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.

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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.

Congregational Transformation has at least three pillars. It must be Spiritual, Systematic and Sensitive.

Spiritual transformation deals with our individual and shared community life. Personal spiritual transformation requires reaffirmation, recommitment and reclaiming your:

  • salvation through grace–
      • Romans 51 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
  • commitment to live your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ
    • Prayer Time – Time to talk and listen to God
    • Bible Study – Learning how to live as a follower of Christ as you participate in Living in Faith Everyday small group studies
    • Worship Celebrating God’s goodness in our lives
    • Service – Providing the needs of those in need
    • Sharing – Sharing your faith journey with pre Christians
    • Fellowshipping with other believers

Faith community transformation includes

  • Celebration of God’s Goodness in Worship
  • Community prayer times

Systematic transformation means that every ministry team and committee in the church is engaged in the process. The transformation includes the front office and how we provide administration. The transformation includes the worship ministry team and how they approach designing worship services around the ministry themes. Systematic transformation includes the choir and the types of music that will be sung. The trustees are being transformed as they make decisions that will ensure that our facilities are safe and prepared to house the ministries that are in existence and those that are in development. The church council will be experiencing transformation as they will be challenged to make decisions based on the churches mission, vision and values. Systematic transformation takes time, a lot of time. It will take 3-5 years for us to begin to see significant change. Staying the course will not be easy and true transformation is not a linear process. We may experience quick results in some areas and slower results in others with no predictive indicators about which one we will experience.

Sensitive transformation means that the leaders are sensitive to how the pace of change is affecting our lives together. Some people can absorb weekly changes to everything from the bulletin to the styles of music being chosen. These people usually like variety and diversity and would easily be bored with everything being the same all of the time. This segment of the population is small in comparison to the group of people who seek to experience stability in their congregational life. Nuances of change bring great anxiety because, “We’ve always done it this way”, “ We have been told that this is the right way, “ or “Why should anything change, we have done it this way successfully for 40 years.” These values that members share must be embraced as change takes place. Sensitive transformation acknowledges the fact that the church has developed a culture over many years. There needs to be several places for sacred listening so that the concerns of the congregants can be expressed without negative evaluations, unnecessary critique and personal attacks. There needs to be training and education that provides logical transitions from the established paradigms of church into the new paradigms.

Transformation is never easy but the rough edges can be smoothed out if the leaders share the plan that God has given you, assist the leaders to embrace the plan, communicate the plan constantly and if we care more about the people than the transformation.