Friday, November 22, 2013
The Global UMC As a 100 Member Congregation: Only Questions
So, what would the global UMC look like if boiled down to a 100 member congregation?
While we can struggle to understand the dynamics of a large, global denomination, most of us have experience with congregational dynamics. Even a group of 100 can get messy as you work with past/present/future, deal with varied expectations, work on communication, and seek to follow God AND stick together for the work of Christ today.
I think I've seen this somewhere approach- either narrative style or infographic style- or was that related to another topic and I've merely overlaid it on the UMC? Maybe it was just a dream after this wild week of UMC news. I hope to get my hands on current numbers to quantify some of this, but for now, it's an interesting exercise. Here are a few of my questions that most of us are asking:
We are multi-ethnic, diverse ages, & mixed in all the "ologies"- theologically, socially, politically, economically, etc. Is this a strength or weakness? What holds us together? Can we continue to find strength in the diversity or will the fracture lines give way to separation or divorce?
We have a mix of feelings in the congregation of some who are optimistic about the future, some who are deeply troubled as they feel their particular issues are not playing out the way they desire, and some who are realistic yet concerned. Most will be passionate and opinionated! What will the Church look like? Does doctrine or theology hold us together? Polity? Money? Or something else? How do we best try to encourage and challenge each other in healthy ways that aren't escalating conflict? Or is it best to push the battle and let it all "play out" as we stand for God and what is right?
As a congregation we might have a sense of loss of numbers from one part of town, but growth from another part of town. Some who help leadership in the past have a diminishing voice. Some who are newer to the church are exerting their influence and thought as their numbers grow. We have people, but will we continue to have funding? What ministries are essential to all in the church? What missions and ministries are most effective to reach our neighborhoods? Are there issues that are important to "one part of town," yet either unimportant or divisive in another area? Is there a practical way to have input from the small groups who might then come together as an executive committee?
In our church, which is getting larger and more complex even while dealing with conflict, how do we help folk to communicate in healthy ways? Is this even possible with the size and complexity of the church now? It's likely that blogging, tweeting, and some forms of talk only add to the entrenchment of camps, the demonizing of one another, and the continued escalation of hostility. How do we break apart our "soap boxes" in order to get beyond small groups fighting? Or, if we accept that ongoing conflict is part of our body, are these birth or death pangs or something else?
In a form of church that doesn't have "a" leader, but functions more by committee, how do we push forward during times of change, times of conflict, and times that require we pull together as a team or some form of unity that helps us get beyond an impasse. How do we do that in our large church where no one is going to get everything they want or expect? Is there a consultant or leader that all would follow? Are we held in the impasse by the committees? What is the best way beyond political gridlock and onto action and living in the Kingdom of God? Does our polity, at this point, best reflect the doctrine and practical needs of the various "neighborhoods?"
How are we following Jesus today in ways that are vital, alive, and true to the Gospel and the Wesleyan way? Are we handing off a denomination to the next generation that they can continue to sustain and grow?
If we don't arrive at some shared, common answers to these questions GC2016, and the committees, COB meetings, and events leading up to it will merely follow the pattern we've been stuck in. Let's avoid "more of the same" and the build-up/let down of GC2012.