from Rev. Mike
First of all, it was wonderful to have so many people attend our Charge Conference! Second of all, I forgot to tell everyone that I had volleyball practice after the meeting and that's why I was in a t-shirt and shorts. Third, some questions came up during the meeting about how the book "Simple Church" will be used. I want to take some time to address them.
1. One question had to do with "Simple Church's" connection to the Catch program we did last spring. After the small groups had met, other leaders and I gathered to reflect on what we had learned. During some of those reflections I started to see that there was a gap in our ministry organization once we get someone new in the door.
Once someone shows up, we don't have everything we need in place to help that person get connected inside the church. We need, then, both to help people come in the front door (like we talked about in Catch) and a plan for what to do with them once they are here. For instance, if a person shows up for worship and wants to know what else he or she can connect to during the week, we need a process/person/committee to show that person how to connect.
With that insight, I realized there were other gaps in our organization. That means to me, that we need to look at how we are organized. See what is missing or isn't working as well as it could. Add what is missing if we can. Fix what we can fix. That's the basis of why I began looking around for help on church organization.
2. Another question from the meeting had to do with whether these organizational changes will bring hirings and firings. My answer was and is, no. Or, at least, that has nothing to do with my desire to look at and change how are organized. However, after the meeting I realized that some of the language I used to talk about what we hope to accomplish with reorganization might sound like "corporate restructuring." That's not what I am working toward. I am simply looking for us to organize ourselves around a common purpose and use that purpose to determine what we do.
Rather than downsizing, outsourcing, etc., I want us to focus on a common purpose. The example that keeps popping in my head is a building campaign. When I arrived at my last church, in Casa Grande, they had just finished building their new sanctuary. After it was done, some of the leadership noticed that the church no longer had a focus. For a long time the focus had been "build a sanctuary." Now that it was built, it felt like they were flailing around a bit--looking for a direction. From that point of view, that's what I hope to discern together. What is a common purpose that we can get around and focus our attention and activity on?
3. Another question had to do with reaching people outside the church. As I understood the question, it had to do with whether we are focusing only on ourselves. The answer is no--it's a both/and thing. Our church membership vows changed with the 2008 Discipline. It was then we added the word "witness." When we join a United Methodist church we vow to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. To me, at least one thing this addition means, is that we recognize that our faith is outer directed. Our faith is not just about any one of us. It is not only a private affair. It is also a social affair. We are supposed to share our faith with others. To me, then, whatever we do as United Methodists should always be personal and social; internal and external; within the church and beyond the church. Therefore any reorganizing we do will always need to include both an internal and external focus. Like Catch talked about, we work on becoming relentlessly outward focused. Because, our faith is about us; but it is never about just us.
4. Lastly, there was some talk at the meeting about discipleship. I shared that the mission of the United Methodist Church as a whole is "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of world." As a United Methodist congregation, that mission is our mission. It should be one of the primary reasons for our existence. Making disciples, then, should be a basic thing we are set up to do. And we make disciples to have an impact on the world--again internal and external. We grow in Christ so that the world is transformed by Christ's work through us.
That is my reason for bringing the vision of "Simple Church" to our meeting. Within it is a vision for a process of organizing a given church around the goal of disciple making. We have to discern what we think discipleship looks like--what habits or attributes make up a disciple of Jesus. And then we organize our church to help people grow in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, so that we may serve Christ at Desert Foothills and in the world.
If you have more questions, please feel free to contact me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call me at 480-788-0384. Again, thank you all for your coming to Charge Conference!