As I get more active beyond the congregation in church leadership I'm curious how the various parts of the whole function. I'm especially intrigued by how we engage in the assessment, planning, and implementation of our sense of the mission of God at the various levels of a denomination. So, for The United Methodist Church, what does it look like for us to be a mission movement at the various levels of the organization? This seems to have different answers in various parts of the world.
How does your UMC congregation do annual mission planning?
Usually this is a committee. Unless the committee died for lack of interest. Too many of our churches don't do this well. Too often a mission committee can devolve into asking for money and writing checks, special events, and maintaining the tradition of mission of previous decades. It's like we keep wearing that same old favorite mission t-shirt from 20 years ago!
Too many of our clergy don't emphasize the overarching mission of God that we are privileged to be a part of, and challenged to step up and find our place in. Too often the redemption story is a distant tale, or perhaps we are beneficiaries but not participants, or maybe it's a job for someone else in the church. So, our theology, our preaching and teaching, and all the ministries of the church lose our very reason for being as we tame mission and outreach into "just another ministry."
The most effective mission committees I've seen have an ongoing curiosity about how to engage every member of the church in a missional lifestyle that follows in the way of Christ and is holistic, authentic, and transformational. This lends itself well to the Methodist understanding of sanctification and holiness. So, outreach is an essential element just as is worship, discipleship, prayer, giving, evangelism, fellowship, etc. The mission of God regains a place of priority for church and individuals as we find ourselves personally engaged in incarnational ministry. And this dynamic changes the practices of church while also involving new and different people who are swept up in the salvation story which we see lived out once again.
But if we don't currently practice the mission of God this way in our local church then how in the world do we talk about it and express mission in those next levels of organization at district, conference, or jurisdiction?
How does your UMC district do annual mission planning? Do all of your churches know "the plan" for this year? Are your churches engaged in a vibrant mission plan for the district? How is your church an active participant with the Kingdom of God beyond your local church? How is your church engaged in connectional mission to that to love God and to love neighbor as yourself finds expression locally, nationally, and internationally?
As we consider assessment, planning, and next steps for a year together in the mission of God there are ways we might break beyond our old ways of doing and being in God's mission and find ourselves in a new place as we follow Christ today.