Not ready for prime time newsletters

I wrote this article for the church newsletter but after talking with Estee about this, we agreed it might be too technical for the newsletter. So instead of trashing the work I have done here, I want to post it here for thoughts as well as keeping it somewhere I can access later.

What do you think, is this too technical or too critical?

     We want to share with the church what has been shared with the Administrative council and long range planning committee because the following deeply impacts the way we at SUMC will “do” ministry. We are relying heavily upon the Rev. Gil Rendle (a consultant for the Texas Methodist Foundation as well as an elder in the UMC) who teaches about systems.

     A church is a system that is made up of three basic parts - inputs, throughputs and outputs. At SUMC we might say the inputs are the resources we have (members, money, building, etc.) and throughputs are the things we do with those resources (create ministries, develop programs, conduct worship, etc.). The resources and ministries of SUMC are very important to the mission we are called by God to accomplish.

     However, collecting resources and building ministries are not the end, rather they are the means to an end. We call this “end” the outputs or our outcomes. Too often churches do not know what their outcomes are and so instead the church focuses on the inputs and throughputs. Consider how many times you have been in a meeting and the conversation has focused on how much/little money or volunteers you have. Or perhaps you might have thought that SUMC would grow if only a certain ministry existed. These are not bad conversations, but when allowed to be the only conversation then we never talk about what the outcomes God expects from SUMC. So when SUMC sets goals for the year, the goals reflect a desire to “grow” and that growth often looks like gathering more inputs (people and money) and throughputs (ministries), but the goals do not reflect any desire for outcomes. Popular goals of a church are to have in increased worship attendance or creating an age specific ministry. The funny thing is that getting more resources and ministries is easy work compared to achieving the outcomes that God desires. Jesus never took the time to try to get more resources or ministries but took a lot of time trying to transform peoples lives. SUMC is not in the “business” of accumulating inputs and throughputs, if anything we are in the “business” of the output of transformation. 

     We are inviting everyone to prayerfully consider what outcomes God is calling SUMC to achieve. We encourage you to think beyond inputs and throughputs and focus on outputs. Here is an example to consider that might help direct your thought. If we were no longer counting worship attendance but counted only those people who are more peaceful or more joyful because of their time participating in SUMC, would you be counted? 

Book Club + Speed Dating = Awesome

It has become apparent to me that I have never been in a book club. I have not been in a book club because I am not much of a fan of reading something that I am not excited about or being a part of a group which the accountability is somewhat low. I have spoken with a few people who have been in book clubs and they shared with me that there are times in which people, for whatever reasons, do not read the book of the month but show up to hear the conversation.

I am not that interested in book clubs.

But I am fascinated by speed dating. Perhaps because I have never done it, or perhaps because I agree with Gladwell's "Blink" that we have a powerful ability to "think without thinking" that affects our decisions. Additionally, I like to meet people. As such, I want to add the greatness of what I think Speed dating is to the goodness of book clubs minus the awkwardness of each group and multiply the accountability.

Therefore, I am suggesting a new (at least to my awareness) kind of book club. Here is how it works:

1) Everyone reads a book of their choice and no one reads the same book.
2) Everyone has a month to read.
3) At the end of the month, each person comes prepared to share their book in 5-7 minutes.
4) Each person will also be expected to accompany their 5-7 minute synopsis of the book with a 1-2 page outline/thesis/synopsis.
5) In the course of the meeting, each person will share both their 5-7 minute and their 1-2 page outline/thesis/synopsis with 4 other another persons - one at a time.
6) At the end of the meeting, you have had the opportunity to share your book 4 times, and hear about 4 other books which you might be interested in.
7) Everyone walks out with all the 1-2 page outline/thesis/synopsis they desire for future reference.
8) Select a new book for the next month.

Instead of having a book club that takes one book and goes a mile deep into it, this model would be taking many books and going a surface level. This not only will allow you not to get 'stuck' reading something that is not interesting to you while at the same time you can see what other books are out there people are reading and hear their passions about the book. These "recommendations" or "reader reviews" could function as a Amazon book review does with different star level in order to recommend it to others for reading.

That is a book club that I want to join. That is a book club I am going to start.

Any takers?

God's 'acountabili-buddy'

Recently I was in a group and the question was asked, "Why does God want a chosen people? Why does God want a people to be set apart and chosen in the Biblical narrative?"

I do not know the answer to that, however I wonder if God does not want a people, but, God needs a people.

When the flood in the story of Noah happened God put a bow in the clouds and said that each time that bow appears God will be reminded of the covenant God made with Noah. The bow becomes a reminder to God. The rainbow becomes an accountability partner to God, reminding God of the promise God made.

I wonder if God needs a people in order to help keep God accountable to the promises God makes? I know we do not like to think God needs anything, but even that is a human idea about God and falls short of the reality of God.

Perhaps God needs a people to hold God accountable to the promises God made to creation. When God looks at you and I, God is reminded of the love God bestowed upon creation. We hold God accountable to God's promises.

Just like God holds us accountable to our promises to God. When we look toward God we are reminded of our parts of the covenant and promises. We are reminded that we are to love the other and seek reconciliation. When we look at God we are kept accountable to the promises we have made.

It is stated that the only hands God has is ours. The only eyes God has is ours. The only feet God has is ours. If God needs us to do the work of God, then why would not God need an accountabili-buddy?

Why not see the market the way many see the homeless?

I agree giving money to a homeless person may not be the best way to help that person because that person now has cash, but no accountability to this new capital. Accountability is something America is founded upon, just look to the way the government is set up. Three branches each trying to hold one another accountable to the others. Congress makes laws, Presidents enforce laws, Courts interpret laws. No one branch can do it all.

And yet, when it comes to commerce in America we seem totally against any sort of accountability to the Market. It is as though the only thing holding the Market accountable is individuals. But this is only possible if individuals are rational.

People are not, I am not, always rational.

I appreciate the Libertarian movement, but I wonder who is holding the Market accountable?

This report from New York Times is a series of videos talking about the way Private Equity Deal makers take advantage of the market for gains for the investors but many times at the great expense of the long term health of the company and the employees.

How Private Equity Deal makers Can Win While Their Companies Lose