What am I Driving? Further Reflections on #gc2019

This morning, I met with a group of clergy colleagues in what is a regularly scheduled gathering. Today we shared, reflected, grieved, considered the future and talked about what and how to best share with our local congregations the events of General Conference. I shared an image of the disorientation that I am feeling in response to the passing of the Traditional Plan…

It’s like I am driving our minivan down the highway. I am making progress toward my destination. Everything seems to be running pretty well. We are on the way. I stop to refill the fuel tank and pick up some snacks. As I get out of the vehicle and start to head inside the convenience store, I take a look back and suddenly, it’s not my the minivan. It turns out that it is a truck.

Wait a minute… What?!

I thought I was driving toward a destination and all of a sudden, I realize that I have been driving inside a completely different vehicle. What happened to the familiar surroundings of the vehicle with which I was familiar? What have I been driving all this time?


The re-affirmation of the Traditional Plan three times over – in the prioritization, in legislative committee, and in the plenary session of General Conference 2019 is confusing. I thought that I have been part of a denomination that is moving toward full inclusion throughout the entire life of the church – albeit slowly and hesitatingly. Yet, the evidence of the voting demonstrates that this is not true – at least not on a denominational level. It is frustrating to find that the United Methodist Church turned away from greater inclusion. Yet, it also illuminates the truth: There is a need action in new ways, with creative approaches, and bolder vision. I don’t yet know what this looks like, however I want to help figure out what’s next for a more inclusive church.

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.

Questions for a Congregation from a Newly Appointed Pastor in the #UMC

Question mark
Question mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am preparing to transition to a new appointment beginning July 1. One of the things that I have learned from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership is that good leaders ask the right questions. I have been working on a list of questions that I believe will be helpful in getting started well at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado.

Ministries

  • How is the church engaging the community?
  • What can you tell me about the United Methodist Men?
  • What can you tell me about the United Methodist Women?
  • How would the church say that they have grown in the past year?
  • What is going on during the week?
  • What is the congregation’s favorite way of learning? Teaching, book study, etc.
Congregation
  • How are people growing in their faith outside of worship?
  • Who are the key influencers in the congregation?
  • Who are the people / families that will do whatever it takes at the church?
  • Who might peer churches be for support, encouragement and benchmarking?
  • Who are the staff and leaders that are great Bible study / small group leaders?
Mission and Vision
  • In what ways do the vision and purpose guide what the church does?
  • How are the vision and purpose communicated to the staff and congregation?
  • What is the vision and purpose of the church?
Facility
  • For the facility, what needs regular maintenance?
  • For the facility, what needs to be repaired?
  • For the facility, what needs to be replaced?
  • What is the state of the facility?
Pastor’s Role
  • How might can I best serve the church?
  • What are some ways to get congregational buy in?
  • What are some ideas for “quick wins” that might be possible?
  • What are things that I might do that have never been done before?
  • What facts or realities about me or my ministry can I share that might be helpful for the congregation?
  • What are the die hard principles or practices that if I change them will get me tarred and feathered?
Connection
  • What efforts exist to close the back door? (Keep people engaged who might otherwise leave)
  • What are the biggest barriers to people coming in the door?
  • What is being done to bring in new members?
  • What kind of follow up for first time visitors happens?
  • What new networks of people can I engage and develop?
Finance
  • How does the budget break out between compensation, operations, mission and ministry?
  • Is the budget growing?
  • Is the church paying its apportionments in full?
Community
  • Where do people gather for coffee or breakfast in town?
  • What opportunities for mission in the community exist?

What other questions would you add to this list?

Speedlinking – August 19, 2009

–  from From my Dad’s trip to Africa

Speedlinking – July 6, 2009

Speedlinking – June 20, 2009

Speedlinking – November 27, 2008