Monday, March 22, 2010


After spending a chunk of time last night and this morning reading reactions to the Health Care Reform passed by the House last night, all I want to do is pray.

Pray that responses to what has become a decisive issue will not replace the Spirit of Christ all Christians are to exhibit.

Pray that individuals who will be helped by the reform are not forgotten.

Pray that all of us (left, right, middle, or whatever) will remember that the body is just one part of holistic health and that there is still so much brokenness in our world.

Pray that whatever may come that I will continue to seek out how Christ would have me respond.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Review: Multi-Site Church Road Trip

First, let me say that this book has very good information contained in it.  It truly gives the reader a picture of the various types of multi-site churches and also gives a picture of the different ways that multi-site churches can come into being and exist.

I want to list the things that I really liked first:

(1)  Application to my own context:  Anyone who is looking at multi-site or multi-venue worship/churches will find this book informative.  I particularly found Chapter 11:  Merger Campuses-No Longer a Bad Idea as it gave me some great information and insight into mergers which my church is currently in the process of.

(2)  The ending of the chapters usually has a section where the authors ask poignant questions that cause the reader to reflect on their own situation and how that chapter might apply to their life as a church and where God may be calling them.

(3)  The book is 100% a great reference and connectional point to give you information on churches that are multi-site and where they are located.  Whatever your church situation may be you will be able to find someone who has probably been in a similar situation as a church or has gone the direction you are hoping and this book will help you find that church and give you the information to connect directly with the source.

(4)  There were little sections in the book that really helped like page 150-151 with a section called "What Makes a Great Campus Pastor?"  These sections (highlighted within different chapters) contained great information that would give practical information to leaders of churches looking at possibly moving into a multi-site existence and what they might need to look for.

Now on to some things that I feel could have made the book better:

(1)  While the authors intend for the (meant to be funny) statements and pseudo-conversation with the reader about food to be a binding part of the story, I personally found them to be annoying and distracting and really they didn't serve any purpose (outside of being "cutesy")

(2)  The "road trip" actually didn't always give the reader an in-depth look at the church listed as the intro  church and focus of the chapter.  This I found extremely annoying because the church highlighted with information in the intro to each chapter was sometimes only used as a brief jumping off point to talk about a certain type of multi-site church.  For example Chapter 7: Fun with Technology highlights North Coast Church (Vista, California) as the church "visit," but in reality most of the chapter focuses on (Oklahoma).  The chapter was informative but the structure is very misleading as North Coast Church didn't play a prominent role in the chapter really at all.

(3)  That brings me to my third point.  I haven't read the authors first book The Multi-Site Revolution and this may play a part in my take, but this book seems like it would have been better if it had focused more in depth on 3 or 4 churches.  Practically speaking, played a role in a majority of the chapter and really was the main focus of 3 or 4 chapters, which is fine but I personally would have felt the book would have been better if it had just intentionally focused on for 1/3 or 1/4 of the book.  (just my own tastes in terms of structure and alignment)

In the end this book is a very good informational book for anyone who might be looking at multi-site (or multi-venue) existence.  It may not flow and focus like some of the books I am used to, but the information contained in the chapters makes up for that and makes it a worthwhile read (if only to really have a compact resource of connections so one could learn from others).

UCM Mission Trip Work: Day 3 & 4

So on Day 3 we worked at the old thrift store of Durham Rescue Mission for an hour (I forgot to take pictures) and then headed to the beach so the girls could see and enjoy the ocean and beach.

Day 4 we worked with the Women's Center of Durham Rescue Mission (specifically their health center and dental clinic).  Tomorrow and Friday there is a Dental outreach event happening in Durham and so we helped with the set up by getting some soda donated by Pepsi and then filling coolers with ice and soda for volunteers over the two days.

Then after that was finished we headed over to the Samaritan Inn (the women's and children's center of Durham Rescue Mission) to help at the Health Center and Dental Clinic.  We started with various odd jobs like sweeping, mopping, and clean up.  Then Dolly and Laney did some database control while Sally and I designed and went and purchased materials for a nametag holding board.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

UCM Mission Trip Work: Day 2

Today, we worked at the main campus of the Durham Rescue Mission.  We did various odd jobs, starting off by helping out the food house by sorting and stocking some canned goods and cereals.  Then after lunch we did some dishes and then sorted tangled hangers for the clothes house.

Tomorrow we will be working a half-day and we will be at the other thrift store for Durham Rescue Mission.

Monday, March 8, 2010

UCM Mission Trip Work: Day 1

We began today by getting a tour of the Durham Rescue Mission and learning about its history and philosophy.  It was a very informative time and the girls listed it as the highlight of their day.

For work today we went to help at one of their Thrift Stores.  We moved furniture, arranged clothing racks, sorted and priced goods, etc.  Below are some pics from the day.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Review Coming Later This Week

I know I said I was going to have a book review up today, but I am on a mission trip and won't be able to get the review up until sometime between Wednesday and Thursday.

In the meantime here is a video to watch from Zondervan that explains the book a bit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Intentional Renewal: Focus 5

(5) Move beyond the "church building" model

Why does church have to entail a "building" for "church?"  Last week when I wrote this focus in the preview, I was asking why we couldn't be church in houses, businesses, etc. (or a church building as we have done traditionally if it fits the mission)

Then on Tuesday, I gan an email pointing me to this.  Yep, a coffee-house church started as a coffee-house not the other way around (and I would argue there is a huge difference).  Really, this sums up some of the possibilities and shows that others are thinking outside of the boxes.

It actually looks like it would fit pretty much into many of the focus I put in my strategy (although mine probably goes a bit more radical in salary of clergy, etc.).  I would actually use this as the employment hub of the clergy and others and any other events and gatherings would just be added bonus.

I am not saying we have to get rid of churches, but why do we have to move that way?  Couldn't a network of house gatherings connected be the same thing?  Would this lead to better stewardship of our offerings by the church as a system?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Intentional Renewal: Focus 4

(4) Reorganize how we provide health insurance

In the preview post last week, I explained how health insurance is a huge cost to the church.  For instance, yesterday I shared how it cost my local church, the annual conference, and myself a total of $17,940 in premiums alone (that doesn't include the cost of co-pays, medication, etc. coming out of my pocket).

Now we had a child last year and if we wouldn't have had insurance our out of pocket for medical and prescriptions would have been $10,000 less.  Now we know that insurance is there in the case of major medical procedures which can't be predicted and we know that we join insurance groups so that healthy people can cover for those who have major issues that come up.  But what would happen if looked at things differently?

This is from the FAQs section of The Simple Way (new monastic community Shane Claiborne is a part of):
What do you all do about health care?We are challenged by our vision and Gospel mandate to “love our neighbors as ourselves”, especially when millions of people in the US don’t have adequate healthcare (48 million to be exact), one of them was a five-year-old on our block that died of asthma a few years back. And while we are grateful for the tireless labor of folks working toward health care for all, we are not willing to wait for the government to do what the Church is meant to BE. We are excited by the creative initiatives to create structures of mutual care, ways of bearing each others burdens like the early Church…. One of those is called Christian Healthcare Ministries. Each month folks contribute money to a common fund of which over 90% goes directly to meet needs. Members receive newsletters that tell who is in the hospital and how to be praying for one another. CHM now has over 20,000 members who have collectively paid over 400 million dollars in medical bills over the past 20 years. Check them out: And this is not an ad for CHM, but more for the idea of CHM and so many others… see it as an invitation to join a Christian medical collective that is already out there, or to start one… 48 million folks are waiting.
What they use is just one example, but what if we as United Methodists created a collective that extended not just to "clergy" but to laity also?  Part of the "benefits" of our clergy could be reduced monthly cost compared to the larger collective participant.

For instance in Christian Healthcare Ministries the Gold package is $150 per participant (family would only have to pay for 3 participants max), Silver package is $85 per, and Bronze is $45 per.  So say clergy get 50% off the level they would select.  That's it.

I know this would be very complicated to set up (more complicated then I want to delve into), but doesn't this seem like something that could be extremely valuable for a focus of one of our General Boards as a possibility?

Agree? Disagree? Other ideas on health insurance?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Intentional Renewal: Focus 3

(3) Rethink how clergy are supported and support themselves

I wrote in the preview post posing the situation where our clergy would graduate from seminary debt free and then would be placed in communities with only certain things paid for by the conference.

So before we begin lets take a look at my pastoral compensation here in Minnesota (we have a step-program where there is the entrance minimum and the salary increases $450 for each year of service...I am on step 3):

Salary = $34,321
Housing Allowance/Utilities = $13,200 (Rent, Phone, Utilities)
Pension = $7794
Health Insurance = $17940 (80% church, 10% AC, 10% pastor)
Mileage = $2000
Professional Expenses = $1000
Continuing Ed = $1392

Total Cost to Local Church = $74,059 (not including the $3588 the AC and Pastor pay for insurance)

The first church I was placed at had a parsonage so the housing/utilities section was about $7,200 less, and the overall budget was $142,000 (usually ended up spending $126,000) with 90% designated to operating expenses, building, and pastor........leaving 10% for educational material, programming, and mission.  Seems excessive to me and personally (note that this is a personal opinion) it doesn't seem to bring about a good stewardship of the gifts God has given us (yes, I struggle daily with the cost of my servanthood to the church....).

So what if we placed pastors in communities and provided just housing, utilities, continuing ed, and put money in their pension (health insurance will be covered tomorrow).  For example we will just use my package as an example (this will obviously vary slightly based on geographical location) to see how much the yearly cost would be:

$13,200 (Housing and Utilities- Includes everything including cell phone & internet) *Assumes no parsonage--parsonage would allow savings of roughly $8200*
$7794 (pension)
$1392 (continuing ed--unused continuing ed would be banked for future use)

Currently = $74,059
New Proposal = $22,386 *or $14,186 (if parsonage owned and paid off)

Now, of course some might be asking how people are going to pay for food, gas, clothes, car, etc.  My proposal was lets place clergy in a community and have them get a job (part-time should do).  Here are my estimates (dont' have the exact on me right now) of our costs per month

Food = $600
Transportation = $650 (300=gas; 171=car payment; 90 = insurance; 89 = maintenance and repairs budget)

That would be $1250 plus say another $150 (to cover clothes, diapers, other expenses) making that $1400 per month.  Now there are all kinds of factors that could play into things like spouse, etc.  My wife makes about $1000-$1400 a month in a job that allows us to not pay daycare, but then we pay for Micah to go to pre-school (a choice not a necessity) at $450/month (all day every day).  So most months what Stacy makes would cover our expenses and whatever I would work under the system would be above and beyond this (which could account for those unpredictable things, offering, saving for kids education, house purchase in retirement, helping others, toys for kids, etc, Stacy's student loans) ***all of this would be assuming being debt-free***

Assuming I made minimum wage (either $6.15/hr or $7.25/hr depending on company and requirement by state of MN *this will vary depending on state) and worked 20 hrs/week:

$6.15 (or $7.25) X 20 hours X 52 weeks = $6396-$7540/yr = $533-$628/mo

Obviously, hard choices would have to be made about preschool, etc. (and this is assuming that there is a spouse who is emphasis would be on contextual understanding of family dynamics that determine some of the compensation...for instance if Stacy worked full time as a teacher she would bring home about $2000 net per month but then we would have daycare costs making it about even with what is listed as our current situation)

But in our current situation we could totally do it, and if I had known this was what it was going to be like in going into the ministry then that obviously also would effect how I prepared for the life, etc.

Would it be hard?  Yes, but I really think it would align us with some of that whole John Wesley crazy (I don't think he was crazy but I am pretty sure most people would think he was crazy if he were living today with his beliefs on living, poverty, etc.)

What are the benefits?

-Money given within network could be used for mission and spiritual growth (along with supporting conference structure that would supply clergy...some networks would supply more than others, just like churches do now)

-Pastors would be out in community working and making connections

***Important that I think this model follows the tent-making example of Paul***

Obviously it is going to be a little more complicated, but this is just the beginning of my thoughts.  Anyone disagree? Agree, but?  Fine tune?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Intentional Renewal: Focus 2

(2) Redefine the responsibilities of clergy

In last week's preview, I talked briefly about how the reality is that many clergy have to spend the majority of their time in the administrative role (or also if they don't spend a majority of their time it will end up hurting the church or making the job for the next clergy harder). This is not necessarily because the clergy want to spend their time there, but because the system of the church as it currently is has come to depend on it.

Here is what you need to do (1) Find a Book of Discipline, (2) Look up and read paragraph 340. (I would link to it so you didn't have to go through all of this, but see my post below as to why it must be this way)

To sum it up the responsibilities elders are called to are: Word and ecclesial acts; Sacraments; Order; Service.

Now I would like to sum up the new responsibilities under the same categories:

Word and ecclesial acts
1. Teach the Word of God; empower others to teach the Word of God; and be a resource for worship planning implementation.
2. Oversee the network to ensure that Biblical interpretation is within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy (we can debate what is orthodoxy some other time). (I.e. Make sure the Bible is not being interpreted in a way that goes counter to the message of Christ)
3. Preside and Weddings and Funerals as needed (including marriage counseling when needed)
4. Counsel when needed (and keep confidential what should be kept confidential)

1. Teach the Methodist understanding of the Sacraments (Holy Communion and Baptism) and other means of grace
2. Administer the Sacraments (this is where I struggle the most because if there are say 50 units within a network how is an elder supposed to administer Holy Communion on a regular basis---this might take some adaptation that others might not be too enthused about---possibly even myself)

1. Maintain regular contact with those units within the network and connect the units together by regular all-network communication and/or events
2. Be a resource for materials of Christian education, worship, and mission
3. Maintain the connection of the network to the larger organizational structure of the UMC
4. Maintain observance of The Book of Discipline within the network and each part of the network

1. Model the servanthood of Jesus Christ by participating in work that helps the community the network is within
2. Help to connect the network in service to the community
3. Teach the importance of servant leadership to all and model it in personal daily life.

I am not much for detail, but these would be the main requirements. Is there something that should be here? Is there something that shouldn't be here? Please leave a comment and let me know.

I purposely did not add 500 things (exaggeration) like the Book of Discipline because I believe each network would have its own context that might influence and determine much of the other stuff.

To summarize biblically: I would envision an elder/clergy being much like Paul in the NT traveling to churches, establishing churches, and maintaining contact, but obviously on a more regular basis because of ease of travel/communication.

The Book of Discipline and Why I Think It Should Be Online Free

Image borrowed from Cokesbury

As I am working on writing my post of Focus #2 today, I wanted to reference to The Book of Discipline and paragraph 340 which lists the responsibilities of elders and local pastors. The problem is that means a few things:

(1) The clergy would easily be able to reference this by breaking out their copy
(2) The laity would have to find a copy (which every church should have one) and it would assume that many know what The Book of Discipline is. (I have found that those who have had leadership do know of it---for the most part---but many that haven't do not have a clue what it is even. Now obviously this could be contextual, but this has been my experience)


(3) I would have to type it all out (and since we Methodists aren't known for our brevity on things...that would mean a bunch of typing....funny thing is I probably could have done it had I not gotten frustrated and decided to write this post).

What I hoped to find was an online source of The Book of Discipline to link to so that my readers (lay or clergy) could easily reference what I was writing about. There is one via Cokesbury (subscription service) for $14.

Now maybe it is my generation and my living in a world of open source, but to me that seems like we are kicking ourselves in the foot. Now I understand that it takes time to put together the book and changes made via General Conference, but why do we not make this part of the cost and have it able to view openly on the internet and integrated into our denominations homepage?

It seems to me that as United Methodists there are two formative documents that guide our life as a community: (1) The Holy Scriptures (available for free online in various translations) and (2) The Book of Discipline. Yet, the majority of our members do not have easy access to the document (once again I am used to instant access so this may be a criticizing of my own generation, etc). Most people would have to go to the church and find the copy of the book, which means the church would have to be open and wherever the copy is kept would also have to be open. In some rural areas this could mean a significant drive and in urban areas it could be a significant drive and time consumer also.

So I ask, if The Book of Discipline is such an important part of our denomination (seriously it is our ruling book that the Judicial Council rules off of), then why do we not have it free and easy to access? Shouldn't that be an important part of our apportionment dollars? (I personally think this would be a great use of our apportionment dollars--if we are taking seriously the importance of the book to our denominational life that is)

Is there an online edition (free) that I missed? (I hope so).

P.S. If there isn't one that I missed then I am pretty sure I am not the first to have this thought or even write about it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Intentional Renewal: Focus 1

I have to start this off by saying that Craig Groeschel of (He is formally of the UMC) wrote some very interesting stuff that pushes the UMC to think about what we are doing and I have enjoyed reading his posts (thanks to fellow clergy Melissa Meyer) and you can read Shane Raynor's thoughts and get links to Groeschel's six posts here.

This week I will be writing expanded posts on the 5 areas of focus I listed last week in my envisioned intentional renewal strategy. Up today is:

(1) Place theologically trained clergy in communities not churches

Okay, last week in my mini-description of this focus I ended up talking about desiring to see clergy placed in communities (intentionally) and not in "churches." In Minnesota, our placements are to the church and community, but in reality is 90-95% (if not more) of the clergy's time and energy is going towards the "church" where they are placed (and most of that energy is spent maintaining the system already in place or helping the church survive).

What if we started to place new clergy in communities rather than in churches (funding for this will be addressed in a later focus on Wednesday)?

(1) Theologically trained clergy would have the most important foundation: understanding who God is and who God has called us to be within a larger orthodox Christian understanding. Instead of just being equipped via a practical ministry model that may or may not go out-of-style. The leaders who were being sent out would be trained in the core matters of faith which should be the foundation of all of our lives as leaders of God's people. We want people who know the Scriptures (the story, history, etc.), Tradition (what have others within the history of Christianity thought and taught about God), and who are able then to take those things and respond to their context. This means that "practical" training does not disappear but rather it is in response to the exact context where the person finds themselves. (It wouldn't do me very good to learn all the new ways that ministry is moving within technology if I were placed in some of the areas of rural Minnesota where maybe 20-60% of the population has internet and uses it regularly...there it would be better if I learned practical ministry skills like rural dynamics, relationships, etc.)

(2) Without having to worry about maintaining buildings (people could meet wherever: homes, businesses, fields, mountains, wherever) the money given to God in the offering could be used to help transform the community that the people are living in. When roughly 1/3 of many budgets for churches is used to "maintain" the building via utilities, insurance, mortgage, maintenance, then we have to start asking ourselves if we are being good stewards. (Think about this: what was the maintenance cost to churches when they first came into being? I am guessing about what it cost to build them since there wasn't electricity (or insurance), etc.) Why aren't we using the things we already have (like homes or local businesses) for gathering places?

(3) Because clergy would be placed in communities, the focus would 100% be on the people and the community. As much as we like to say we place clergy in communities that the churches are a part of, we truly know that the church gets all the attention (and often that is a certain few people....the gatekeepers) With no office the clergy would have to go out and build relationships and be out in the community. (this would have a two-fold benefit with #2....if someone asked who they were they would say their name and that they were a united methodist clergy. Instead of having to be able to invite them to a church they would have to connect them with a person within the network or invite them to his or her home....I know scandalous responsibility)

(4) It wouldn't matter if the communities were urban, suburban, or rural. (This will make more sense when we get to #3) I think this might benefit rural situations the best because of the lack of having to maintain buildings on a fixed amount of people/growth possible. Urban or Suburban settings find it difficult as the lifestyles of those settings can make having a "common and easily recognizable" gathering place an advantage.

I will admit this is a work in progress, but I am hoping that those of you who read this might give me feedback and thoughts. I am only able to better define my position when being challenged or refined through the thoughts of others.