These 3 Words Instead

In a previous post, I conveyed my thoughts on some of the buzz words we use as a denomination and how they open the door for us to be guided by numbers oriented success. Since, I’m not one to simply vent without having something constructive to offer, I’m going to offer three words I would like to see buzzing around the denomination instead. Whereas these aren’t necessarily 1:1 in relation to growth, effective and vital, I’ll treat them as such for the sake of clarity. Continue reading


These 3 Words

Growth, Effective and Vital seem to be the buzz words my denominational world (American Methodism) is using these days to solve all our problems.
Words matter. Language can be a cage and I understand the need for us to have a vocabulary that frees and encourages, if not inspires, us to doing things and these words can do that from what I’ve seen. However, even if this language has worked in getting people to do things, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the language is wholly beneficial. We may not want our language to be a cage, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a trap. Instead of holding us back, it captures us. That’s where I find myself frustrated with this language. Continue reading

Palliation for Congregations

In an earlier post I pondered some questions concerning what lies ahead of the UMC (statistically) as a denomination in America. What might it look like to engage our larger, dying churches similarly to how we need to engage our tiny, dying churches?  What might that afford them? What might it do? I don’t know what would happen… but I’d like to think it would offer their members a meaningful path of discipleship and a more faithful way to be the church.

In the same post, I mentioned that congregations go through cycles of birth, growth, decline, death and resurrection. I think that this is both a beneficial and faithful way to see our local religious institutions. Unfortunately, I don’t know that such a view is commonplace. I can’t say I’ve ever heard the church life-cycle analogy outside of my evangelism class in seminary or all of the resources to be used by those churches that are on their last legs. That is, I’ve never seen this analogy used outside of academic or cathartic settings. Continue reading

Beginning the end before the end

Sometime ago I read an article in the Washington Post about a daughter’s experience of her own mother’s aging and decline. It’s a wonderful article that details a lot of the struggle many adults go through when caring for aging parents such as issues of independence and the shame of feeling like a burden. But there was one quote that stuck out to me as she reflected on her experience with her mother, “I would talk to her about a plan for her future long before either of us felt it was time. I now know that when everyone is ready to talk, it’s already too late to be proactive.”

It’s a powerful quote.

Having worked in a hospital around families and patients that needed to have these same conversations, I learned the same thing. It’s not easy to do. Not enjoyable. Incredibly painful. But also incredibly meaningful. Yet, when intentional about it, it can be beneficial to all parties involved by providing an opening for meaningfulness in life’s late stages. Continue reading

Launching: toward the Automobile

*This post is one of several entitled “Launching” which present the American world that I think the  United Methodist Church, and the church in general, lives in and must respond to.*

There’s a lot of cars in America.

Why? Based on some simple research I can’t say that the car has ever gotten more affordable in relation to income. I’m led to believe that the rise of the car comes from post-WW2 realities that led to a more stable job market enabling families to feel more comfortable assuming some debt to purchase one – which led to easy financing for more sales, which led to an expanded used car market. Plus, the Interstate system enabled the rise of white-flight suburbs and our now sprawling roadway infrastructure.
Yet, in Levar Burton’s words, you don’t have to take my word for it. This is mostly based on some simple web search perusing.

Even still, the car and our road network has changed the way people live. Continue reading

To Call a Church a Family

More often than not, I’ve heard people talk about their church as a family – 1,000 member churches to 30 member churches.  Knowing that people have found a place where they feel included, comfortable and accepted is wonderful. After all, churches should be doing this well, be it in cities, suburbs or small towns.

But I wonder how this language influences our behavior.  After all, the language we use influences how we think and possibly act. Can the use of familial language be detrimental to our congregations and the mission of our churches?

As I’ve said, to be able to find one’s church a family is a great thing, especially in our more transient, dislocated culture. I love my family… even if they drive me nuts! But as great as families are, they are also familiar, exclusive, insular and protective. Continue reading