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.
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"If your church is not innovating, it is dying."

“Innovation is changing organizational systems to provide service or produce your product more effectively, efficiently or more profitably. When the organization is crystal clear about the new results that are expected, innovation thrives and eventually becomes a part of the DNA of the organization. The organization that constantly improves stretches, takes risks, and finds new ways of delivering excellence welcomes the changes that are involved with innovation.”

This was a journal entry during the time that I was in a class on creativity and organizational development.  I look at many of the mainline churches in America and realize that the concept of constant innovation is not embedded in their DNA.  Many of these congregations are declining and struggling to reach new people, grow disciples and maintain the active fellowship. They run programs and hold events but never address the systems in the church that produced the challenges that they are currently facing.

Designing intentional systems of faith sharing, stewardship, discipleship, and worship design are essential for a church to be relevant and vital in the 21st century.  Churches that are more concerned with having church in a way that appeases the wants and desires of church members rather than intentionally designing systems to reach the prodigal sons and daughters are voting to close their doors.

There are more prodigals outside the church than disciples who are in our churches.

I believe that there is a lack of understanding about what the Beloved Community is and how it should operate in the 21st Century. Who are the guardians of the dream or the transmitters of the vision? I believe that the Beloved Community is balanced between Chrisitan piety and social responsibility. The ultimate goal is justice for everyone.(Rawl’s Equality Principle) God’s call for us to be in relationship with God and people demands that we share this relationship that we expereince as love, grace and forgiveness so that everyone will expereince what we are/have expereinced. The Beloved Community embraced radical racial and class diversity, economic opportunity for all and justice for those who were oppressed. This is the core of the Beloved Community.

Is this a lost concept with middle/upper middle class Americans? Does the American middle class value working for justice and equality of all of God’s people or only those who are most like them? People who encountered the Beloved Community in the King framework were transformed. They believed that their individual happiness in life (Mill’s happiness Principle) was rooted in the community being whole and unified. (Dyke’s Community is greater than the individual principle) That is why there was a civil rights movement.

Proposition: The civil rights movement is dead. Now is the time for the Beloved Community to become a reality in the lives of Americans.

Thesis: The vision of a flourishing democratic society that President Obama has cast is embodied in the Beloved Community of Dr. King. Without the theological foundation of God’s grace that also seeks justice for all, the vision is incomplete.