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Thinking with outdated currency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 "Thinking with outdated currency keeps most CLOs [Chief Learning Officers] from reaching their potential."

The article turns to matters of corporate learning focusing on the fact that leaders often make decisions based on outdated perceptions of how long things take and how much, in terms of resources, they cost.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 In what ways are we, as church leaders "thinking with outdated currency?"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In what ways are we, as church leaders "thinking with outdated currency?"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.