Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. The people of The United Methodist Church.

Ministry Reset


Dear friends,
          As I am investigating the work of church council, I am being continually drawn back to the idea that the work is more than maintaining status quo. According to the UMC’s guidelines for church council, the work involves ongoing assessment of current ministries, implementation of new ministries to meet the needs of the “community, within and beyond the congregation”, and evaluation of current practices with the idea that ministries, resources, and congregational and community needs change over time, thereby requiring recognition of what is going well, and tweaking, changing or even discarding  certain practices that may no longer adequately fit the current context of the life of our church.  All of this occurs while we keep in mind the overreaching mission of our church as a whole: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
          Especially considering our own issues within our church, but also including the health crisis and racial discord that are affecting and changing our church and the wider community, I am asking that the chairperson of each committee or leader of any interested group take time before next meeting to assess their current ministries/practices, and write up to share with the group their own mission statement as it focuses on the overall mission. This does not require a listing of what that ministry does; rather, it is meant to have everyone reflect on why they are doing what they are doing. Think of the statement you present as addressing your ministry, then adding a “so that” relating to our mission. I will be happy to offer any assistance in talking with you about this process.
          Pastor Brian and I are also hoping to have meaningful conversations about racism—within our country, community, church and ourselves--in order to determine how our church may participate in taking significant action to eliminate this blight on our humanity. Think particularly how your committee/group may be used to improve conditions for our brown and black brothers and sisters in this place. For example, would we
  • Ask speakers from the African-American community to speak at a special event, with a Q & A following.
  • Hold a combined service with a neighboring, predominantly black church to foster a sense of brother/sisterhood, followed by a shared meal.
  • Using the mentoring/advocacy program of Fox Hill Friends to renew our commitment to the youth of our community, particularly those under-served, by tutoring, engaging in reading programs, and in general developing relationships with our minority youth. We have the starting point already in place.
I’m sure there are many other ideas on how to go forward with a plan. In the brainstorming process, there are no wrong answers, so don’t be timid about proposing something that may seem out of reach or even impractical; that’s where the tweaking comes in.
          Honest reflection and assessment most often leads to change, and change is not easy. We are tempted to say, “Aren’t we going through enough change right now? Why ask for more?” I believe that is exactly the most opportune time for us as a church to change, to realign our goals with the mission of the UMC and most importantly with the work of the Kingdom. That does not mean that our ministries are not doing so now. That does not mean throwing everything out and starting over. These circumstances do, however, necessitate the evaluation of how effective our ministries are as they currently exist.  I simply cannot accept “because that’s the way we have always done it” as an adequate answer.
          I compare this situation to my having a favorite pair of shoes which I have worn for years. They certainly are comfortable when I put them on my feet. However, when I begin to walk forward with them, I discover that they no longer offer the support they once did. In addition, there are holes in the soles and along the sides which allow water or debris to find their way inside, leading to uncomfortable, unhealthy (and smelly) feet. So I decide to sit back down, because that’s when these shoes are the most comfortable, so long as I don’t walk in them. End result, I never get anywhere.
          I think you can see where I am going. Recently I have heard several people say things like they are hearing a distant rumble that they know will turn into booms of thunder soon; or that we are going through a storm, but there will be fresh air after it passes. These are images of hope and renewal. I firmly believe that God is using the challenges of these times—for our communities, our churches, ourselves—to create in us a renewed sense of purpose and actions. But we will have to leave our old shoes behind; the path ahead is not always straight and contains rocky patches and watery ditches. Time to put on those new hiking boots.
          At our next meeting, there are issues to be addressed which are still on the table.  I appreciate the timely response of the emerging communications committee as they are working together to find solutions to current situations.  I hope there will be time at least initially to address racism and our response for our church and community, as well as progress on our reopening, and any other new business which may occur between now and July 13.
          I value everyone’s input. While there may be differences of opinion at times, I believe that if we continue to focus on our main goal, God’s main goal, we will be acting in His will for the good of His Kingdom.
Honored and blessed to be your chairperson,
I am joyously,

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