Thursday, September 25, 2008

Question: Announcements

How do you share announcements during worship? At the beginning? Just via bulletin or on screen? A different point in the service?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

District Resource Day: Bill Easum

In the interest of me actually blogging something, since I just am totally uninspired to write lately, I'm posting my basically unedited notes from today's District Resource Day with Bill Easum. The topic was “Leading Turnaround on the Road to Mission.” I read a little of Easum at Drew, but haven't read much else. We had some interesting conversation - lots of questions asked. Some things I thought he was right about, some I just thought I'd heard too much before, and some I really disagreed with him on. I guess that's a pretty typical breakdown though, isn't it? (My apologies for the parts of the notes that won't make sense without the corresponding hand out. I'll try to blog better soon ;) )


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Where is Jesus going?

Way, Way, Beyond Emmaus

Where is everyone going?

* Away from spiritual centers
* Away from religious professionals
* Out into the world, away from the institution

Faithfulness – not survival, hanging on, but doing whatever is necessary to be on the road to mission with Jesus. If a church isn’t making disciples it is unfaithful and it doesn’t have a right to exist. A Hospice is not a church.

Institutional survival can never be goal.

Do you spend 80% of time going to them?

A dying church takes 11 years to turn around, but we still move every 3-4 years.

Stuck or Unstuck Churches: Concerned with the Roof, or Concerned with Jesus. Have to lose people in stuck church before you can turn it around. Stuck churches are clergy killers.

The building has nothing to do with being the church. Going to church/being the church.

Not mentioning Jesus enough – focused on God. “My God is not Oprah’s God.” Specifying which God – “God of Abraham,” etc.

Christians ought to be able to move from one building to another without any difficulty, and without being tethered to a building. The building is the place where the church meets, not the church.

Generation: Place more important than relationship, vise versa.

System:

Some are – who is in control? (1)

- There must be more than this (2)

- Why are we here? (3)

- How can we do it better? (These two are healthier) (4)

(Think, Law, Feel, Grace)

Key people in your church:

- Deciders/controllers

- Doers

- Ignored (stuck church ignores ignored, unstuck focuses on ignored)

- Dreamers

- Leaders

Sphere 1 – Egypt

Sphere 2 – Wilderness: Some doers become dreamers. More confusion. More controllers will try to control. Fan discontent, spend time with dreamers.

Sphere 3 – Permission-giving, decentralized. Is it inviting? Is it growing? Is it sending? Three questions applied to everything. Mission, Vision, Values. Develop leaders and systems. Pastor spends most of time either in community, being visible, or growing leaders within the church. Difference between Wesley and Whitfield – Whitfield didn’t leave system to survive him, Wesley did.

Sphere 4 – can’t stay here for long.

How do you unfreeze a system?

- Anything that destabilizes the status quo, destabilize the story, allow leaders to do something new

1) A Solid Community of Faith – Spiritual Leadership. Highly committed spiritual leaders who put mission before personal interest, attempt ministries that don’t necessarily involve them. “Pray for it and pay for it.” (Pastoral leadership.) Functions around trust. Disciples would follow Jesus anywhere. No major on-going conflict. (You take something to the board, and you’re praying that so and so isn’t there.) Desire to connect with the world.

2) Biblically Sound and Culturally Relevant DNA – if we do this, will it make more disciples of Jesus Christ? Not “warehousing Christians.”

3) Indigenous Worship – “doesn’t need a bulletin.” Can’t grow a church by great preachers. Safe place to hear dangerous gospel, not a dangerous place to hear a safe gospel. Easiest way to grow church and to get in trouble. No announcements! Concerts: big, extravagant, etc.

4) Mobilizing the Laity to be God’s People in the World – identify, recruit, discern, equip, deploy, coach

5) Redemptive Missional Opportunities

6) Organizing Around the DNA

7) Hire Servants, Not Professionals

8) Place and Space as Metaphors

9) Radical Generosity

An emerging crisis – we are short on leaders. On the other hand, the roles of leaders is changing dramatically from/to – solo leader/team-based leader, top down/permission giving, given authority/earned authority

People coming in to church are at best skeptical, at worst angry. Are you hospitable or hostile?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

This week I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I've read all of Kingsolver's books, and I love her writing style. She's definitely a favorite. However, it took me a long time to get through this one. I'm not even quite sure why. I liked it, a lot. But maybe it just isn't the type of book to be read quickly from cover to cover.

Kingsolver and her family set out to try to eat locally, raising most of their own food, and staying away from, as much as possible, processed food, meat from animals raised in poor conditions, food shipped from far away, eaten out of season, etc. I admire her for doing what I only think about doing, and even then, can hardly seriously see myself considering. But Kingsolver makes strong arguments for how screwed up our food system is, how much we're just short-changing ourselves, as individuals and as a human race, and how worth it it would be to start making at least some changes.

She takes us through a year, talking about planting, raising turkeys and chickens, describing holiday gatherings, sharing (with husband and daughter helping) recipes and practical tips for things like canning, etc. Interspersed with her narrative, in her usual style, is a lot of information, statistics, science, that only Kingsolver can make enjoyable to read.

One excerpt that struck me:
"Overwork actually has major cachet in a society whose holy trinity is efficiency, productivity, and material acquisition. Complaining about [long work weeks] is the modern equivalent of public prayer." (308) I was really struck by this comment - I see so much of this in the church even - colleagues who love to talk (in a brag/complain combination) about how busy they are. Is that the goal we're after?

Anyway, I always find Kingsolver inspiring. Maybe next year I'll actually plant some of those seeds I have....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Review: Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli

It seems I'm often a bit late in reading books in a topic/area that everyone else has already read. Oh well. I finally read Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus by Mark Yaconelli. And I'm so glad that I did - I can say, right off, that this is an excellent book, that anyone working with young people should read this book, and that really, it applies in so many ways to ministry as a whole that anyone in ministry in the church should really read this. I think it's that important and that well written and touches so correctly on the culture we have built up in the church.

The basic premise is that we tend to face youth ministry with a sense of fear, because: "We don't know how to be with our kids. We don't know how to be with ourselves. We don't know how to be with God." (19) I still vividly remember maybe my second Sunday in my first appointment, when I was thrown into a room full of high-school students who had just learned of the death of classmate. I was supposed to help them. I felt like I was the one who needed help! They terrified me - I didn't know how to be with them. I muddled through, and in their graciousness, things worked out. But I think Yaconelli is right here. He talks about the undergirding fear that rises up in conversations about youth ministry, in both adults and youth. Adults seem to fear youth. And youth fear that they'll have to hid themselves, their real thoughts and experiences, to fit into a program. Yaconelli talks about the difference between anxiety-driven and love-driven youth ministry. Youth saying, "Don't be afraid of us."

Yaconelli asks parents and potential leaders to identify what they really want out of a youth ministry. Is it just to keep kids "nice and safe?" Lots of programs seem to reflect this goal. What is, truly, your deepest hope for young people? (64-65) Our deepest hope is probably much more than that they are nice and safe youth.

Practically, (but always in a contempletive way, rather than a do A B C and you'll get your solution way) Yaconelli talks about a process of identifying adults to work in youth ministry. He talks about how to nurture adult leadership and nurture the place of youth ministry in a whole congregation. And he talks about youth leaders helping youth to notice God in their lives, name the presence of God that they find, and nurture this relationship with God.

I wish I was writing a better review - I don't feel like I'm conveying how great I think this book is. I found myself moved to tears more than once. I found myself thinking that the principles here apply to ministry as a whole, not just youth ministry. I found myself thinking that I want all the folks in my congegation, youth workers and otherwise, to read this. So don't take my (poorly written) word for it - check out this book. I don't think you'll regret it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Confirmation Class

This fall, I'll be teaching confirmation at FLUMC. In the past, I've used both the denominational Claim the Name materials and Bishop Willimon's Making Disciples. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Making Disciples isn't specifically UMC, so it has to be supplemented. Claim the Name - well, I just didn't find it very interesting for young people. 

What confirmation materials have you used? What works? What doesn't? What other things have you done with confirmation classes to make the journey special and meaningful?