I have attended Leadership Institute at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection every year that I have served under appointment as a United Methodist preacher. I was only able to be present for one day this year, but it was still worth it. Here is what made it good:
- Connection – It is great to reconnect with both congregants and staff at the church, as well as colleagues from across the conference and around the connection.
- Remembering – Nicole and I began our life as a married couple serving as associate pastors. They were formative years in discovering how to be a couple and how to be a pastor.
- Time Away – I am able to rest in the reality that, even for just a few moments, someone else is tending to all the details at church.
- Inspiration – The speakers and workshops are excellent. They help stretch my mind beyond what is to what might be.
- Being Present – It is good to be around a big group of people that are committed to making progress in their local church – wherever that may be. There is a tangible sense that we are all about God’s work in the mission field.
I realized this year that it has become a bit of a pilgrimage for me and I am glad for the opportunity to return.
Yesterday, I traveled with the senior staff from Resurrection to the Lutheran Church of Hope. It was an opportunity to benchmark another church and have conversation about how ministry happens in their setting. I have had the opportunity to take part in several of these trips during my time at Resurrection to visit other congregations both larger and smaller than Resurrection. The bus ride is always a great opportunity to connect with fellow staff members and it was a great time touring Hope’s West Des Moine location and spending time in conversation with some of their staff. Here is some of what I learned:
- Mission, vision and values are what holds true across all of their campuses
- Senior pastor provides a worship plan six months in advance with the series, sermon title, scripture passage and a sentence or two about direction for the sermon
- Rooms all have numbers. No ministry area has claim to a particular room.
- A culture of trust in leadership has been developed that has proven beneficial over time.
- If you can’t give cheerfully, we don’t want you to give. Giving will bring you freedom.
- Success looks different in different contexts
- Bigger or smaller isn’t better, better is better.
- Who are the people that no one else is going after?
Being in transition to serving as lead pastor at El Dorado First United Methodist Church, I also had some personal reflections:
- Touring the buildings of other churches is not worth much. There are little things that can be picked up about facilities, but overall the building that the church has is what it will be. The building at El Dorado First seems to have been kept up well and is an asset for ministry.
- There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the staff of our churches – similar worship attendance, programs and ministries and hopes and dreams for the congregations. I am looking forward to finding out which churches are “peers” to El Dorado First.
During my time at Resurrection, I have taken three trips to benchmark other churches.
Each of these trips have been with several other team members. These trips have each had a full schedule and been intense and tiring. In each of the places you can look to see what the church you are visiting is doing better than your current church. However, it is also important to remind yourself what your church is doing that is better than the one you are visiting. It may be helpful to visit a church that would be considered a peer and another that is bigger than what you are currently. Adam reminded us of these things on our trip to Willow and Granger.
I think that the practice of visiting other congregations to learn is something that would be helpful for church, staff and leaders of any size congregation. Being away together as a team allows you to commit time and brain cycles to a particular project. This often cannot happen in the midst of day to day responsibilities. Perhaps more valuable than the time visiting other churches is the time together as a team to build relationships in ways that are not always possible in other settings.
I hope that other congregations make Leadership Institute one of those events for their leaders. I hope to continue this practice in every church of which I am a part.
Over the past few days, I have been on a benchmarking trip to LifeChurch.tv in Edmond, Oklahoma to listen and learn about internet campus. I have traveled, questioned, conversed and lauged with Clif Guy, Brian Slezak and Chuck Russell. We had the opportunity to meet Bobby Gruenwald and have spent time in conversation with Terry Storch and Brandon Donaldson.
It has been an excellent experience and I am still processing the trip. I am going to post more on this trip later in the week. In the meantime, Clif has captured the first day in narrative and pictures here.
I had a great trip to California. Dan, Jason and I ended up visiting:
- Crystal Cathedral – mainly because it was close and we had time.
- Mariners Church – Just got to see their facilities, but great stuff – technical stage and wonderful outdoor space.
- Saddleback Church – We checked out one of their venues (Tent 1) and worshiped for part of a service in their main worship center on Saturday night.
- Rock Harbor – outstanding worship, similar to what we are thinking about for Sunday morning in the Student Center.
- North Coast Church – Venue worship in a way that I had never seen before, a main street feel with vastly different worship styles next door to each other.
Here is a slideshow from a presentation prepared for the senior staff retreat today:
For more pictures check out my photostream.