Yesterday afternoon, we had an all-church conversation at Berryton United Methodist Church to process the 2019 special session of the General Conference. I put it on the calendar about a month ago. While it was, of course, impossible to predict how things would go, I did figure that we would need some time and space to process whatever it was that was passed. This was true.
The weather was bitterly cold and it was snowing for the first part of the morning with about 3 inches accumulated before the first worship service ended. It was the second lowest in-person worship attendance in the last two years. In spite of the conditions, we had a great turnout on Sunday afternoon to talk about General Conference.
I shared these documents with those that were gathered:
The first document was a statement that I shared in worship and the second was shared at the meeting in the afternoon. Both were adapted from resources provided by the Great Plains Annual Conference.
I am glad that people gathered and were willing to share their pain, questions, confusion, and hope. It felt inadequate. There needs to be and will continue to be more conversations in local congregations just like ours across the United States and around the world. People are moved to take action.
Today is my 32nd day as the preacher assigned to Berryton United Methodist Church. It has been a wonderful journey of learning, sharing, and welcome. I am so grateful for the warm welcome that we have received from the congregation and community. One of the ways that I have been learning about the congregation is something that I am calling 100 Conversations in 100 Days.
I hope to share a one-on-one conversation with 100 people so that I can hear their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the church and community. My hope is to get this accomplished in my first 100 days, which gives me until October 8. As of today, I have four down and ninety-six to go. If you live in the Berryton area, would you be willing to share a conversation with me about the church? Visit www.calendly.com/AndrewConard and click on “100 Conversations” to set up a time to meet.
Tell me about a time when you felt especially proud of some members or leaders of your congregation, when you felt they were really following Christ. What makes this incident stand out in your mind?
Whom do you especially respect as leaders? Why do you hold them in high regard?
Tell me why you’re glad you are a member of this congregation. Why did you join this congregation instead of another one?
How has being part of this congregation helped you and members of your family grow in faith? Please give me some examples of experiences or classes that made a difference. How did you change?
Tell me a story about when congregation members resolved a conflict or difference effectively. What do you think the congregation learned from this experience? How effectively do leaders and members handle differences now?
What have you especially valued about your pastors and other congregational staff? (Be specific.) Do any sermons, initiatives, or attributes of your previous pastors come to mind?
Tell me about a time when you were disappointed with members or leaders. What happened?
Complete this sentence: “God is calling this congregation to be …”
What do you think God wants your congregation to emphasize in the next three to five years?
What else do I need to know in order to thrive in this congregation and community?
Do you have any other concerns or suggestions?
What strategies or techniques have you used to learn about the congregation and community in a new appointment?
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?
As Pastor of Resurrection Online, I have heard from several others who are interested in starting an online worship service. I suggest the following:
1 – Ask the Right Questions
Pastor(s), key staff and volunteers need to be able to have clear answers to the following questions:
Why are we considering starting an online worship service?
How will this initiative further our mission as a church?
What are we hoping for?
How will it be implemented?
What will comprise the worship experience online?
What impact do we anticipate on the current congregation?
Why does this make sense within the culture of our church?
What balance between service to the current and future congregation will be struck?
At Resurrection, I was part of a staff team that considered these and other fundamental questions about the structure of an online worship service for nearly a year before we launched weekly worship online. While many of our initial responses to these questions changed, it was crucial to getting off the ground.
2 – Clarify Scope and Ownership
A key to success in launching an online worship service is to be clear about the scope of the initiative and who will own it.
Will there be interaction around the online worship experience?
Will there be intentional efforts to provide care and discipleship?
Is it to be just a worship service or more than that?
The scope of the online worship service will provide a guide to who will own the effort. It may be within the worship team, volunteer effort, stand alone ministry area or some combination. Before launch, it is necessary to know who will own it.
At Resurrection, it was clear that Resurrection Online would become a stand alone ministry area. It did not begin that way, however it was clear that this was where it was headed.
3 – Get it Started
Go for it.
If you have spent time on fundamental questions, scope and ownership, it is time to kick it off. You might start with a webcam, a laptop and livestream.com or you might have high definition cameras, broadcast quality switcher and dedicated encoders. In any case, start and see what happens. You will not be able to really tell what works and what doesn’t until you actually get started.
4 – Be ready adapt or hit the kill switch
When you start an online worship service, you have to be flexible. Be ready to make changes as needed and incrementally. Always be ready to pull the plug on the online worship service if it is no longer making sense for your church. Don’t make it something that starts and can never stop. It would be helpful to go back to the fundamental questions on a regular basis to check for any changes in direction or to realign your efforts.