There are many struggling churches in mainline denominations that aspire to Make disciples for Christ, Serve the Community and Impact the World. Often they struggle with limited finances, limited energy and few people. Efforts to reach more people and share the life changing message of Jesus Christ seem futile and the few ideas that do work seem to never provide the traction necessary to change the direction of the congregations decline.    I believe that there is something to learn from relevant success stories of congregations that have already gone through the process of revitalizing and restoring their mission. The role of the transformative, revitalizing pastor is to help the congregation discover the best practices to achieving the long term mission and vision. . As a pastoral and leadership coach here are some suggestions to accelerate the learning curve:

  1. Find multiple examples of congregations with similar demographics and a similar ministry context that have coped with equivalent challenges successfully. Learn from their mistakes, experiences and successes
  2. Find congregations that model excellence in the ministry areas that you desire to grow in even if the resources are outside of your denomination in a congregation that has no ministry context similarities.  Learn what the best practices are and let them become the standards that your strive for as you revision the ministry.
  3. Develop a step by step logic model of the reasons for the best practices and the success of the turnaround churches. Look for features that they share in common.
  4. Present these shared “success factors” as precepts, guidelines, and principles that can be implemented by all those who wish to achieve similar levels of success.
  5. Document your journey by video, journaling, pictures and recordings.
  6. Celebrate mini successes along the journey and review the ultimate goal and objectives often

I work with a lot of churches that are in the process of intentional revitalization.  This is often a strenuous exercise and commitment on the congregation that they have chosen to engage to become a vital congregation.  One of the core success principles is “connect with your ministry community”.

There are some churches that are experiencing success in reconnecting to the community, energizing spiritual formation, developing new styles of worship and infusing a new sense of purpose within the congregation.  This is exciting to see as pastors and congregations do a community asset map, congregational asset map, analyze Mission Insite demographics and engage in focus groups in the community.

I am also noticing another trend.  There are congregations who are working on revitalization but experiencing little success, in fact many of these congregations are stagnant or still in decline.  I have conducted and just completed a non scientific analysis and I have concluded that they have more administrative meetings than they have ministry gatherings.

The administrative tasks of committees are important to ordering the life of the church but ministry takes place in the small groups, community fellowships, serving the needs of those who live in our communities, worship, and sharing the Gospel with those who are far from God.  I fear that too many UMC pastors are well equipped as administrative managers but not transformative congregational leaders.  Administrative management is safe because we know what to expect but transformative ministry is sometimes messy and there are no road maps.

To accomplish the goals of the Call to Action and to revitalize congregations,  pastors must shift from a task management style of leadership to a visionary, transformative style of leadership.

  • Identify and attend leadership training opportunities
  • Streamline your administrative tasks.  Eliminate any unnecessary meetings
  • Reduce the number of people who are on the church council
  • Increase the number of leaders who participate in small groups
  • Ask the question, “how is this gathering going to move our congregation closer to achieving our mission and vision?”  (Non life transforming meetings are not a good use of a disciple’s time)
These are just a few things that I am watching revitalizing congregations do that are working.

Everythign Must Chnage

This morning my friend Bill Tenny – Brittian wrote an article The High Cost of Transformation.  I agree with most of the article.  Many pastors who start transformation are not there to finish the process.  Bill answered the question of why transformation is so difficult and the costs that it often has on the pastor. I immediately began to work on a possible solution of how to complete the process with integrity without sacrificing the pastor who initiates the transformation. 

 

Here is my response.  I invite others to share their persepctives. In order for a pastor to initiate, sustain and complete the process of transformation there needs to be a transfusion of leadership.  This happens in two stages.  One there must be a challenge to the current leaders to increase their spiritual maturity. (I am using Fowlers Stages of Faith as the standard.) And there must be an infusion of new leaders.  Through evangelism outside of the church and searching for hidden leadership potential within the congregation the transformation pastor will need to infuse the new leaders within the established leadership structure and move quickly to establish the right people in the right ministry positions who all have the committed to growing in their spiritual maturity.

 

WARNING – This approach will be incredibly intimidating to the established old guard.  The pastor’s commitment is no longer to maintain the status quo and yield to the long time official and unofficial influencers but intentionally changing the leadership personnel so that there will be eventually be a spiritual revival throughout the entire congregation.  The people who are not committed to spiritual formation will be those who fight back the most. For this reason the most important spiritual discipline and the focus of the first small group needs to be prayer and spiritual warfare. 

 

Transformation is difficult but not impossible

I have been approached by several people who are concerned about the church taking on characteristics of the popular culture. This concerns me because a congregation that is not in touch with the culture and the times are missing some pretty significant opportunities to introduce people who do not have an experience with God to the One who transforms lives through grace.

 

As disciple making pastors we are challenged to help people with a secular worldview see the world through the eyes of God.  Taking the events of history, events of today and the prospects of the future and walking future believers through the process of experiencing spiritual disciplines, teaching them how to engage the scriptures and how to embrace the people that they meet on a daily basis as God’s people who can be transformed because God loves them and wants to be in a vital, interactive relationship with them if they are willing to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. 

 

When a church is out of touch with the culture they are focused on membership through worship rituals rather than worship that introduces people to the presence of God. 

 

When a church is out of touch with the culture they are focused on committees that report the past rather than ministry teams that are focused on how to fulfill the mission, accomplish the vision and maintain integrity in the scriptural values that guide our faith.

 

When a church is out of touch with the culture they can not respond to the current events of the times.  They are unable to recognize the deep impact of the financial crisis stress.   The church misses the wave of people searching for significance because the jobs that gave them a sense of significance are now gone.  Churches out of touch are not able to respond to the rising suicide rate among the society, and the increasing oppressive conditions that the poor in the projects, trailer parks and working poor are enduring.

 

When a church is out of touch they are unable to respond to the growing diversity of the nation and the globalization of the world’s social economy, financial economy and global cultural influence.

 

When a church is out of touch they are unaware of the growing numbers of families that have invited their grandparents to live with them because they do not have the finances to afford a retirement facility.  They are unaware of the vast numbers of people who are struggling with hidden addictions and wear the masks of “I’m ok with the world so don’t bother me right now.”

 

Disciple making churches can not afford to be out of touch with the culture and be effective in connecting people to the risen Christ.  Disciple making churches engage their congregation and also move beyond the church walls to provide ministry to people who have needs in their community. 

 

The challenge is to make disciple making central to the life of the church rather than another program or a side show to the “real ministry that we have always done.”  I enjoy coaching and consulting but I realize that churches that are beginning to adopt disciple making as their central ministry must transform the structure and the culture of the church to be effective. 

By Susan Passi-Klaus*
Oct. 2, 2008 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

What if church wasn’t just a place where people spend an hour on Sundays? What if there wasn’t just one door into the church but 10,000?

And what if we began thinking about “church” as a verb instead of a noun?

The United Methodist Church is going to pose those questions and others when it rolls out a new media campaign in 2009 aimed at getting people to “Rethink Church.” The awareness campaign’s launch will coincide with World Malaria Day, April 25.

“In the next few years, we will seek to encourage a global spiritual dialogue,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications. “It will ask us to rethink church. We will ask, ‘What if church were a verb and not a noun?’”

Hollon and his staff presented the “Rethink Church” awareness campaign to the agency’s commission during a Sept. 25-27 meeting in Nashville. The Commission on Communication oversees United Methodist Communications, which is directing the campaign.

“What we’re going to try and get across is the idea that ‘church’ doesn’t just happen on Sundays, and ‘church’ isn’t just a building,” said Kerry Graham, president of Nashville-based Bohan Advertising/Marketing, which developed the “Rethink Church” campaign.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

This challenges self serving mission statements that some churches have adopted. The question is are we building communities of faith to transform the world or are we building social religious institutions? If we are building communities of faith we have to learn that it is a place of dwelling not visitation.

The Organic Conversations
The Organic Movement is a kissing cousin to the Incarnational movement and a distant cousin to the Emergent movement. Like the other two it doesn’t see as much of a need for the institutional church has had traditional Christianity. But unlike the Emergent movement it is more literal in its interpretation of Scripture and truth. Neil Cole has long been one of the leading voices for the organic church. In his view the house church is the primary form of church. I have no problem with this view because Cole doesn’t dismiss the institutional church. In fact, one of my partners, Bill Tenny-Brittian, has extensive roots in the house church movement. I see it as a kissing cousin to small groups that multiply.  However, a new voice on the scene is Frank Viola and his book (with Barna), Pagan Christianity. This book stands in direct opposition to the Emergent folks because it takes a more literal approach to the Scripture. His book documents the problems with the institutional church that functions more like a business than the living organism it was created to be. Pagan Christianity is not only a logical sequence to Barna’s recent book, Revolution, it also is an interesting and accurate account of the historic events that have shaped today’s counterfeit form of Christianity.  

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE CONVERSATION

 

THis is an excellent article by Bill Easum.  His observations and challenges are valid to the Organic Movement.    I am evaluating the emerging movement, organic movement and house church movement.  I would like to share some conversation about the three especially for those involved in urban ministry.

Is There Room At The Table is an article that articulates my frustrations and I want to develop a framework to discuss the hopes of an urban ministry paradigm that extends beyond the tokenism to the multicultural, gobal neighborhoods where we do ministry.