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,


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