual Conference. The engagement level of the current congregation today is evident to people who may visit the congregation for the first time. Engagement also makes a difference in how readily someone is to share with others about their experience with God and the local church. I am looking forward to more today and will be paying attention to how we can make progress in congregational engagement.

National Congregations Study Participation

Early this week, I received a letter informing me that Berryton UMC was a participant int he 3rd wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS) and that I was “one of a small number of religious leaders from across the U.S. chosen randomly to again represent [my] religious community in the 4th wave of the NCS.”

The National Congregations Study (NCS) is an ongoing national survey effort to gather information about the basic characteristics of America’s congregations. It is an effort of the University of Chicago and Duke University.

This is pretty great! I have looked at the key findings of the previous waves of NCS research and have appreciated the research. I participated in the phone interview this week and it was fun to be part of the ongoing research on religious congregations in the United States.

I was asked a number of questions about Berryton United Methodist Church, including around the history of the congregation, staffing, worship services, groups and activities, financials, and my background. I am looking forward to seeing the results of the work when they are published and glad to have been part of the process.

You can find out more about the National Congregations Study here.

 

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.

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.

Power of Environment: I Want to Work Here

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Image via Wikipedia

At one of my favorite coffee shops, I overheard a group of students say to the barista,

“We’re going to work here when we get old enough.”

I was struck by the power of this statement. The environment and culture is so enjoyable that someone would want to work there in the future. Not just be present or come from time to time, but commit time in the future to working to create the space for other people.

I hope to lead congregations with a similar culture. I hope that people don’t just come to worship or take part in ministry activities because it is nice or fills some niche in their life. I hope that people are so engaged by the the purpose and culture of the congregation that they want to help make space for others to share what they have experienced.