Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Will We Get It?

Will We Get It?

This weekend United Methodist Cabinets will be gathered at Lake Junaluska, NC for a meeting titled: The United Methodist Way: A Convocation of Extended Cabinets. As I understand it the reason we are meeting is “To strengthen our diverse congregations through connectional leadership and to learn to adapt conference leadership roles to the 21st century.” (Here is a link to the resources we’ve used to prepare for the meeting;

I am interested to listen and learn from my colleagues from other conferences. How do they view the present situation of the UMC? What changes do they see necessary for the future of the church? What innovative ideas and approaches will be generated by this gathering? Ultimately will it make any difference.

During these two years of superintending I’ve spent a lot of time reading and listening to present day thinkers about best management practices, new ways to approach our changing situations, leadership, ministry etc. Out of this has come a growing conviction that change is not only necessary but possible.

Here are some of my thoughts about the needs and future directions of the UMC. They carry no official weight. They are not policy or polity. They are not even complete developed ideas. I reserve the right to change them at any time, as new information arises. So with all those disclaimers let me share:

  1. Everything begins at the local church level. Any significant change will happen one congregation at a time. Ministry and mission begins between two people in relationship with each other. So the appropriate focus for change is the local church.

  1. It is time to reconsider guaranteed appointments. I surprise myself with this idea. Guaranteed appointments have opened doors for persons who might have been pushed aside in ministry. I know this to be true for women in ministry. But the guarantee of employment has taken the drive out of some of our pastoral leaders. Once in the club (ordination and full membership) then the incentive to continue to learn, grow, adapt and change is diminished. Few pastors were trained to provide the type of innovative leadership churches need today. Almost all pastors need to be retrained and retooled. Guaranteed appointments is a disincentive to do this hard work.

I believe it is time for a change. For persons unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes to become effective pastors we need to offer a graceful way to help them discover new ways to live out their discipleship outside of pastoral leadership.

  1. I grieve our failure to continue nurturing our church members in their discipleship. We seem to believe that once confirmed or out of high school the work of disciple building is over. The result is a lot of church folk with arrested development as followers of Jesus. Disciple building is a life long process. It never ends. Remember we are the folks who believe that we are “going on to Christian perfection!”

I’ll share my rant about how we treat youth in the church in another blog, but let me just say, it is another area that needs significant change.

  1. We have to find ways to streamline the administration of the church at all levels so it can be nimble and able to respond rapidly to changing needs as well as new opportunities. This includes finding new ways to use information technology to share information and to reduce time spent on paper work.
  1. I would love to see the work of the district superintendent move away from a focus on administrative paperwork /report gathering and responding to complaints. I’d like to see more time and focus on assisting churches who want to grow and change.

Well, I invite you to comment, to add to the list.

I will try to blog next week about the gathering. Please keep the meeting and the extended cabinet in your prayers.

Grace & peace,



Pastor Mike Gray said...

Some great ideas. I pray that the other participants are as bold as you. Challenging the status quo, even when it is the church (maybe especially when it is the church) is a difficult thing to do. But, it has to be done. Jesus was bold in his ideas and actions, too.

I agree, the local church needs to be the focus as the agent of change. But I am constantly reminding my congregation (and likewise myself) that the true change needs to be geared toward the community around the church.

As for guaranteed appointments, I am still struggling with this one. As a part-time pastor and full-time secular employee, I'm still not sure what a professional clergy looks like in the future. If we don't guarantee appointments, then how do we encourage our pastors to get the education (i.e. seminary degrees) that they will need. Of course, our entire idea of seminary needs to change, too.

I also couldn't agree more on the idea of lifelong discipling. Some of the best and richest conversations I have had in OOB are with those folks of the gray-haired variety. (Wait until I share what has been happening in our stewardship campaign this year...)

And when I hear you talk about cutting back on administration so that folks in your position can spend more time helping congregations grow, it is music to my ears. You have always been a huge support for my (somewhat crazy) ideas over the past couple of years.

If you want some more ideas about what really needs to change, read Brian McLaren's newest book, "Everything Must Change". I was reading it while I was also reading the Paul Nixon book "I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church". I hope this bishop is ready for what he is unleashing...

Allen Ewing-Merrill said...

Amen! Good stuff! Thanks for putting yourself out there with these thoughts. I'm right there with you!