Monday, May 18, 2015

Plan Your Mission Celebration Now!

My current job configuration is 60% with North Georgia on the Connectional Ministries staff with emphasis in mission & outreach, and 40% with Global Ministries with focus on helping more churches and districts across the United States do Mission Celebrations (my job could be a discussion for another day as I see this as a great pairing that is worth duplication). In both capacities this is the time of year to evaluate what churches have done in the past year, and to make dynamic plans for the next year of ministry.

I find many mission events across the United States seem to cluster in either the fall or winter/early spring months. There are a few churches which offer these in late spring or summer, but those seem to be exceptions to the general rule (though they may be smart as they can often get the preacher or teach they want and aren't scheduling a year or two out in order to get their first pick). Late September through early November, and mid January- March seems to be the busy season for mission events. Throw in a few more mission Sundays in late April or perhaps an open Sunday in May and that gives you an idea of how many churches might be scrambling for mission personnel on a perhaps half the Sundays in a given year.

Of course, Mission Celebrations can take on a variety of configurations or approaches to match your people and their availability and interest. Many churches are finding reward in thinking about a mission event and offering some layers of interest. This is similar to what you might think of as options on a college campus as you might wisely offer some discussions or training ranging from introductory to more advanced/experienced. How does your mission event build on the past and challenge for the future? How do your sermons/teaching/discussions help a congregation build on their place in the Kingdom of God? How does your local, national, and international mission weave together in ways that are most useful to God and to people?  

I often speak in terms of partnering, tailoring, coaching, or customizing when discussing where a church is in the mission of God. How are your people following Christ in both the everyday individual mission and together with others as the community of faith as the Body of Christ? This is some of the beautiful complexity and variety available in mission as we seek to pair a church with the very best ways they can share a witness of the love of God and neighbor. Such customization gets into:

  1. Who the church is and who/what is available for the mission of God? 
  2. What might we cut out?  that is only project oriented, or not good use of funding, or not the type partnership we desire, or relational because we know the missionary or organization and not strategic, or maybe our church folk are tired and we want to narrow down from a "shotgun pattern" of mission that has accumulated over the years to more of a "laser focus" which will go deeper, or perhaps a mission is just not where God wants us (NOTE: these can be tough issues to work through/talk through/pray through and usually churches or committees merely "decide not to decide." An outside consultant like me might be helpful to your committee or team in such instances), 
  3. What is next? Where is God leading us? How do we decide the next steps of mission for the entire church? How do we think through engaging everyone in the congregation in their next steps of faith and the mission of God? 
  4. How do we get everyone in the church to take a "next step" in the mission of God? How might we define our church as a community servant with this step? This will also review what existing resources and partners are available through the community and through our connection of churches. This is often overlooked and is somewhat like finding that box that has been hidden in your home closet or garage of the "forgotten things" that are just what you need. 

These are just a few examples of the type strategic approach that can elevate the mission of a church and help create a very dynamic Mission Celebration.

Many UMC congregations run on a program year that is built somewhat on a hybrid of the school calendar and the UM conference calendar. I hope as pastors and mission committees work on the year ahead that many congregations and campus ministries will consider a Mission Celebration as an exciting option that might create a dynamic Sunday or long weekend experience. The next couple of months will be the ideal time to get into discussions as I'm available to assist you in your program design and recruiting just the right personnel for your event.

I can serve as your "one stop" shop to help in connecting with Global Ministries leadership and missionaries. We'll work with any size congregation, at any experience level of mission, as well as with district, conference, campus ministry, etc.  We can assist you with an event for any age or stage as you think about connecting your church or district in mission. Any topic or country or mission concept you find at the Global Ministries website can be offered in your location! FYI, for 2016 we've already got one major event scheduled at a UM campus, and talking with one UM conference about being in every one of their 8 districts while making adjustments which will customize for the various locations. Our agenda is to partner well as we are "Connecting the Church in Mission" so that congregations are effective in local, national, and international mission. See the link for a little more information.  I will receive your email if you send a note through the "Contact Info" link or if you fill out the "Request Form." Let me know how we can best bring Global Ministries to your church.

Consider a Mission Celebration as you do your church planning and consider your next steps in the missio Dei.