Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Must Read

As the focus of our annual conference and the focus of the Futures Committee this year revolves around recruiting young leaders and young clergy, this post of Will Willimon is a must read.

An Emerging Generation for the Church

I would love to read your comments.



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Adding Another Blog

I added a link to another weblog in the right hand column. As a conference and as a futures committee, we will be spending time this year on the issue of recruiting younger clergy. Bishop Will Willimon has a moderated weblog dedicated to just that issue. It is not all his work but a collection of questions and thoughts. It is worth a read:

And remember, if you have relevant material for the weblog, email it me!



Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thinking with outdated currency

There is a great article in this month's Chief Learning Officer called "Trios Trump Singletons." I especially like the opening story the author Jay Cross tells. He writes about having a fabulous dinner at a beautiful restaurant in the Southern Alps and paying the tab of 154 euros. He then reflects back to 20 years earlier, sitting in that same restaurant and paying the bill of 30,0o0 liras, less than 20 euros. After reflecting on how much prices have risen (mentioning the '60s book, Europe on $5 a Day) he writes a fantastic line. "Thinking with outdated currency keeps most CLOs [Chief Learning Officers] from reaching their potential."

The article turns to matters of corporate learning focusing on the fact that leaders often make decisions based on outdated perceptions of how long things take and how much, in terms of resources, they cost. There is another great line, "saying there is not enough time is a statement of priorities, not of scarce resources. The author proposes that, in corporate life, this can lead to choices of limiting resource use by training one person instead of a group, missing out on the multiplication effect of people learning together.

The article raises all sorts of questions for the church. In what ways are we, as church leaders "thinking with outdated currency?" This may be a much bigger problem for churches since decisions require much broader support. It is not just a matter of a shift in thinking of the leader, but the leader's ability to garner support for a new way of thinking. I am sure most pastors and experienced lay leaders can remember trying to make a decision with someone in the room who was convinced that it is still 1950. Churches can become immobilized by making decisions without truly considering them priority statements and truly considering the current context, along with the new possibilities afforded by technology and continual development of the practice of ministry and church management.

In what ways are we, as church leaders "thinking with outdated currency?" And, what can we do about it?



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The World Just Keeps Changing

Although the saving, liberating power of the Gospel remains unchanged, the world around us continues to. Take a peak at Beloit College's annual Mindset List, a collection of the cultural touchstones that shapes the lives of those entering college this year:



Thursday, August 14, 2008

What can the olympics teach us about the future of the church

I was reading an editorial this morning in The New York Times titled "A Cutting Edge Olympics." It got me wondering if there is anything we, as those called to think about the future of the Church, can learn from watching and thinking about the Olympics. The level of improvements to the broadcasts (especially with HDTV) make previous Olympics feel, in the words of the editorial feel "a little like an old episode of 'Bonanza.' This Olympics is also truly taking advantage of the myriad of new ways we communicate: text messaging, online and on-phone video, even twitter (which was used as a way for people to find live online feeds of the opening ceremonies which NBC was trying to block.) Technology is not just part of the coverage of the sports but part of the sports themselves with new swimsuits that allow swimmers to swim faster and apparel that lets runners to run faster.

So what do we take away as the church? I think we have learned our lesson over and over that we shouldn't just blindly try to infuse what works for the Olympics into our setting and think it will help. But what can we learn about how to better deliver the message of salvation, connect people with the saving power of the gospel and help them grow in the image and likeness of Christ?



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Perhaps this will inspire some thoughts

Mention the word alcohol around clergy people and it will usually incite a conversation if not a debate. The purpose of my link to this piece from Phyllis Tickle is less about alcohol and more about what church will look like in the future and how we are reaching out in the present. Let me know your thoughts.

Beer and Bible Night at Kudzu's (by Phyllis Tickle)



Monday, August 4, 2008

Thinking About Technology

I read an article yesterday in The New York Times that got me thinking about the use of technology for the future (and present) of our churches. Don't let the title fool you, it is not a political article, it is about technology:

McCain, the Analog Candidate
Published: August 3, 2008

The issue of the use of technology is a big one in the United Methodist Church. If you spend most of your time in urban and suburban churches, you might not experience this but we have an large number of churches with no web site and many with no web connected computer in their office. And we have a lot of churches that think that there is nothing wrong with that. God certainly transcends our use of technology. People have been worshipping God and entering into relationship with Jesus for a really long time without computers.

But, I think this article raises some questions that go beyond whether or not we use PowerPoint in worship of post podcasts on our websites. It may raise a question like, can a pastor who has no understanding of the new ways in which we communicate and interact have any hope of communicating the gospel message to a new generation? It is possible that technology, like it or not, is interwoven into the fabric of our day to day existence. If we as leaders and evangelists do not understand how the world works, are we missing an opportunity to connect with it?

This is more than a "now" question. It is a "future" question. Technology is not done evolving, in fact it is accelerating. Pastors like me who email, blog and facebook risk being completely lost in another ten years. Pastors and churches will continue to have to make choices about what technologies they embrace and why.

I think there is a case to be made for not always choosing to embrace something new. There are churches thriving with no visible use of technology (except for lights, air conditioning, organs, and those hymnals made possible by one of the greatest technological breakthroughs of all time, the printing press). These decisions may be okay, but I think we need to realize that we are making decisions and these decisions matter.



Saturday, August 2, 2008

Starbucks Revisited

One of the most thought provoking books I read last year was Leonard Sweet's The Gospel According to Starbucks. You can read my thoughts on the book on the archive of my old weblog here: Christ and Coffee at Will at Grace. (Note, if you read that post, keep in mind it was written in the context of Corpus Christi where there is not a Starbucks on every corner.)

This book came to mind for me this morning as I was reading the oddest editorial piece I had seen in a while. One of the most prominent newspapers in America, The New York Times, was basically cajoling Starbucks to not close a location in Newark. If you follow coffee news (and I am sure everyone does) you may know that Starbucks is closing a bunch of under performing stores in America and the one on Broad Street is on the list. You can read the editorial here:

Editorial - Cold Coffee - The New York Times

So, why in the world does The New York Times care about a coffee shop in Newark? Because, as they see it, this coffee shop has had a significant impact on the community that surrounds it. They saw the coffee shop as a clear sign of resurgence in the area and an important part of the community as it was able to draw people out of their offices and onto the streets creating street traffic which creates a larger sense of community.

If you are not a Starbucks fan or have not read Sweet's book, you may think that this an awful lot to expect from a place that sells five dollar lattes. But Starbucks has created itself as more than a place that sells coffee. It is a place that sells experience and community.

So here is the question this raises in the context of the future of our conference. How many of our churches have something so important to offer our community that if they announced tomorrow that they were closing, the local paper would dedicate space to asking them not to? Why? Certainly the judgement of our ministries, activities and impact goes to God. We are not running our churches for the approval of the local paper. But if we are transforming lives and the community, you would think someone might notice.



Monday, July 21, 2008

Members vs. Constituents

This article as actually posted in May on the UMC website, but someone just forwarded it to me and I thought it worthy of this space.

United Methodist membership down, constituency up

For me, it raises the same sort of issues the last article raised. When we are looking towards the future of the church, are we asking the right questions?

Another look at worship trends

This may be some important research reported on by USA Today. It seems that while 'churched' folks are attending church less often (we knew that) those we would call 'unchurched or attending more often. I think non-denominational churches, some of which have average worship attendances higher than their membership, already get this. But what about the rest of us?

'Unchurched' worshipping more, 'churched' less?
USA Today




Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Young Leaders

One of the thing the Futures Committee is thinking and praying about is the initiative to raise up young clergy leadership. My friend Rev. Barbara Ruth, District Superintentent of the Corpus Christi District wrote to following piece for the latest edition of The Witness, our Southwest Texas Conference paper. I asked Barbara's permission to repost it here. I would love to hear your comments.



We must listen to, respect young leaders
Rev. Barbara Ruth

I had the privilege of leading a conversation in a dialogue session at annual conference. The topic was recruiting and retaining young clergy, and the conversation we had was lively and way too short. Out of that conversation, I have created this “Top Ten List of Ways to Discourage Young Candidates/Clergy.”

10. Don’t listen to young adults. You do the talking instead.

9. Have no ministries in your local church for any young people past the age of 18. Do not support campus ministries for college students.

8. Never consider young adults for leadership in ministries or in worship. Even when they express interest in serving on the SPRC in the position the Discipline provides for a young adult, don’t nominate them.

7. If a young adult begins to discuss the possibility of having a call to ordained ministry, discourage him or her immediately with remarks like, “Oh, you don’t want to do that! Think about how your life would be like living in a fishbowl. Besides the pay isn’t that great and you’ll have a lot of school debt after seminary.”

6. To a candidate for ordained ministry, emphasize how long and gruesome the process of candidacy is.

5. Tell young people who inquire about candidacy to wait a year or two until they have more experience in ministry before they start asking about that. Delay certification until you are absolutely positive that they can be equal to pastors with considerable experience.

4. Don’t keep in contact with young seminarians, especially those who are studying far away. Make sure they have an opportunity while in seminary to know how lonely ordained ministry can be.

3. Keep secret as much as possible the means by which seminarians can seek book money or scholarship funds from the Board of Ordained Ministry or local churches. This will enable them to come out of seminary with more debt.

2. Keep candidates guessing about all the paperwork that gets filled out along the way by requiring that it be turned in to a variety of persons across the conference. Make sure that this process is so confusing that the average pastor cannot explain it.

1. If you have a young adult pastor, be sure you treat him or her like the teenager who mows your lawn. Communicate regularly about his or her lack of experience. Never, ever acknowledge a young adult pastor’s authority as a leader.

Had a strong reaction to this Top Ten List? I understand. I heard everything in this list in the brief time we had in the diaIogue session. It’s not pleasant to hear that you may be part of the problem of why young adults are missing in our churches and in ordained ministry. It’s hard to hear the frustration of young adults who want desperately to be part of both the general and ordained ministry of the Church but find the burden is on them to be persistent in finding their places in a maze of expectations and requirements at every level of the Church’s communal life.

However, this is the reality many experience. If we care about young adults and young clergy, then we have no choice but to listen, listen, listen to them, and I hope we will also learn how to do some things differently in response to what we hear.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Take a look at this piece from Leonard Sweet about the future of our seminaries.

Thoughts and comments are encouraged.


Monday, June 23, 2008


Welcome to the official weblog for the Futures Committee of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Check back soon for content and discussion.

Will Rice
SWTX Conference Futures Committee