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Call to Action and #umclead: Why Cats and Cereal Will Save the UMC

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?

About the author: Rob is the co-founder and current co-pastor of City Square Church, a new and innovative United Methodist faith community in downtown Phoenix. In his years of experience in spiritual formation and creating active and engaged communities, Rob has become an expert at connection and networking. He now uses these experiences, along with technology and social media, to bring others together around creative ideas and events that aim to inspire innovation and bold leadership.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://eachpersonmatters.com Matt Kuzma

    Hi Rob – I took part in the twitter conversation and am not hopeful, not because of dashboards, but because the whole thing is so vague that it is impossible to answer. How can anyone answer the question “What is God’s vision for the UMC?” with a straight face?

    What is God’s vision for Starbucks? Easy. Sell coffee and make a profit doing it.
    What is God’s vision for the UMC? Run a bunch of churches poorly and gaze at our navels until the money runs out and/or the buildings fall down, apparently.

    In the meantime, if we can encourage higher attendance, mission participation and raise some money, at least we’re doing something that resembles transforming the world. That would be a start.

  • Pingback: thoughts on #umcleads | often conflicted, never complete()

  • Robin Andress

    At my site, every substantive suggestion was met with immediate defensiveness by our facilitator. The other suggestions were not much more helpful than cats and cereal. I expected more. I took the survey. I found it too general.

  • Amy Forbus

    My cynicism generator must be on the fritz. I’ve been mulling over your post, and I think maybe you’re knocking a little too hard on the cats. (This coming from a dog person!)
    Also, as I RTed over on Twitter, could it be a good thing that the panel hesitated when asked for God’s vision for the UMC? It’s a much heavier question than asking for our own vision.
    I pray we can all sort this out into something useful for the Kingdom.

    • robrynders

      One can never be too critical of Satan’s minions (cats)! Overall I saw yesterday’s summit as an extremely positive thing. Whether it was good or bad or whether or not the panel paused too long on important questions, there is a HUGE conversation going on within United Methodism. I don’t know if folks have ever been this passionate. I think it is also interesting that Twitter may indeed shape what ultimately happens with the CTA recommendations. Another thing I had to realize is that you can never underestimate the power of social media!

      • http://wordheart.wordpress.com Ron

        Rob – Thanks for the post. I’ll be watching the archive (is it really 3 hours? Is all of that helpful?) before commenting more, but thought I’d share something (paraphrased) I originally heard from Rob Bell:

        God created Adam and then gave him the responsibility, and beauty, of naming all of the world’s creatures. The first lumbered up, large and impressive, and Adam came up with the impressive name “hippopotamus.” Another amazing example of God’s creative work flew by, and Adam named it “eagle.” And so it went, for a very long time, as all of God’s creatures were named by Adam. However, being mortal, he tired. As he was tiring, God promised there were only a few left. Until finally, a small being that demonstrated God’s love and commitment came up, and Adam reversed God’s name to call it “dog.” After that, another creature came up, and Adam named it “cat.” To which God said, “Wait. I didn’t make that!”

  • http://www.iantclark.com Ian

    I would argue – quite passionately – that whether it’s none denominational churches or UMC, we are all on the same team.

    • robrynders

      Overall I would agree and I hope that one day mainline denominations and non-denoms will learn more from one another and collaborate more. For the moment, however, UM’s aren’t even playing together on their “own” team. I guess I am saying is that we have to get our family straightened out before we can have the church family picnic in the park.

      • http://www.iantclark.com Ian

        I think my “none” denom type-o was a Freudian slip.