Making the Network Work

Over the last several years, the Great Plains Annual Conference has introduced Networks into our life in ministry together. These are groups of congregations that share a physically contiguous mission field – all the churches in an area. The church which I serve, Berryton United Methodist Church, is connected in a network with Big Springs UMC, Highland Park UMC, Lecompton UMC, Shawnee Heights UMC, Stull UMC, and Tecumseh UMC.

I have the opportunity to serve as the Network Leader which means convening the pastor and a lay person from each congregation so that we can make progress together and reach our mission field more effectively. I am committed to making our network work. I don’t have time for to add a meeting to my schedule in which we are getting together only to “check the box” that we have completed the task.

We met for the first time as a Network last week. If you are interested in the agenda, click here to download it as a PDF. I believe that our network has the opportunity to be the most innovative in the Great Plains Annual Conference. I am looking forward to building relationships with colleagues and friends and working together to share God’s love with our neighbors and live boldly into God’s dream for southeast Shawnee and northwest Douglas county.

Four Narratives for Online Spiritual Community

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

Considering spiritual dimensions within computer-mediated communication studies” is another article by Heidi Campbell that was published in 2005 in New Media & Society. Campbell presents four ways of understanding the internet:

  • Information space – highlights “internet communication and information exchange. Focus is on the ability to allow individuals to utilize a variety of technologies to interact with data” (113).
  • Common mental geography – “regards the internet as more than a tool for communication, but a mechanism that individuals can use to construct a common worldview” (114).
  • Identity workshop – “a model enabling people to use online space as a place to learn and test new ways of being” (115).
  • Social space – “the online context as a social space where making connections with people is the primary goal” (115).

In addition to these four areas, Campbell asserts that the internet can also be understood as sacramental space, which “presents the internet as a sacred space and encompasses aspects of all of these models” (118). According to Campbell, online spiritual community can be considered in several ways:

  • Religious identity – “characterizes the online community as a group committed to each other through their shared faith and chosen liturgical expression or religious tradition” (126).
  • Spiritual network – “characterizes the online community as designed and initiated by God for a specific purpose” (127).
  • Support network – “characterizes the online community as existing to provide a spiritually and emotionally supportive atmosphere, emphasizing transparency and disclosure in its membership” (127).
  • Worship space – “characterized as creating a worship space. The internet becomes a tool for transmitting spiritual activities” (128).

I found these narratives to be quite helpful when considering the direction of Resurrection Online. I particularly appreciate Campbell’s encouragement to choose a particular model, “Identifying with a particular narrative helps an online community promote internal order and maintain coherence. Each model emphasizes a particular motivation for technological use, while highlighting a shared belief that the internet can be set apart for sacred use” (129).

Which of these models do you find to be most helpful when considering the internet? Which of these models do you find to be most helpful when considering Resurrection Online?

Micro Church: New Church Start (5 of 5)

I believe that over the next several years, micro churches will become an important part of renewal within The United Methodist Church.

While there are many different settings in which micro churches might thrive, I believe that the greatest potential may be in planting new churches. As micro churches continue to multiply and grow, leadership would increasingly be pushed to the local level. A pastor could be appointed to oversee a network of 20 micro churches and serve as a circuit rider in ways that are similar to early Methodism. This allows churches to be planted with little overhead and initial expenditure of resources and for healthy congregations to more easily birth congregations than may otherwise be possible.

I believe that micro churches will have a significant impact on the way that churches are planted in The United Methodist Church.

How do you respond to this idea?

This is part of a series of posts about micro churches. You can read more in the next several days at these posts:

Micro Church: Existing Congregation (4 of 5)

I believe that over the next several years, micro churches will become an important part of renewal within The United Methodist Church.

I believe that existing congregations could be a place where a micro church could flourish. Utilizing a live stream of worship could enable existing congregations to begin another worship service with a small amount of resource commitment. It would not need to be in competition with existing worship services, but could serve to supplement existing worship opportunities. Encouraging and equipping leaders might bear fruit by leading groups in homes or in an existing church building. This might also be a way for congregations that might otherwise be closed by the annual conference to continue to sustain a community life together. This could bring new life to existing congregations and serve as a tool for renewal.

I believe that this will be an important way of rethinking existing congregations in The United Methodist Church.

How do you respond to this idea?

This is part of a series of posts about micro churches. You can read more in the next several days at these posts:

Micro Church: College (3 of 5)

I believe that over the next several years, micro churches will become an important part of renewal within The United Methodist Church.

I believe that colleges and universities have great potential to be a place where micro churches will flourish. In residence halls and public spaces, there exists a community that is already in close proximity. College is a time when persons are willing to try new things and an invitation on the spur of a moment can have significant impact. I believe that existing United Methodist campus ministries could work to equip leaders to lead micro churches wherever they live and have a significant impact on the life of the university. This removes the need for a central meeting place and creates the opportunity for students to practice hospitality where they already spend times with friends – where they live.

I believe that could have a significant impact on the future of campus ministry in The United Methodist Church.

How do you respond to this idea?

This is part of a series of posts about micro churches. You can read more in the next several days at these posts:

Micro Church: Home (2 of 5)

I believe that over the next several years, micro churches will become an important part of renewal within The United Methodist Church.

I believe that homes have great potential to be a place where micro churches will flourish. It may be easier to invite someone that is new to faith into one’s home rather than to an existing church building. Micro churches can spread through neighborhoods and small towns as a result of the existing relationships between neighbors and friends. The home is a place where it may be easy to practice hospitality and make others feel welcome. Homes were where Christians in the early centuries met.

I believe that homes will again become an important place of worship for The United Methodist Church.

How do you respond to this idea?

This is part of a series of posts about micro churches. You can read more in the next several days at these posts:

Micro Church: Renewing the Mainline Church (1 of 5)

I believe that over the next several years, micro churches will become an important part of renewal within The United Methodist Church.

Micro churches will be supported by existing congregations that use web technology to live stream worship, such as http://live.cor.org. These existing churches will encourage and equip local leaders of a group of 10 to 20 people that will:

  • “proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ” (2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, ¶122)
  • “nurture persons in Christian living” (2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, ¶122)
  • incorporate care, discipleship and stewardship.
  • have a process of raising up and equipping leaders.
  • seek to grow and multiply within 12 months.

As these micro churches continue to multiply they create a network.

As networks of micro churches continue to grow, leadership will increasingly move to the local level until a self sustaining network exists.

This solution creates new places for new people, develops leaders and leverages existing resources to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

How do you respond to this idea?

This is part of a series of posts about micro churches. You can read more in the next several days at http://andrewconard.com.