Pastors, are you looking to grow your church? Do you want a vital congregation? The solution to your dwindling ministry is twofold: 1) throw some cereal on the ground during your sermon, then eat it off the floor. 2) Get more cats in worship. These were lifted up as examples of traits of vital congregations in a video shown during today’s UMC Leadership Summit, which was live-streamed (archived here) around the world (and don’t get me wrong, Kevin Kloster is a phenomenal preacher, but I still dislike cats).
Seriously, though, this was the first time people had a chance to hear from our denominational leaders about how they were going to implement the Call to Action report. Unfortunately, if you were hoping for some good answers to some tough questions, you may have to wait a little longer.
Here are some of my thoughts, reactions, suggestions, and questions I have:
- There was an amazing amount of conversation on Twitter around the live stream. So much so that #umclead was actually trending and a number of spammers got into the conversation, hoping we might click on their “free iPad” or “Miley Cyrus” links. Anyway, I hope that the leadership team is able to go back and read all of the tweets. A lot of them were funny, but overall they give an honest assessment of how people feel about the CTA and what questions and concerns they have moving forward.
- The focus right up front was on statistics and the new buzzword, “dashboards.” The idea is that we need to increase our efforts in collecting statistical information about our weekly worship attendance and membership and make that information public (I assume for accountability’s sake). If we think that these dashboards will solve our problems then I am terrified for the future of the UMC. They can be used in helpful ways or they can be used to shame pastors into padding their numbers. I hope we use them as tools and for insight, not as motivators.
- Every one of my colleagues are working overtime and are honestly trying to grow their congregations but sometimes hard work is not enough. How is the denomination going to train and resource leaders to create vital congregations? Will more difficult mission fields be resourced, trained and evaluated differently (i.e. The Western Jurisdiction)? Bishop Palmer did answer that there is a team that is focusing on how this will get done. I hope pastors will only be evaluated by dashboards after they have received the best training and resources.
- I agree there is a disconnect between churches, conferences, and the general church and everything in-between. Can we be more collaborative than competitive? We need to take advantage of the fact that we are a denomination and we are connectional. This is a distinct advantage we have over non-denominational churches. We are all on the same team. Can we please start acting like it?
- I also appreciated that this was the beginning of the conversation, that all of the questions sent in will be addressed in some way, and that Bishop Palmer encouraged us to keep the conversation going. If you still want to offer feedback, there is a survey that you can participate in.
- The most important question asked today came from The Congo: “What is God’s vision for the UMC?” If we can’t answer that immediately and in detail when asked, then no commission or study will keep the UMC from dying.
So far, I have overwhelmingly heard cynical and sarcastic remarks regarding how the CTA will be implemented (guilty!). My hope and prayer is that the leadership team will honestly listen to all of the concerns and criticisms and truly use this conversation to help the UMC make committed, compassionate, and effective disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. There is a huge difference between discipleship and attendance/membership. I pray that we can discern that difference and then focus on measuring the right one.
What did you think about the Leadership Summit live stream? Were your questions answered? What questions do you still have? What concerns you? What makes you hopeful for the future of the UMC?