In the wake of the 2019 United Methodist General Conference, I want to share some common patterns and feelings that you may recognize in yourself or others, as well as some suggestions for healthy ways to channel energy.
Call me overly optimistic or even naïve—but I think it is still possible for congregations to reach the next generation successfully. One key skill will be to listen to our mission field—the people and communities around us—better and more deeply than we’ve listened in the past.
It is hard for a congregation to revitalize, but when leaders have the courage to make major changes and live deeply into the mission, churches can rebuild. I know this, because it’s happening now in many places.
This morning as I was driving to one of the churches in my district I listened to the radio to get caught up on the news. It was all about President Trump’s tweets regarding the NFL and the National Anthem, escalating tensions with North Korea, and the impact of the latest hurricane on Puerto Rico. I couldn’t help but think about how the intense divisiveness in our country right now impacts congregations. I wonder if we have become too tolerant of bad behavior.
For some pastors and lay people in mainline/established traditions, the word evangelism has become, if not a “dirty” word, an unpleasant one. How can we get more comfortable with the e-word?
It’s very easy in our American culture to leave a church. No matter how hard pastors and lay leaders work to keep folks focused on mission instead of individual preferences, church attendance is often a consumer-driven phenomenon. If there is any kind of conflict brewing in a congregation the temptations to flee grow exponentially. It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “That church was no longer meeting my needs.”
From our experience with a wide variety of congregations that have revitalized their ministries in many ways, we see six practices at the core of vital churches.