Note: Prompted by the Laity Session at Annual Conference
Rev. Jessica Moffatt is the Lead Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Many years ago her national profile was highlighted by her innovative approach to mission and the program ministries created around it. When I heard her speak she made a life-long impression on me!
This is a process and takes some work. But it’s worth it.
We know that as time passes, once vibrant ministry programs of mission become less effective, or simply are no longer relevant to what is needed. We also know that creators/leaders of those ministries can sometimes hold on to this passion just a little too long. The time has passed for the mission, but it’s hard to say good-bye to something you have given your heart and soul to!
Rev. Moffatt’s method is a way to not only address saying goodbye – but also to saying hello! to new ministries. Be prepared – this is at least a 2 week process of mission retirement, rebirth, creation and celebration!
The first thing of course is to education your congregation on the process that is to come. You may want to post a version of this document. During that explanation you let them know that ALL ministries of the church are retired. That we are celebrating all that was, that we thank you leaders of these ministries for your heart and service. You may even want to have a lunch after church on the day this process is shared, to celebrate those ministries. But make it clear – nothing is continuing – as – of – now. (That last part is key.)
Something new, something responsive to both the servant hearts of our people as well as responsive to community needs is coming. The winds of the Holy Spirit are upon us, moving us to God’s calling upon God’s creation.
For the first week (or two) after announcement of process, your congregation – everybody – takes note of what they are hearing, seeing, or reading about in their parish area – inside the walls of the church and beyond. Do you see that graffiti, or tagging is a problem? Is loneliness a concern? What crimes occur in your area – and why – is part of it boredom? Is trash a problem? Do you see vacant lots begging for attention? Are there many homebound in your congregation and are they well cared for or might a card or garden/flower ministry help? What ministries are being offered for the homebound to serve in – ie. not only serve them, but give them an opportunity to serve others. Are there economic issues in the area and what problems might be related to that – childcare, people needing their cars fixed (what??? think of a mechanics ministry staffed by mechanics in your church), homeless, language issues where ESL classes might be needed, many seniors living in the area who might be lonely – the list goes on and on. Key is for us to be aware of it. Do we need a networking ministry where church members connect folks with services that already exist – such as ESL classes. Are race relations a concern – do we need community listening nights?(Conference can help with that!) Is hunger a problem – food pantry yes – but what about “get to know you and get to know us” dinners. What do area residents, businesses, schools, preschool, senior centers etc say would make their community – our community – a happier, healthier home for the common good? So for a week or two (no more than that – folks will lose interest) people are in research mode, and thinking about what a vibrant church group could do to help, to be of service, to be faithful to God’s creation.
Research is done. Then what? People need to look at what they have learned, and assess – can this be a ministry? They don’t need to worry about who, what, where, when at this point. Just – is there a ministry opportunity here.
On the next Friday night, people gather at the church. They are all given an index card (or two or three or more). On the index card they are asked to write the name of the suggested ministry, and a sentence indicating the idea of the ministry. They are just giving an idea – they may not have particular interest in this – but they believe its something that the church should attend to for God’s family. NOW this is also where existing ministries can be lifted for consideration again. For example, if your church has Sidewalk Sunday School – someone can put that on a card and turn it in. The cards are collected for organizing. Have a short prayer service over the cards and folks can go home.
Saturday will be the big day! Early in the morning – staff or your SPRC or a group of volunteers go through the cards. Group the cards that are similar in nature. For example: one person wrote – write letters to elderly people. Another card says – make greeting cards to send to our elderly members. Same thing so those cards come together. If ten people wrote down Sidewalk Sunday School – only one card is needed for room location. So those 10 cards become one card.
Then – with a map of the church campus in hand, you organize where to post the cards. Room 1 – Greeting Card Ministry. Room 2 – Sidewalk Sunday School (ie an existing ministry that was noted on a card), Room 3 – mechanics ministry, Sanctuary – another card etc. What if we have more ideas than rooms? What a wonderful problem to have! Split the areas up. A large room could hold multiple ideas for mission.
A master map or list of room/cards is created. Copies are run for people who will come this afternoon. The list includes the name of the proposed ministry, the sentence describing it, and the room location of where to meet. Tape the name of the ministry to the location as listed on the master in preparation for Saturday afternoon’s meeting.
Each list must have the following instructions printed at the top in a slightly larger font and in bold:
In order for our church to create this ministry:
- you must have no less than 6 people who have come to your “card” location
- you must have someone of the group who is willing to lead this ministry named leader, today
- as members of this group, we believe so passionately in this idea we will work out funding – we agree that at this time we will not impact the church budget
- The new ministry leader writes down the name of the ministry, her/his name and contact info (email & phone), and each person that is there and their name and contact info.
Also on this sheet should be the following: If 6 people have not gathered where you are, please go to another area of interest.
These sheets will be turned in to the person who is leading this mission creation effort for the church. Church staff will keep a copy, and mail the original back to the leader.
If there are not 6 people, the card is thrown away. If no one is willing to lead the ministry, the card is thrown away. There are no exceptions.
Staff/SPRC folks need to be circulating the campus during this process, seeing if there are cards that need to be thrown away. They need to pull the cards after they are sure that people have gone to where they wanted to go. The people who have gathered but don’t meet the criteria listed in points 1 and 2 can go to another card location that they also have interest in.
What if a person wants to serve on more than one thing? That’s fine – but they will not be counted as part of the 6. Many people spread themselves too thin and can’t take on the needed responsibilities. We need 6 committed, passionate people.
Some of the ministries I have seen created out of this method include: a mechanics ministry where people in the church who are or were mechanics fix cars etc for their members and/or impoverished people; a card & teddy bear ministry for children in the hospital; an airport transport to hospital ministry from pilots in the congregation; Sidewalk Sunday School, a gardening ministry, neighborhood clean up ministry, senior center visitation choir. You get the idea.
At the end of Saturday after the ministry name/contact info sheets have been collected everyone heads into the fellowship hall or sanctuary. I would suggest having refreshments and music playing because we are going to celebrate!
With great fanfare the pastor or leader for the day announces the ministries that have been created this day, the leader and members. Applause, applause and celebration! On Sunday the pastor will make reference to the weekend’s activities, and may want to extend a blessing over past leaders, and our new leaders and new mission ministries.
Key to this process – you already have a leader, and there is no church budget impact. People need to have a spirit of God will make a way – we’ll figure it out and get it done.
Remember that as Director of Outreach & Justice I’m here to help – whether that’s helping new leaders map out the work ahead, or connecting resources as I know them, or bringing them into contact with existing Conference level committees that might be able to help. For example – if your church decides they really need a group to be watching over regulations that are happening in your area – street lights, stop signs etc – the Conference Board of Church & Society can help guide people how to tackle those issues within your area.
Good luck! You’ll be amazed where people’s faith and passions can lead! And think of how your church will be viewed – responding to the needs of your community. Is it a busy couple of weeks (every year)? Yep! Is serving God’s creation worth it and exciting and new? Yep. And praise God for that!
Billie Fidlin / Director of Outreach & Justice email@example.com