Mainline Church


 I have been consulting with congregations and pastors for 20 years around their “worship wars”.  Very few weeks go by where I do not get questions about how to negotiate the introduction, financing, purpose, or function of an alternative service.  In mainline denominations the “traditional” service is usually the strongest service where the people who serve on all of the administrative committees have the power to open the doors or shut the doors to a new service prospering.

It is amazing how many church councils have a clear conscience in voting on a budget that provides the traditional service with a $25,000 budget and then they give the alternative service $5,000 to start up and sustain themselves.  The cycle has become quite predictable.  When the church leaders evaluate the new service for vitality they claim that there are not enough people, the level of ministry is not equal to the excellence that they currently experience in traditional worship is not reflected in the new service and “it is taking the pastor’s time away from concentrating on our service”. 

New services tend to reach new people who are not indoctrinated in our church centered world. They may not be instantly committed and often do not give significantly at the beginning.  New services are excellent opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who are far from God or have been hurt by the church in a casual, conversational and caring worship environment.  By eliminating the alternative service you are removing God’s children from the fountain of grace that should be flowing throughout the entire congregation.  

“The responsibility of the older, more mature members in starting a new worship service is to pray for it and pay for it”  Bill Easum  

He said this many years ago and now in my role as Guide, coach and consultant I understand the wisdom clearly.  It takes money to get a worship leader who can build, develop and disciple band members.  It takes finances to get the appropriate multimedia equipment and sound reinforcement.  It takes pray to strengthen the prodigals that are searching for God. The leaders, who are pursuing the vision of reaching the lost, left out and marginalized in your community need prayer for wisdom and guidance.  It takes finances to do community outreach and connect the church to the needs of people in the community.  If you expect the same excellence that is present in the established service, you have to budget appropriately.  This may mean cutting the traditional service budget so that the kingdom of God can flourish.  True community is where the people live with all things in common including finances.

As mainline churches seek to be relevant to this generation, I suspect that the worship wars will continue.  One guiding principle is you can’t cheap thrill excellence.  And the second is the responsibility of the mature body of disciples is to “pray for it and pay for it”.

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Do you remember when you experienced a life transforming worship? Prodigal Worship Conference 2011 is designed to empower you and the worship design team to develop powerful worship that transforms individuals, congregations and communities. Our theme is 180 Degree Change and we have dynamic speakers that provide practical advice:

·         Jason Moore and Len Wilson of Midnight OilTaking Flight with Creativity: Worship Design Teams that Work

  ·         Shane ClaiborneThe Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

  ·         Jenny SmithTransforming Worship in Small Membership Churches

  ·         Robbie MorganfieldThe Power of Transformative and Authentic Worship

  ·         Paul NixonI Refuse to Lead a Dying Church

  ·         Marvin MossEngaging the Culture to Preach to the Prodigal

  ·         Kim MillerDesigning Spaces for Connection and Community

  ·         Rudy BroplehThe 3A’s Business: Doing & Being the Church, Consistently & Holistically

Prodigal Worship Conference 2011
April 2, 2011
Glen Mar UMC, Ellicott City,MD

Register today – www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship

Bring three people from your church and the fourth person registers for free.

We’re also offering a special live streaming session of the event at Hancock UMC in the Western region.  Participants will hear and see the three keynote speakers and two workshops. Lunch is included in the registration and participants will have the opportunity to browse the marketplace for books and other materials to assist in worship planning.

Our special rate for Prodigal Worship conference is $99 which will be effective until tomorrow, Feb 22. But, we would like to offer you this special rate until Friday, Feb. 25. Learn more about Prodigal Worship Conference and register today, www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship.

Please contact Tonia Bennett for registration questions, tbennett@bwcumc.org.

Over the last few months there have been many vigorous discussions about the relevance of the Black Church. I have weighed in with two articles basically saying that Black Churches have become kingdom and socially irrelevant. My arguments are sound but Rev. Freddie Haynes clarified both of my papers in one simple statement.

“The reason that the Black Church is irrelevant is because we are raising the most selfish, self centered me, myself and its all mine generation in history. When the “favor of God” is connected to materialism, then kingdom morality has left the scene.”

My personal take away from that session was, Preachers that promote and proclaim popular clichés and ear tingling messages without a moral foundation that is rooted in the scripture make the messenger not only irrelevant but also an accomplice to premeditated sin.

The heart of the Black church has always called for justice based on the needs of marginalized. When you are a part of the marginalized community it is easy to call for justice but when you are a part of the privileged it is difficult to identify the injustices. The reality is that WEB Dubois was right, the more privilege you have the more responsibility we have to engage social systems and inequities for the least, lost and left out.

I was shocked this month as I was traveled through several major cities on vacation and saw several churches that were closed, converted to restaurants, made into theaters and day care facilities.  What was even more shocking is that several were UMC with the marquee still in front of the building.

Hot Metal Bridge’s video is evidence that we should not abandon being the people of God in that community but we must find alternative places to be faithful.  I am also convinced that we need to faith communities for new people.  Our established congregations have lost the DNA of being externally focused.

This week I spent an evening with some wonderful, gifted, anointed young adult clergy who inspired me greatly. I was blessed to listen to them talking about their hopes and dreams for the church. They described some good times and some challenges but overall I heard their hearts about how God was speaking to each of them about their ministry, goals to engage transformative ministry and to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

As I listened to them and reflected on the stories that I have also heard over the years from established pastors I had a simple take away. We are not called to work toward being comfortable but we are called to be faithful. The energy, creativity, and enthusiasm that the young adult clergy live with should be our unending goal in ministry. It is easy to get side tracked and become complacent. I have heard statements like:

  • “I retire in a couple of years and I really should not start anything new.”
  • “As pastor my job is to keep everyone moving in the same direction and requiring the leadership to come to bible study or participate in a small group may cause conflict”
  • “We do not need a new worship service to reach new people because our church is a family and we are comfortable with knowing everyone.”
  • “There is no conflict here so if we pay our apportionments, file our reports on time and I show up at the appropriate meetings I will not be reappointed.”

I now view each of these statements as excuses for not engaging the call of ministry as vigorously as the work of being a pastor. As a pastor I am honoring an office that is a result of my calling. My calling is to live a life fully committed to teaching, preaching, the sacraments, service and the ordering of the ministry within the church. There is no retirement date, no promises that there will or won’t be any conflict and it is not about having a comfortable church family. It is about reaching men, women, boys and girls with the Good News that Jesus Christ is the risen son of God and our Savior. We are the people of God who share God’s grace as a lifestyle not a function of our office. We should be eager about encountering those outside of the church and challenging people to deeper spiritual maturity and greater awareness of self care boundaries.

Thursday evening was a reminder to focus on the call not the office. Because of the call I can endure the challenges of multiple priorities. Because of my call I set standards for leadership to be spiritual leaders and not just office holders. Because of my calling I can spend and hour in prayer and study, organize the staff, have lunch with leaders, have snacks with the youth afterschool, sip tea with my seniors and pray with the church council in one day. The calling is from God and God gives me the energy, strength and ability to fulfill all that I am called to do. The incredible group of young adult clergy encouraged me and challenged me. I am humbled and honored to be able to serve them and their congregations.

During our vacation this year we drove Niagara in an effort to be economical. It was fun and provided a lot of experiences that are missed as you fly to your vacation destination. As a general rule I usually do not eat at McDonald’s but this is my daughter’s restaurant of choice. My attitude quickly adjusted when I found out that each highway side McDonald’s has experienced a makeover. Bright new colors, open spaces to manage traffic, free WiFi, comfortable seats, restrooms were clean and the menu has changed. They now have several salad choices, smoothies, wraps and chicken choices which quickly got my attention. Traveling as a child I never remember McDonald’s being like this. I decided to ask the manager of one store what prompted all of the stores getting a makeover. He shared with me that the objective was to become more appealing to this generation without compromising their core business of providing a meal for a family at a reasonable price. Their competition was no longer other fast food restaurants but Panera, Starbuck’s, Dunken Donuts, Qdoba’s and other places that have done a great job of reaching the new and emerging culture.

I had these simple take- a- ways from our conversation and my observation.

  1. Churches that are in the process of revitalization need to make sure that their core ministry is making disciples and that this ministry is strong. The core ministry can have other ministries added to assist revitalization but if the core is not solid your efforts keep you spinning in circles. McDonald’s core of hamburgers and fries still drive their business but healthier food choices were necessary to reach more people and maintain market share. The food was freshly prepared to meet each order rather than being prepackaged.
  2. Churches that are in the process of revitalization should consider a makeover of their facilities. The signage, lighting, WiFi, new seats and design were created to give you a McDonald’s experience that moved beyond the food. What do visitors experience when they visit our congregations? The mood that was created in each restaurant was familiar to a coffee shop and several had greeters as you entered the main lobby area. Managers and team leaders had gone through hospitality training. The quality improvement was noticeable
  3. Churches in the process of revitalization need to be aware of the changing culture and your ability to connect with the culture. McDonald’s appears to have worked hard at being relevant in several areas. Near the racetrack the restaurant was themed on race cars. Near Niagara Falls the McD had a water theme including a mini fountain and fish in a pond. What ministry does your church offer that meets and connects with the needs of the people in the community where you reside?

Revitalization is not impossible but it does require the congregation to honestly evaluate their core ministry and become externally focused in how they do ministry.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Christine Kumar
ckumar@bwcumc.org
410-309-3422
The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church

Holds Conference to Teach High-Impact Worship

December 16, 2009—WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Prodigal Worship Conference will be held April 13, 2010, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Frederick, MD.  Prodigal Worship will give participants the tools to design, develop, create and deliver high-impact celebratory worship that connects God to people’s everyday lives.

The Prodigal Worship Conference will equip and empower pastors, worship leaders, worship design teams and participants in the ministry arts to increase their effectiveness as they connect people beyond their congregations to the grace of God in every worship experience and people whose everyday experience does not include fellowship in a community of faith.

Keynote speakers include: Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio; Len Wilson and Jason Moore of Midnight Oil Productions and Rev. Olu Brown of Impact Church Atlanta, Georgia.  For biography information on speakers and workshop leaders, visit www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship.

Workshop topics include: Powerful Transformation Worship: The Pastor’s Role; High Impact Worship in an Urban City; Integrating Multi-Media in Worship; The Art and Science of Story; Creating Sacred Spaces; Multi-Cultural Worship; Including Children in Worship; Celebrating Global Music and Arts and What’s Next Moving Forward.

To register and learn more, visit www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship.

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The Baltimore-Washington Conference comprises more than 180,000 members in nearly 700 United Methodist churches in Maryland, Washington, D.C., the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and Bermuda. The United Methodist church is global – comprising 68 conferences, or regions, around the world, totaling 11 million members.

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