Recently I had the privilege of being a delegate for the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) held in Portland, Oregon. The General Conference is held every four years and encompasses the “business” of the church while reminding all those present on a daily basis that we are “the church” first. Continue reading To Go or Not to Go!
Sunday School has been a staple of my life for as long as I can remember—I was always in Sunday School as a little girl, a teenager, a young adult and now as a not-as-young adult. In fact, I’ve had the opportunity to be a teacher of adults for going on thirty years. But I think it is Sunday School for children that really serves as the foundation for the health of our church. Continue reading Joyful Noise and Children in Sunday School
Have you ever noticed that you sometimes become so accustomed to a scent that you can no longer smell it? In my office, I’ve been recently annoyed by an occasional tiny gnat. Through the collective wisdom of the internet, I identified my potted plants as the likely origin of the insects. The most common solution seemed to be setting out a container of vinegar, so I partially filled a cup with some cleaning vinegar I found under the sink and placed it next to the plants. For the rest of the day, I noticed the smell, but it didn’t seem very strong. With each passing day, I noticed it less and less. When I opened my office after the weekend, however, the vinegar odor was powerful. I was willing to tolerate the smell in order to rid myself of the gnats, but I quickly realized that my coworkers might not be so understanding. It was evident that I had become nose-blind to the smell. I dumped out the vinegar to preserve harmony among my office neighbors.
Why are you part of a church? I suspect that too many of us can’t clearly articulate a compelling answer. Many of us have been dedicated church-goers since we were quite young. Church has become a habit. Though habitual church-going is commendable, it presents a couple challenges. First, we struggle to explain why someone who has never been connected to a church might want to be. Second, we forget what the purpose of church is. I’ll save the first challenge for another post, in part, because solving the second challenge will help solve the first. Continue reading Why Church?
Have you ever served in a leadership role that just didn’t seem like a good fit? Too often, we think of leaders as being interchangeable parts. This seems to be especially true in churches. We simply try to fill in old roles with new people. This can lead to frustration, ineffectiveness, and the loss of good leaders. What is it that makes for a good fit? Continue reading A Good Fit
Where do leaders come from? We can all probably name lots of people who we consider to be great leaders, but how did each get started? In most cases, another person in leadership likely noticed this person’s potential and decided to help him or her along. Noticing and helping are both central to leadership development. First, one must be paying attention in order to notice. Leaders should always be looking for new leaders. Second, good leaders invest time in developing other leaders. Good leaders tend to be busy folks, but they make time for important matters. They teach. They mentor. They provide opportunities and guidance. Good leaders actively cultivate other leaders. Continue reading Cultivating Leadership
What’s going on in your community on Sunday mornings? On my way to church, I see lots of people out running or walking. Athletic fields are often bustling with young families. I imagine many people are still sleeping or enjoying a slower start to their day. For many others, it’s just another day at work. Regardless of what they’re up to, the majority of Americans are not in church. Why?
Some people link this trend to an increasing level of hostility toward Christianity, but I think the core issue is something different—apathy. Christian communities of faith just don’t seem to matter to most folks. Americans are still quite religious. Most believe in God, pray occasionally, and believe that the Bible is something more than just made-up stories. Most, however, still don’t join with others for worship.
In their book Churchless, George Barna and David Kinnaman point out that most of the ‘unchurched’ in the US are actually ‘de-churched.’ That is, they formerly had a connection with a church, but now they don’t. Some left church because of bad experiences. Many, however, dropped out or didn’t connect more deeply because they didn’t see the value of being part of the community. How do we shift this trend?
Like Barna and Kinnaman, I believe it all boils down to perceived value. People are stretched for time, but most people will make time for the things they consider important. For many Americans, church ranks below too many other good things they could be doing. To address this, churches need to offer people something they can’t get anywhere else—a deep encounter with God and a connection with Christ’s living community. Doing so doesn’t require fantastic programs or better coffee. Instead, churches need to get serious about being the Church. We need to be a place where others can experience God in our midst. We need to be a community that challenges us to be more Christ-like and supports us as we struggle to do so. We need to be a congregation that serves the wider community as a response to and as an expression of God’s own love for us. As we do so, our churches will become places of significance. When the churchless see God working through our churches, they will make time to be part of Christ’s living community.