Monday, February 13, 2012

I finally get it

Please go to this post at Episcopal Cafe right away. I was just having this very conversation with some parishioners this afternoon. Hey y'all - I get it!

Click on the link or copy and paste this:

I'm going to be reckless here and push the envelope a bit further.
One of the parishioners pointed out that The Church Institutional has figured out that what we have been doing is no longer working, so things that used to be done in the past, say, forty years by paid staff is to now be done by volunteers in networks. And that is going back sixty years to the all-volunteer church, which is unworkable because most people have day jobs (or night jobs and sleep days) and they are already doing all the volunteering they can.

I pondered that for some minutes as the parishioners were readying themselves to leave. And then the penny dropped. I was just in a group looking at "closing churches, sharing resources", and the only way this was being looked at was small churches in financial difficulty closing and sharing their resources with the churches that already have plenty but are in a different context, so why would contextually missional struggling congregations go someplace else where what they love is not needed or wanted. Now I'm sure that was not the message that was intended to be sent. It was the message I heard. And as I pondered that in the context of what my parishioner said about going back to the volunteerism of the fifties, I thought, Aha, close those small parishes and send their resources - read people - to other congregations so those other congregations have enough resources - read volunteer people - to do mission/ministry.

I admit this is pretty cynical of me. It is possible for some struggling congregations to merge. It so often ends in tears, everyone trying to hold onto their own stuff. It requires giving up everything, including power and being in charge, and starting over, it seems to me, and that takes extraordinary people and extraordinary leadership.

And in the end, it is all about the money.

Here's my solution.

You are a large congregation, with plenty of money, near a couple of struggling, so-called dying, small congregations that have vital, thriving, participatory, contextually oriented ministries, working with God on God's mission where they find themselves planted. Instead of killing that contextual ministry by closing the church and uprooting the people and sending them somewhere they might not be wanted for who and what they are, you, the large congregation, tithe to those congregations 10% of your best leaders, 10% of your biggest givers, 10% of what those givers give to your church, 10% of those under 35, 10% of those who know how to raise funds, how to do communications, how to do administration, how to manage a building, and 10% of your children and youth. Have these people pledge faithfully to stay in that context for ten years and learn from the people already there. Not remake them in the image of Christ as found in your place, but have your tithed resources remade in the image of Christ as found in the struggling place. After ten years, if the congregation has not become "viable" (probably read "grown in money"), then everyone can go back to from whence they came and the smaller church can close.

Now what do you think of that? Who among you is going to have the courage to be the first in your diocese to jump on this band wagon?

1 comment:

DeanB said...

It's going to take some powerful preaching to convince 10% of your best people, who are active partly because they like your leadership, to go to a different church; but if you said something like "I'd like everyone who lives on the side of town closer to that church to go over there next Sunday and see what you think", and told that congregation to expect them, you might build up a response. It will take a tremendous amount of courage, not to mention confidence that the other congregation will do the same for yours if the pendulum swings the other way in 15 or 20 years.