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.

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