October 30, 2010

Safe Halloween Tips

Practical advice from around third grade... and yeah, my spelling is just as poor back then as it is now.

October 26, 2010

UMC's Call to Action Report

I had a chance to read through the UMC Call to Action Report report today. I still need some time to digest it fully, but there is some really good stuff in there. For example:
"Objective examination of data, trends, and observations from UMC leaders led to identification of a creeping crisis of relevancy with an accompanying acute crisis of an underperforming economic model that are both linked to frailties in the UMC’s culture. These include the absence of common definitions for the meaning of our mission statement, lack of trust, low levels of mutual respect, the frequent absence of civil dialogue, insufficient clarity about the precise roles and responsibilities of leaders, and a lack of agreed ways to measure success or assure collaboration.
Thus we identify the need for:
• Recognition of the value and need for the Council of Bishops to exercise strong and courageous leadership, working in concert and fostering alignment throughout the Connection
• More clarity and understanding about the UMC’s mission, culture, and values
• Less perceived organizational “distance” between and among the foundational units of the church
• Better-defined leadership roles, responsibilities, and accountability; with greater clarity about outcomes
• More standardized management processes and reporting systems
• Streamlining of connectional structures to achieve effective governance, lowered costs, and higher levels of performance." (pg. 7)
There is a strong push for congregational vitality and pastoral effectiveness. In the report it says:
"Deciding what to measure as indicators of effectiveness is often debated, but the research is conclusive that we can stimulate vitality if at a minimum we join together to:
* increase the numbers of people participating in worship and small groups for prayer and study—starting and maintaining more programs for children and youth
* encourage spiritually devoted lay persons to share leadership roles in every facet of Church life
* offer multiple worship experiences and cultivate dynamic topical preaching
* improve pastoral effectiveness, including aspects of management and leadership
* provide longer clergy appointments where it is apparent that the gifts of the pastor fit the needs of the church and its community
* consistently cultivate incremental increases in financial giving and engagement in outreach, witness, and mission in local communities and the world.
The quality of clergy and lay leadership is essential for effectiveness, and we must retool our culture and systems of clergy recruitment, training, credentialing, and support with renewed emphasis on greater accountability for outcomes, giving appropriate, but much less, focus to intentions." (pg. 15)
And check out this prayer of confession:
 "O holy and merciful God, we confess that we have not always taken upon ourselves the yoke of obedience, nor been willing to seek and do your perfect will.
We have pursued self-interests and allowed institutional inertia to bind us in ways that constrain our witness and dilute our mission. We have been preoccupied more with defending treasured assumptions and theories, protecting our turf and prerogatives, and maintaining the status quo for beloved institutions than with loving you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. And we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
You have called to us in the need of our sisters and brothers, and we have passed unheeding on our way.
May almighty God, who caused light to shine out of darkness, shine in our hearts, cleansing us from all our sins, and restoring us to the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, in the face of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen." (pg. 17-18)
And this section on the call for leadership:
 "Leaders, beginning with the bishops and including lay and clergy across the Connection, must lead and immediately, repeatedly, and energetically make it plain that our current culture and practices are resulting in overall decline that is toxic and constricts our missional effectiveness.
Continued pursuit of the most prevalent of current approaches, structures, policies, and practices is likely to produce the same results with continued decline and decreasing mission impact.
Business as usual is unsustainable. Instead, dramatically different new behaviors, not incremental changes, are required.
The absence of strong, adaptive, decisive leadership will hasten the rate and magnitude of the well documented indicators of decline (baptisms, professions of faith, membership, attendance, funding for connectional ministries).
We need a cadre of mutually committed, collaborative, turnaround leaders that (1) make a compelling case for daring, disciplined, and sustained actions and (2) demonstrate strong leadership to vividly change what we emphasize, and de-emphasize many current treasured approaches and programs and forego familiar rhetoric that, though valued, does not lead to effectiveness in achieving different and desired outcomes.
Making this change requires leaders to forge strong coalitions, joining with willing partners who agree to disagree about lesser matters and setting aside many passionate causes in order to focus instead on overarching goals for the greater good. Choosing to continue behaviors that arise from narrow interests and subordinate objectives will lead to increased divisiveness and accelerate the current disintegration.
This calls for nothing less on the part of all who will lead than the kind of denial of self that Wesley placed at the heart of the sanctified life. “The ‘denying’ ourselves and the ‘taking up our cross’ . . . is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples.” (Sermon 48, “Self-Denial,” emphasis added). But even more so, it requires us to follow Paul’s advice that by “having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other,” we might “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2, 5 CEB).
This is not a time for leaders who are ambivalent, reluctant, or unwilling to walk forward with humility and courage." (pg. 18-19, emphasis in original)
There is some brilliant stuff in there, hopefully this gets read, taken seriously, and put into action.

October 25, 2010

this week's round-up (october 24)

We Worship the god of Security.

North Ridge Church is for Liars. I actually saw one of these signs a couple weeks ago, and for about 2 seconds thought, "Wow! Someone really has it out for that church!" but then realized it was just a marketing campaign. I like the fact that it is provocative enough to capture the attention of people driving by, but I wonder about the metrics of how it actually translates to hits on the website, and new faces in worship on Sunday. I also wonder how far you go before "provocative" loses it's edge, and the message people take away if they never go to the website and don't get the underlying message (humor?) of the campaign.

Interesting (tech nerd) article on the 3G and 4G wireless standards, and why your cell phone carrier is probably lying to you.

Hugh MacLeod asks the question United Methodist's need to be asking every day:
(Hugh's stuff is really good, make sure you check it out... I haven't read his book Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity yet, but it's on my list).

Paul Hickernell reminds us that When Churches Keep Quiet: Others Fill the Void.


Seth Godin on the Deliberately Uninformed.

Anyone want to take me to Portland in January June, so we can go hang out with Don Miller?


Storyline Conference from shieldsfilms.com on Vimeo.

Don also suggests surrounding yourself with a few good life editors. (In a similar vein, Lifehacker says you are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with).

Andrew Conrad on finding value in the connection.

Mike Slaughter chats with Alan Hirsch.

Fred Clark has a great piece on the context of John 14 and embracing grace.

I know I've thrown Matisyahu up here before, but it is (probably) the best Hasidic Jewish reggae music you'll hear all day.

October 17, 2010

this week's round-up (october 17)

Great thoughts by Donald Miller on How to Guide a Team Through Conflict.

Jay Voorhees asks some really good question in his posts on Is a Denomination a Brand or a Something Very Different and Is the UMC a Franchisor? The points he raises related to church identity are really important, and he articulates the problem is a way I never could have, although I think I've suspected the disjunction he points out. From the beginning of the "Rethink Church" campaign my fear has always been that we are projecting an image of the church that isn't what most people will find when they visit. I LOVE the image "Rethink Church" promotes, it casts a vision of where we should be, but many local congregations aren't quite there yet.

Furthermore, many United Methodist congregations (from my perspective) have a limited United Methodist identity of their own - "rethink" isn't even on their radar when they are still trying to understand things like apportionments and the value of UMC missions (like UMCOR and Wesley Foundations), as opposed to non-denominational or para-church counterparts (which can certainly be worthy causes, but lack the theological, administrative, or accountability ties that the denominational programs hold). So not only is the a lack of uniform experience, that Voorhees makes note of, I suspect there are a lot of people who don't even buy-in to some of the core principles within the denomination.

I think Jay is right when he says:
"The more I think about this the more I begin to get a sense that what we are is less of a national brand that is useful and worthwhile in helping persons to access our church, and more of an affiliation of multiple brands that are rooted at the local level. The general church nor the annual conference is not a franchisor in any traditional sense for there is really no attempt to enforce uniformity of experience, nor would we want to do so. For the most part we have tended to suggest that the diversity of experience in the UMC is in fact a virtue which allows many different types of people access to the throne room of God."
 But (as I'm processing this idea as I type it out), I think there is also a basic need for an internal marketing/education effort to take place so that people within the United Methodist Church can come to understand our identity and history, to see how the local connects with the connectional, which in some cases has been lacking.

I'll stop myself before delving too much more into that potential rant.

Seth Godin has some good stuff up this week: Heroes and Mentors being one that caught my attention. Also, check out Do You Need a Permit?

Leading Ideas has an important and insightful article by Chris Duckworth on the choices families make. Be sure to read the whole thing here, but to summarize his main point, Chris suggests that families that are faced with hard choices like soccer or Sunday School, are making the choices out of love, and while it is easy to criticize, sometimes we forget how stressed and overextended families are. Maybe the answer isn't to wag our finger and expect them to "come to us" but to do the Christ-like (and Wesleyan) thing and go to where the people are.

Not an issue for me, but it may be for some (especially if you use a Windows laptop) - avoid connecting to "Free Public WiFi". Also via Lifehacker this week, how handwriting can help your cognitive abilities; as much as I am drawn to the tech stuff, to me there is something powerful and important about using plain old pens/pencils and paper, especially when it comes to the creative or brainstorming type of work.
Ever wanted to make your own bacon? Here's how.

The Beautiful South have come up on my iPod is shuffle mode a few times in recent weeks, so I might as well throw them up on the blog as well.

October 11, 2010

this week's round-up (october 10)

Craig Groeshel on Generational Differences in the Church. I came upon this at an interesting time in that I'm starting to notice some slight hints of generational differences in the church I'm currently serving. Good advice for both ends of the spectrum in that we need more conversation and understanding to move into the future.

Google Apps for church use. Google Apps is what I use for my domain, blog, and e-mail; I've considered moving the church over to it as well - because of recent improvements in blogger I think it is possible to create a very simple, decent looking church website with it (I'm early in the process of tinkering with this, and may change my mind), the e-mail and calendar applications are easy to use. If you need a simple, low-cost solution it is definitely one to examine.

Cory Doctorow on The Real Cost of Free.

Douglas Coupland on A radical pessimist's guide to the next 10 years. Like it says, it's pretty pessimistic, but there are some hard truths in there to consider like "The future is going to happen no matter what we do. The future will feel even faster than it does now."

Seth Godin on demonstrating strength by risking the appearance of weakness.

Spreading the word offline by the Church of the Customer blog. I know we try to affirm the idea that every member of a church is a minister, I really like the idea of taking it a step further and giving everyone business cards that not only affirm this, but could be used to create memorable positive interactions with people outside the church.

David Crumm interviews Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian. There's some good stuff in there, I especially liked David's question about how this new buzzword of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" might end up simply being used as a verbal weapon for Christians to continue to exclude, harass, and condemn each other.

Julie Clawson on Citizens or Neighbors? some good thoughts on that problems that arise when we focus on the letter of the law and forget the spirit of the law.

Fred Clark on Christine O'Donnell and why some evangelicals claim to have explored becoming a Hare Krishna even though they never did.

Just watch and enjoy.



Foxtrot cartoon on why blended isn't always better.

October 3, 2010

The B-52's- Don't Worry

One more music post - for the longest time I thought I was going insane remembering a song that didn't exist. One summer when I was working at Adventureland Amusement Park this song was on a 4-hour loop tape that played over the sound system. I was sure it was the B-52s (Fred's voice is pretty unforgettable), I never knew what album it was from, and while I never didn't a completely thorough search of their catalog, the few times I tried to figure out the song, I never could. Google & YouTube to the rescue! Turns out the song was removed after the first printing.

this week's round-up (october 3)

Of interest this week:

Chuck DeGroat on a Rant Against Change. It's worth reading, especially for bits like this:
Now, here’s the deal.  Families (=churches) are difficult.  They are, more often than not, dysfunctional.  Some families  are so dysfunctional that it would be a sin not to leave.  You leave abusive families.  But, you stay and honestly engage in the rest.  It may be difficult, but your own growth depends on it.
(via Scot McKnight)

Shareable's list of recommended books.

The Eternally-Focused Church.

Kem Meyer on Changing Your M.O. for Better Results and Important Skills for Tech Stewards.

Donald Miller on Don't Ask, Don't Tell the Church. (And though I was sad to have missed his recent Storyline conference, the good news is that he is offering it again in January).

Turns out David Byrne (great musician, ex-Talking Heads) was in town this week - (I knew I should have gone on that bike ride in Detroit!! Meeting/biking with Byrne would have nerd pleasure overload). Anyway he writes about his experience of the D here. Unfortunately Byrne's take has a few too many image of ruin porn, and doesn't have quite the same optimism of "Detroit Lives" videos celebrating what's right instead of rehashing what the city is up against.

Brandon Cox on Repurposing Content for Maximum Impact. Great reminder not only of the many avenues churches can use to reach people through social media, but a good reminder that you don't have to reprint entire sermons or full worship services - sometimes smaller "bites" can attract, entice, and move people.

The Daily Green reminds of the importance of local libraries with the reminder that they are a great way to save for people on a budget. Again, because I'm a big nerd, I LOVE libraries, and my current local one is especially awesome with a great selection of books + music and DVDs (including complete series of Dr. Who, Red Dwarf and even Sledge Hammer!!)

Taylor Burton-Edwards on United Methodist Metrics for Discipleship and Mission tough questions, but good ones.

Eugene Cho on the Questions about President Obama's Faith.

Jay Vorhees apparently shares my concern that Glee (so far) isn't as good as it was last year.

I was preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan and stumbled upon this song which was especially appropriate for the week.


I've been in a very musical mood this week, so let's also give some love to a band I've just discovered from Detroit - Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.