upper room daily devotions

Friday, June 22, 2007

need examples of healthy small churches

The church that I serve has begun Bill Easum's The Complete Ministry Audit. I hold some strong reservations about a number of his assumptions; in general I find much of the church growth movement's focus on marketing to lose the central issue of faithfulness. However, I believe there is worth in hearing his analysis of the church's ministries. As an outside voice, he can bring a new eye to our communal life and and a fresh ear to our struggles for direction. The reason I'm writing about this? The audit is only part of a larger process of discernment and dreaming for our little church and I need some help.

As part of this process, I'm looking for examples of healthy small churches, particularly urban ones. Do you know of churches that fit the bill? Churches for whom faithfulness leads them deeply into spiritual practices, into meaningful and transformative worship, into a missional understanding of themselves that radically reconstructs communal life and individual lives? Do you know of a church for whom faithfulness is so very central that its people will wade into the despair of the human condition and live in the alternate reality of Easter? Do you know of churches that understand mission as something beyond a committee in the church and instead as an indicator of identity for the whole congregation? Do you know churches that celebrate life where members enjoy the company of one another? I'm looking for examples, people! And while I'm open to all kinds of examples, primarily I'm interested in neighborhood churches.

Additionally, I'm looking for resources related to such churches: website design, technology integration ideas, organizational structure, new member "assimilation" (sounds like the Borg!), adult and children's curricula, outdoor signage, financial structure, mission statements (blech), core values, and other important things.



Will Deuel said...

I'm a big believer in Leonard Sweet's assertion that mission/vision statements are pretty well useless.

We need to focus on "image statements," or a statement of who we believe we are.

Mission and vision statements are about doing, image statements are about being.

"We're the ____ church." The love church. The grace church. The church without walls. The come-as-you-are church.

Of course, this can't come from the pastor - it comes from a process of discernment, prayer, self-searching and honesty - as well as a sense of vision (we begin with who we are and continue with who we can become). Without that sense of identity, any mission or vision statement is grasping at straws.

rev katie m ladd said...

Thank you, Will. I appreciate the comment. I agree that statements about image are much more important and effective. What would really help is a referral to a church's website or other contact info about a church where a process has been successful - to see how they got where they are and to see what they look like now. Peace.

Will Deuel said...

Katie, check out First United Methodist Church in Marion, IL


The pastor there is beginning to experience real success after a four year process of discernment, identity formation, Bible study and prayer. He has preached series on Christian Essentials ("Back to Basics" - centered on the General Rules of the Methodist Societies and the means of grace). Their image statement - "an Oasis of Grace" - is based upon their more moderate theology while being surrounded by a very conservative/evangelical community.

The pastor is great and a friend of mine. Tell him I sent you!

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