Why Numbers Matter in the UMC – Naming Reality (1 of 3)

First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, LA
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Vitality seems to be the talk of The United Methodist Church. From the invitation to be a Vital Congregation to tracking metrics through Vital Signs, there has been a wide variety of response to the movement to increasing the level of reporting of involvement across several areas of local churches.

I have heard a great deal of critique about these additional requirements for local church leaders. Are numbers really important? Are we measuring success or significance? Won’t this be more harm than good?

Let me be clear about where I stand – tracking numbers matters for The United Methodist Church.

This practice, in itself, will not lead to renewal. However, I believe that it can be a helpful tool for our congregations to provide mutual accountability and support. Many people focus on the accountability of tracking and resulting impact on self esteem in the congregation. Whatever the reality of involvement is, tracking doesn’t change it. Tracking shines a light on current reality. If we aren’t honest with ourselves about reality, there is no possibility of effectively moving forward.

Knowing where we are is a prerequisite to go where we want to go – a future of hope and renewal as we seek to spread scriptural holiness across the land.

What’s Next for 6qumc

Earlier this year, you were invited to join in a conversation which sought to raise questions for The United Methodist Church. This effort was called 6 Questions for The United Methodist Church (6qumc). 6qumc officially closed on September 30.

I am working on compiling the top 6 questions in each category into a book which will be available for print or download from lulu.com. I hope that these questions will be distributed as widely as possible throughout The United Methodist Church to help shape the conversation within our denomination.

Will you consider being a part of the spread of this conversation?

Check back here a week from Friday to access the final product

Changing the Atmosphere

Nicole and I recently purchased a dehumidifier for our basement. After it’s arrival, I set it up, plugged it in and turned it on. When I checked on it the next day, the water reservoir was full and the atmosphere was noticeably different. I knew that it needed to be dehumidified, but was still surprised at the tangible difference that I felt when I walked back downstairs.

The dehumidifier changed the atmosphere.

I believe that one of the key roles of a pastor is creating an atmosphere in within a local church in which disciples are formed.

There are many actions that could contribute to a change in the atmosphere and one of the most significant is tending to my own spiritual formation. If my soul is not thriving, it is difficult for me to lead others in their journey of faith in a way that can be used by the Holy Spirit to produce fruit.

What are other ways that the atmosphere might be changed in a local church?

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.

America’s Shared Values and the UMC

In The Seven Faith Tribes, George Barna lists twenty shared values from across seven faith tribes that exist in the United States. A few of these are:

  • Represent the truth well
  • Develop inner peace and purity
  • Seek peace with others
  • Demonstrate wisdom
  • Be forgiving

This list helped me clarify the importance of proclaiming a Christian gospel. There are many values that are good and a part of the Christian life, but that are shared among many faith traditions.

What makes the United Methodist Church distinct?

The Seven Faith Tribes by George Barna

I was excited to read the latest book from George Barna – The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter. I deeply appreciate the work of The Barna Group. The research that they produce about life and faith is insightful and often quite applicable to the local church. However, I found myself to be disappointed by the trajectory of this book. The thesis is that the United States as a culture is in decline and that significant change is needed to avert the course toward self-destruction. Barna’s approach to this end is to examine different faith tribes within America, identify common values and seek how these common values can help shape the country in positive ways.

Barna identifies the seven faith tribes as:

  • Casual Christians
  • Captive Christians
  • Jews
  • Mormons
  • Pantheists
  • Muslims
  • Spiritual Skeptics

I found the research that on each of these tribes to be fascinating and helpful in understanding the landscape of faith distinctions with which we live in the United States. However, I found myself less excited by using commonalities among the tribes to renew the nation. I agree with Barna that understanding shared values among faith tribes is important, but am less excited about using these shared values for the explicit purpose of renewing the nation. I believe that renewal within each of the faith tribes will lead to renewal of the nation.

I recommend this book to those who are interested in the faith landscape in the United States and especially to those that are passionate about the United States regaining a more prominent place on the world stage.

You can download the first chapter and a discussion guide here.

Read an article by Barna outlining the book here.

Invitation to UMC Young Clergy Collaboration

“Give me one hundred [people] who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.” –John Wesley

Does this describe you? Are you under age 35 and a clergy person in the United Methodist Church?

I invite you to be a part of a collaboration of young clergy at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection on October 8, 2009 just prior to the Leadership Institute 2009.

We will continue on the trajectory set by 40 Days of Prayer and 6 Questions for The United Methodist Church and seek to raise up leaders, share stories and create next steps to renew the church.

You are invited to:

  1. Make arrangements to be present on October 8, 2009 at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
  2. Sign up at http://ow.ly/jjEE to confirm your presence.
  3. After sign up, look to receive emails with “UMC Young Clergy Collaboration” in the subject line for time, location and how to prepare for October 8.
  4. Invite two other young clergy to join you.

Apprentice of Jesus

This week I was part of a conversation that was encouraging, informative and exciting.

I was part of a conversation with Ben Simpson, Correy Trupp, Darrell Holtz, Dave Robertson, James Bryan Smith and Jimmy Taylor about The Apprentice Series – a discipleship curriculum. I met Jimmy less than a year ago at Board of Ordained Ministry interviews for Kansas West Annual Conference. At that time, he indicated that he was part of a team that was developing a new curriculum that would be released at a conference in the summer of 2009 and would be interested in sharing more about it. Initially it sounded good, but the time didn’t seem to find that conversation.

Subsequently, Ben let me know that he would be attending The Jesus Way: recovering the lost content of discipleship. This is a conference sponsored by Renovare and was the same conference at which the curriculum would be launched. I told Jimmy or Ben or both about the other, but would not be able to go to the conference myself. They met while they were there.

Just over a month ago, Jimmy sent me a message on Facebook indicating that he and James Smith (author of The Apprentice Series) would be in town in a couple weeks and asked if I would be able to meet. I was excited to finally be able to meet them and invited Ben and some of the discipleship staff at Resurrection.

I was encouraged by hearing the story and background to The Apprentice Series and the approach to forming disciples which is put forward.

I hope to have the opportunity to experience the curriculum with a small group this fall.

I hope continue to build relationships with Jim and Jimmy.

I believe that this curriculum may be a part of the puzzle of renewal within The United Methodist Church and spiritual revival in the state of Kansas.

You can find more at http://www.apprenticeofjesus.org/