Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tipping Point— More Ruminations at School of Congregational Development


Yesterday I attended worship at First UMC, Chula Vista, CA. Following worship, we learned about the church, their history and the ministry.

First impression was their welcome. Greeters met us outside the sanctuary, inside the vestibule, at the door. They were there to answer questions, direct us to important places like the sanctuary and rest rooms. Printed information was everywhere. Their men’s ministry even had a poster in the men’s bathroom. (I don’t know what was in the women’s restroom.) Many of the regular worshipers went out of their way to welcome us as well.

Worship was celebratory and upbeat. The hymns, some traditional and some more contemporary, we sung at a tempo quicker than I was accustomed. It contributed to the feeling of life and vitality. (Just a thought to us at home.)

In the afternoon, I learned about their history. About 12 years ago, the congregation reached a crossroads. They were in a slow & steady decline. The neighborhood around their location had changed dramatically. They had few children or youth present. (Does any of this sound familiar?)

The congregation began visioning for the future. A realtor reminded them of the significant equity they had in their property. On the east side of town significant growth was projected. After a process that was less than perfect, but well intentioned they came to a time of vote to stay or not. The vote to move passed by 2 votes! They decided to move forward with the move and when they did, a third of the congregation stayed behind.

Now, I would not move forward on such a critical decision with such a close vote. I would have required a much larger majority. In talking with the folks from the church, it was not clear they believed they could have reached consensus in a short period of time. It is clear if they had waited till now, their congregation would have lost the chance to move to their present location because of the cost of land.

I think about how slow we in the church make decisions. Sometimes I fear we use our indecisiveness as a way to maintain the status quo. What opportunities have your congregation missed to be in ministry because they waited too long?

There has to be ways for congregations to make quicker decisions, while allowing time to discern and build consensus. Do you have ideas about this? How has it worked in your experience?

Ultimately, it is about taking risks. And our fear of risks taking is a reflection on our faith. Do we believe all things are possible with God? Do we believe God is faith, whether we succeed or fail?

I do not have any simple answers. But just wanted to share my ruminations.

What do you think?

Grace & peace,


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ruminations from San Diego

Ruminations from the School of Congregational Development

Friday, August 4, 2006

I’m currently attending the School of Congregational Development of the United Methodist Church in San Diego, California. This 6 day gathering of over 600 United Methodists features speakers and workshops designed to help revitalize churches. There is a special series of workshops for District Superintendents. I’m hoping to come back with new ideas to help me be more effective in my ministry with congregations and pastors I serve.

I have no intention to even try to summarize or capture all that is happening. Rather, here are some random thoughts and musings.

First, what good planning, to come to San Diego, where there are gentle breezes and balmy days, just as a serious wave of heat and humidity hit New England.

Last night, during supper we were entertained by Tongan dancers, demonstrating dance styles from many different South Pacific cultures. What a treat and a reminder of the broadness of the UMC. In fact, this entire event reminds me how much larger the United Methodist Church is than our little churches.

Today, in morning worship, we prayed in a way different to me. We sang a simple song, then during singing interludes let projected news clips call us to prayer. It was a powerful way to pray.

What are we so afraid of? Really, what are we so afraid in our churches that we will not take risks, risks to minister in new ways, to try new styles of worship, to try something different. We are so timid. It causes me to pause. Dare I suggest for us all, me included, it is really an issue of faith. I am reminded that when faith is called for in the Bible, when messengers from God arrive on the seen, the message often begins; “Do not be afraid.”

Perhaps we need to hear that for ourselves; Do not be afraid.

From San Diego,


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Engagement Announced -Life Changes

Blog 8-3-06

My oldest son, Ben, announced his engagement to his long time best friend, Melissa, last weekend. Jan and I are very excited. Melissa is a wonderful woman. We’ve come to know her over the last few years and welcome her into our family. Their plans call for an August 2007 wedding.

Ben & Melissa’s announcement has given me pause about phases in life. Their impending wedding brings changes in our lives as well. Our time of active parenting is coming to an end with Ben. He is ready to step out an be an independent adult. We, while always parents, will serve in a more consulting/support role. Not that we haven’t functioned that way before now, but the emphasis is different.

Parenting has been for me an incredible challenge and a wonderful gift. As a parent I’ve helped shape two wonderful children into exceptional adults. (Hey, parents are not required to be unbiased!) In the process, Ben and Matt have helped shape me. They’ve helped me be more compassionate, open, joyful, disciplined, and humble. They showed me the wonder and mystery of our world, helped me heal from old childhood hurts, challenged my long held prejudices, and even taught me how to whistle. While parenting them I’ve seen my best side and my worst side. I’ve learned what is to be loved and forgiven even when I didn’t deserve it.

I’ve not been a perfect parent. None of us are. But I hope I’ve learned to be a good parent. I’ve also come to appreciated, even more fully, those who parent under difficult situations.

Parenting is not for everyone. That is not a judgmental statement, but just the way it is. Parenting is not intended to be a solitary occupation. Along the way, our parenting has been supported and supplemented by many caring adults; family members and church community members.

So while parenting is not for everyone, everyone can be a friend to a child and support for a for a frazzled parent. We all know a child who needs an adopted aunt or uncle. We know a teenager who needs someone who will offer a listening ear and unconditional acceptance. We know a parent who needs a break for a little while or a word of encouragement when things are going hard.

(If no one comes to mind for you, then I challenge you to begin looking in your neighborhood, in your church, at work, at school, wherever you spend time. They are out there.)

As I look back over this blog, I could have talked about the joys and challenges of marriage. Oh well, maybe another time.

Wishing God’s richest blessings on Ben and Melissa, and all who are entering married life together,