We are not the only ones safeguarding the gains

In the previous post I mentioned McLaren who said, that movements are organizations which call institutions to new social gains and institutions are organizations which conserve the gains made by past movements.

If this is a fair representation of the church as an institution  the question becomes what social gains are being conserved made in the past?

To put it another way, if the UMC ended tomorrow, what social gains would be lost?

I am not a huge scholar in this area but here are just a few I thought of:
The UMC conserves gains and deficits in ecumenical work (see the denominational unification)
The UMC conserves gains made in workers rights (see the UMC's involvement in the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act)
The UMC conserves gains made in women's rights (see John Wesley ordaining women back in 1760's)
The UMC conserves gains made in eradicating global disease (see efforts in eradicating malaria)

Not a bad list really for thirty seconds of thought. 
Glide Memorial UMC - An institution conserving new gains

The UMC should be very proud of this, but the fact of the matter is the UMC was once one of the few institutions to conserve gains, but now we are one of many institutions conserving the same gains.

Take for instance women's rights. Where the UMC was once one of the only institutions to advocate and protect women, now there are hundreds of institutions conserving the gains made by and for women.

Perhaps the way forward for the UMC is to let go of working to conserve some gains because we no longer have the major responsibility to conserve these gains. 

What does it look like for the UMC to seek out new gains to preserve?

What would it look like for this institution (and lets not kid ourselves, no matter how much "movement" rhetoric is out there we are and will be an institution for a while still), moved toward the frontier of social gains? 

Can we conserve social gains made by the "green" movement? The LGBT movement? The "99%" movement? The "Tea Party" movement?

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? 

Picking up pole vaulting

Setting goals in a church has, historically been for me, about setting goals that are reachable so that the church can celebrate "what we accomplished together". Churches don't do well with bad news and not meeting a goal is generally seen as bad news. It is as if we are unable to hurdle every goal then we lose. 

The metaphor that I think about is that of a hurdler. When a hurdler does not leap over the hurdle then finishing the race is in real jeopardy. See video to the right for a fun nine seconds as an example.

I want to encourage our churches to view goal setting not as a hurdle that is to be jumped over in order to win the race, but more like pole vaulting.

Pole vaulting requires that the bar be placed too high for anyone to jump over without assistance. Additionally, in pole vaulting if the vaulter comes up short there and does not make it over the bar, then they do not loose, they only register the highest vault. Knowing they will be higher then they would ever by on their own, vaulters also prepare a place for landing BEFORE they vault. They know, even if they vault over the bar, they will come back down and they ensure the fall will not injure them for the next vault. Pole Vaulters know that they will only become better if they raise the bar higher and higher. 

Arguably the best vaulter of all time, Sergey Bubka, only was able to achieve the 6.4 meter (over 20 feet) world record by elevating the bar time and time again. 

Personally I am tired of hurdling and am looking forward to vaulting. If the church is going to do anything in the next generations it has to trade in low achievable goals for goals that we may not be able to reach but will continue to try. 

The other side of itinerancy

Methodist churches are structured in a way that each church has a minister that is appointed. That is to say ministers are not hired by the local church but rather that local church receives a minister at the direction of the bishop. It is a system called itinerancy and it is also found in other denominations such as Catholic and Episcopalian.

As a minister, I am the one who is appointed by the bishop from one church to another. Within the UMC I am the one who leaves the local church and the laity are the ones who stay behind. Methodist clergy are not accustom to being the ones to stay behind. 

All of this changed just the other day. 

When someone is elected a bishop then the minister is appointed to go to another conference to serve as that conference's bishop. Even the bishops fall under the itinerancy system. Additionally, the Central Texas Conference has never had a minister who was elected a bishop. To put this another way, the CTC has never had a minister itinerate out.

All of that change just the other day. 

Rev. Mike Mckee, the senior minister of FUMC Hurst (a church in the CTC) was elected a bishop. The first time the CTC has ever had a bishop elected from it. The first time the CTC had a home grown bishop itinerate out. It was the first time the CTC was left behind. 

I am delighted for Bishop McKee and the CTC, but I am sad to see my mentor, minister and friend move to another conference.

I guess this is what the other side of itinerancy feels like.