One of the jewels of the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation system is the Lake Shawnee Trail. Nearly every time I go for a run, I use it in some way. At times, a short loop around Tinman Circle and others around the entire lake with an extension down Berryton Road to reach my target mileage.
Encountering others on the trail is common. Whether it is walkers, bikers, runners, couples, children, or animals, the path is utilized by a wide variety of people. I will make a point to say “Hello” or “Good morning” to people I encounter. It’s about 50-50 on whether I get a response. Some people reply with a similar greeting and others are lost in thought, their headphones, or even a book. Last week, someone greeted me in a way that was new to me.
A smile, thumbs up, and “Good Job!”
Wait, what? This was unexpected. I am glad to get a response, much less cheering on my efforts. There was no way this person could have known my training plan, energy expended, or even how far I was going that particular day. Despite all of these things, the choice of greeting was an encouragement.
Whether it is a colleague with whom you work closely on shared goals, a family member or a random stranger on the path, there is a superpower in offering encouragement to others. Thanks to this encounter, I will be making an effort to provide support to others.
Since being appointed to serve within the Topeka District of the Great Plains Annual Conference, I have had the opportunity to serve as the lead for the Topeka District Strategy Team. I have been learning as I go, seeking to get to know congregations and leaders of the area. Here are some of my current thoughts on how this team can be most effective to create a strategy for the district.
During some years in the past, the Great Plains Annual Conference (and three conferences) has operated with a structure that encouraged local churches to send both people and resources to be part of initiatives and ministry efforts that originated and were executed at the annual conference level. This lead to a measure of success. However, this model is not working as effectively as it once was.
In recent years, there has been efforts made to push the resourcing and leadership “down” from the annual conference toward the mission field of local churches. Some of this is being accomplished with the creation of Networks which connect local churches to more effectively reach their collective mission field. It also is being accomplished through the work of district strategy teams which work alongside the District Superintendent to develop a strategy to reach the mission field within the district.
What does not need to happen is for a district strategy team to come up with a layer of strategy, events and planning which local churches are encouraged to add to their existing ministries and goals. Instead, I believe that a more effective approach will be to look for common goals that exist among many congregations in the district and consider what resources or strategies that district can bring to bear which support those goals.
As part of the charge conference process, goals are developed and turned in annually from every charge in the district. This fall, we are running an experiment by offering local churches goals to consider for 2019 (Experiment_ Topeka District Local Church Goals (PDF)). If churches have an existing process for developing and iterating on goals, great – keep doing it. However, if they do not, they might consider one or more of these goals for the year ahead. The purpose here is to help local churches make progress on goal setting and create the opportunity for local churches to coalesce around similar goals. We’ll see how this goes…
Regardless of whether or not local churches choose from the experimental goals which were offered to them, our next step will be to review the goals from all the churches in the district to see what, if any, similarities there are. Then, create strategies to help support local churches in the goals that they have already set for themselves.
I am hopeful that this approach will support local churches and more effectively coordinate our efforts together as a district.
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?
Our own defaults, how we would usually or unconsciously react or intervene in a situation, can be significant barriers to making progress on the issues we care about.
There is a lot to be said for this principle as well as the others in the list, but today I wanted to focus on the final part of the sentence – “making progress on the issues that we care about.” I have realized that this is universally applicable.
Everyone wants to make progress on the issues that they care about.
I have continued to pitch micro churches as a way of finding renewal within The United Methodist Church and building Christian communities where non religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. I am currently working on training leaders to launch these faith communities. I hope that by the end of August there will be three micro churches worshiping regularly. I want to share with you the documents and presentation that I am using as a guide to train these leaders.
These continue to be works in progress. I am working on a document now to address sacraments and will post in a later post when it is prepared. Will you please take a look at these documents and offer your response, ideas or opinions?
I am excited for the potential that exists for micro churches to create new places for new people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
I have enjoyed being involved in #SMCKC, the Social Media Club of Kansas City. I have learned a lot from others, particularly over the past few months in presentations on social media efforts from various local companies. In addition, conversations have proven to be fruitful.
So why not #smcumc? A Social Media Club for The United Methodist Church? A mission or purpose statement could be similar to that found at the #SMCKC website:
“Our primary goal is to help the greater Kansas City and sister communities across the country understand social media’s purpose, use and benefits. #smckc was founded on six pillars: Awareness, Education, Advocacy, Industry Leadership, Adoption of Standards, and Technology.”
I believe that the UMC at all levels, from local church to general agencies and general conference could benefit from better leveraging social media.