Lego Church April 22, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Church growth.
Tags: church, Church Leadership, Christian Community, Church growth
Forgive the annoying “back when I was a boy…” beginning to this reflection, but, back when I was a boy a Lego kit consisted of a box of white, black, yellow, blue and red bricks that came in eight different sizes. You could make anything your imagination could conceive of, as long as it had sharp, square corners. The directions consisted of three cartoons that showed how the round part on top of one brick stuck to the opening on the bottom of another brick. Simplicity itself. Just the other week, I came across Lego Architecture sets recommended for ages 16+ that are scale replicas of famous structures from around the world. Intricately colored and crafted, these sets allow for no improvisation — each piece is carefully crafted to fit its appropriate mates. This is the Lego equivalent of the old paint-by-number kits — deviate from the directions at your own peril! Creativity be damned — there is ONE RIGHT WAY to do it.
The Janus Conundrum November 18, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Communication in the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Vision
A day of new beginnings often produces mixed results — hopefulness & skepticism, promise and problems, anticipation and anxiety. In The United Methodist Church we are poised — some say on the threshold of a new day, others say on the brink of utter annihilation (most feel we are somewhere in between, but are not sure just where…) Unfortunately, when there is an absence of visionary leadership, we unintentionally compound the problem by adopting contradictory and incompatible tools and processes to attempt to make something happen. We have done it before, and we are doing it now. Case in point? Vital Congregations and Adaptive Leadership.
Homophily Abounds October 3, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church growth, Core Values, The United Methodist Church, Transformation and Change, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Church growth, The United Methodist Church, Values
Recent church visits strike me with an undeniable pattern — we tend to associate only with those most like us. I have yet to visit any church that does not consider itself “friendly,” yet rarely is there a deep level of awareness that answers the question, “friendly with/to whom?” Two brief illustrations. First, I was a guest preacher in a mid-sized urban church where the attending congregation only nominally reflected the neighborhood where it is located. Four visitors showed up on a Sunday morning — the parents of a couple who attend regularly, a torn blue-jeaned young man with beard and unkempt (by the standards of this congregation) hair, a swarthy, olive-skinned middle-aged man of mixed ethnicity dressed in slacks and a nice shirt, and a young, nicely dressed white woman with a very sweet 2-3 year-old daughter. Go ahead — predict who was greeted and who was not? Simplistic stereotyping? Maybe, but I was the only person in the church that morning who spoke to either of the two single men who visited the church. In fact, I watched a number of people physically keep their distance from the swarthy middle-aged man, eyeing him with suspicion and breaking eye contact the moment he looked back at them. The young guy hung to the side of two or three groups, waiting to be noticed, until I went over to him. He was very inquisitive, asking where I am a pastor, who the pastor was in the church we were visiting, why there weren’t any other young people, what kinds of Bible studies and small groups did the church have, etc. I took the young man over to the lay leader to introduce him, thinking he would get more helpful answers from someone who actually knew the church, but the lay leader kind of nervously backed off, retrieved a brochure about the church’s program, gave it to the young man, then excused himself to go greet the visiting parents of the couple who attended church. I noted that he stood and chatted with them for a good twenty minutes.
Emerged February 24, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Core Values, Religion in the U.S., Spiritual Trends.
Tags: Church growth, hypocrisy, Religious Trends, Spiritual seekers
I love young adults. They slap me upside the head every time I meet with them. They are the supreme reality check. They burst my bubble every single time I talk to them. I NEED twenty-somethings to help me see what I am missing. Case in point. I met with a group of about forty clergy and young adults — most of the laity in their early- to mid-twenties, clergy in their late-twenties/early thirties. We were talking about the relevancy and significance of the church. Now, a decade ago, when I met with this age group, the hot topic at the time was “emerging church.” It was the rage. Bell, McLaren, McManus, Tony Jones, Warren books were spread all over everywhere, and just about everyone was signed up for an emerging something somewhere. Today, the emerging church was not even mentioned, so I thought I would ask about it. The response I got surprised me at first, but then simply assaulted my own tiny worldview. One of the group snorted derisively and said, “A bunch of 50-year-old white guys talking about postmodern Christianity and missional churches!” I was stunned. Whenever I talk to those 50+ white guys, we think we are so cutting edge and relevant. I have written before about the usurpation of the emerging vision by mainline and evangelical institutional churches — which indeed undermined the relevancy years ago — but I didn’t realize that it had so completely left the radar screen of younger leaders across the country.
The Mediocrity of More January 18, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Church growth, Congregational Planning, Core Values.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, Vision
Pick up a ball, toss it in the air, catch it. Take two balls and toss them one at a time, catch them. So far, so good. Very few dropped balls. Take a third and juggle them. With practice, you become sure-handed and drop very few. But what about four or five balls? Much harder to keep them moving without dropping some. Not so impressive when the balls drop frequently. Incredibly difficult to keep many balls in the air without error. There is a basic quality/quantity trade-off. Those who can juggle five or six balls flawlessly are indeed impressive; but a person who juggles three balls perfectly is more impressive than one who juggles five balls poorly. I think there is a lesson here for the church.
More-a-torium August 31, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, church marketing, Mission & Purpose, Values
Often we believe that if we do more of what does not work, it will finally work. This is the dilemma of the consumer economy. It leads us to the place where, when we reach a limit and still are unsatisfied, we think, if we only had more, we would be successful or satisfied. More police, more physicians, more services, more teachers, more stuff. This is not a solution. It is an addiction.
This is a quote from Peter Block and John McKnight’s, The Abundant Community, and it is an incisive analysis of the current state of much thinking in The United Methodist Church. I was talking with a pastor the other day who was beaming in response to an upward trend in his congregation’s worship attendance.
“We’re up over 20% from last year — first growth in over seven years! We even have some of the people coming to other programs, and our giving is up! It’s nice to be pastoring a healthy church for a change!”
“How is it healthier?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” he replied.
“Well, you described how your church is bigger, but then you said it was healthy, too.” I explained.
“But, that is healthier. More is better.” he responded.
“I’m not sure I follow your logic,” I said. “More is more and better is better and they aren’t automatically the same. I’m overweight — in this case more isn’t better or healthier.”
“Oh, it’s not the same thing. Having more people and more money in church are both good things. They measure health.” he patiently explained.
“If size, activity and budget are the reasons for the church to exist, you are correct. However, if maturing in discipleship, service to others, and proclamation to the world (the old, preach, teach, and heal model) then you would want different metrics.” I countered.
“Well, I still maintain that going from 90 to 110 on average each week is a good thing.”
“How did you do it?” I asked.
“We started a second service with praise music and videos, real upbeat and energetic. We don’t do it in the sanctuary, it’s very informal — people bring coffee and kids sit on the floor and color. People enjoy it because it doesn’t feel like church.” he explained.
Accountability Ability August 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church growth, Congregational Life, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Values
- There is no progress without accountability — holding people accountable to the vows they make is the key to development, growth and maturing
- Actions have consequences — where there are no consequences (positive or negative) there is no accountability
- Lack of accountability renders relationships meaningless — if it doesn’t matter whether or not I keep my word, why bother?
Now a story:
Four years ago I was working with a southern church of considerable size (over 2,000 members on the books) that was being systematically undermined and torn apart by two former Baptists who joined the church, then decided that United Methodism was too liberal and “wrongly-structured” for their tastes. These two toxic-influencers started spreading rumors about how apportionment monies were spent to promote abortion, fund Democratic political groups, and drive the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) efforts to destroy the church. They launched a whisper-campaign to attack the pastor’s reputation and undermine his leadership. They conducted an email campaign to spread rumors about misconduct of elected leaders and to encourage people to stay away from worship, withhold their giving, and to resign from leadership positions. They held a “prayer-rally” where they incited people to either leave the church or to mount a crusade to get the church to leave the denomination. Happy times all around.
When the Means Mystify the Ends July 11, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Congregational Planning, Core Values, Evaluation and Assessment, Strategic Planning.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, Values
Tools are only as helpful as the knowledge available to employ them. Give a child a bandsaw and he is as likely to do great damage as any good. If we don’t understand something, it is very unlikely we will use it well. Case in point, our cultural lack of clarity of four essential tools: data, information, knowledge and wisdom. Simple definitions:
- data – a collection of individual facts, numbers, symbols, or images
- information — patterns culled from input of data that indicate arrangement of facts, statistics, or concepts to yield meaning
- knowledge — interpretation of information to produce understanding of what is useful, meaningful, valuable and/or true
- wisdom — the ability to retain, retrieve and apply knowledge in creative, constructive, and coherent ways
These four aspects of understanding are not identical, and we make some serious mistakes when we confuse them. Let me give two examples — one church development related, one disciple-making.
Finding What We Look For July 6, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Core Values, Evaluation and Assessment, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values, Vision
Scott Kline, a professional driver, managed to wreck a million-dollar prototype hybrid car when it was first being tested. When asked to explain what happened, Kline reported,
I got so engrossed looking at all the dials and gauges and screens on the dashboard that I forgot to look where I was going.
There is an important cautionary word in this for our church — as “dashboards” to count and measure and track become the new toy we get all excited about in the church, we need to remember that collecting data and monitoring statistics has virtually nothing to do with making disciples of Jesus Christ. You cannot evaluate quality by focusing on quantity.
Our new “Vital Congregations” emphasis has all the marks of steering us in the wrong direction. While its leaders talk about “goal setting” and “missional objectives,” the underlying message is that numbers are the ultimate indicator of health and vitality. Having high blood pressure, myself, I can attest to the fact that large numbers are not always to be desired. Having MORE people, small groups, projects, pastors, ministries, and money seems, on the surface, to be a good thing. However, there is an implicit given that must be taken into consideration, and that is a presumed quality. The presumption that our future growth will all be high quality denies our current reality: if we’re not doing very well with what we already have, it is highly unlikely we will do better with more. A few examples:
Failure In An Instant June 30, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Church growth, Church Leadership, Congregational Life, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, Church Leadership, Religious Trends, Values
At what point do we finally wake-up to the fact that there is no such thing as a lasting, transformative “quick-fix?” We have suffered through over 50 years of “church-in-box” programs that have produced poor results at best. Disciple Bible Study came closest to delivering transformation, but ultimately “popular” did not translate into “effective.” Literally thousands of people have had wonderful, meaningful, enjoyable Disciple experiences. However, a variety of independent follow-up evaluations indicate that there is a very low retention rate, that few people adopt sustained spiritual formation practices, and few report any transformed behavior in their daily lives. I will hear about the handful whose lives were completely changed, and I do not devalue any such experience — but unless Disciple has been an integrated component of a comprehensive developmental process of spiritual formation, it remains a pleasant experience for the vast majority. No, our Bible studies, evangelism programs, stewardship campaigns, membership drives, and 7 Habits, 10 Keys, 12 Steps, and 40 Days remedies have done little to make us a city on the hill or a light in the darkness. Where this occurs, there is hard work, commitment, vision and prayerful discernment shared by the many rather than the few.