May 21, 2008
I need to find the most updated info on the following:
1. Average church size in America – broken down by tradition would be best
2. Percentages by size
3. What are the percentages of churches in America that are actively involved (serving in some way) in their neighborhood or city.
May 15, 2008
This afternoon I go to this beautiful place until Saturday afternoon with about 35 women to laugh, cry, take in the beauty, laugh, eat, make space for God and one another…this is one of the highlights of my year. This is the view we have. We stay a few steps away from the beach (some of us will actually stay in a beach house literally on the beach). The scene is Useless Bay on Whidbey Island. The majestic Olympic Mountains are in the background. It is supposed to get in the 80’s the next two days…Perfect
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIKA!
May 12, 2008
My post for Jesus Creed is up today. Go take a look.
May 7, 2008
In light of this discussion I wanted to shout out to Scot McKnight. He is most generous about including women over at Jesus Creed, how? With his writing, his honest respect for women in leadership, the interaction in the comments, and he, more than any man I read, often invites women to guest post. I don’t know his stats, but I can guess he is one of the widest read blogs in the Evangelical tradition. Check out his current series Pastor’s Wisdom over the next two weeks while he is away in South Africa. Today my colleague and friend, Cindy is the guest blogger. I wrote a post for the series as well. Scot is a man that understands what is needed to change the structure. I appreciate Scot and Kris!
May 3, 2008
A change of pace for a moment:
I am in the midst of writing an eighty page paper documenting the process we have gone through to birth two mission groups. Hopefully we will have our website updated with more of our history in the next few months.
A mission group is a group of people that join around a passion to serve others, usually driven by one or more entrepreneurial leaders gathering a team. These leaders are joining their passion with some area of God’s redemptive purposes in this world. The group develops its own leadership, mission, purpose, values, and organizational structure. The group functions under the VCC board of directors until it reaches viability. Once the group and the Board agree it is time, the group spins off with its own 501c3 status and becomes an entity unto itself.
Our dream is that we would help birth multiple mission groups over time. We know of folks who instead of planting a conventional church are actually planting a mission group with the dream of a church being birthed in the midst of the mission. There has been great conversation about sustainable models of church in the past week or so. It is a much needed conversation. One way I believe we have to think about the future, no matter what size congregation we are is how to garner resources beyond our size. Church of the Savior has pioneered a way to bring the healing ministry of Jesus right into the neighborhood with their mission group model.
While not adhering exactly to the COS model, they gave us an imagination to what we perceive is God’s path for us. You see we began a journey about five years ago to discover why our church had a reason to exist. When we began to ask that question partnered with inquiring prayer, our vision of what it meant to “be” the church was forever changed.
We are only five years into our journey toward what we now name as our grand experiment. I wrote a piece for Scot McNight’s Jesus Creed blog that will be posted sometime in the next few weeks while he and Kris are in South Africa. It is a short piece on how and what we focus on as a congregation so I won’t go into that here. I will link to it when it is up at Jesus Creed.
Bullet points for my paper:
We decided to grow a church big rather than grow a big church
Mission group development, includes those dreadful words from the 90’s; mission, vision, values. Somehow in the mission group context they are life giving if you want to be faithful to the mission.
Leadership – what kind of leadership within the church is required to let go of control enough to let others run with their passion and vision. This seems to scare pastors. We are often asked (sincere) questions that reflect this fear: how do you make sure leaders of mission groups stay on track with your vision? What about resources, do they take away from people giving to the church or serving in the church? Our vision is to “incubate” kingdom activity through those that are responding to God for the sake of the world. The mission group model has shown us that there are resources of not only money, but time and talent beyond what our local church could ever provide. The amount of resources that are available when you invite people to partner for a grass roots cause continues to amaze me.
There is a need for structure to organize around the mission. We are a mysterious blend of organic community and organizational structure for the work of the kingdom.
All kinds of people get to play. Those that follow Christ and those that wonder about following Christ but in the meantime want to make the world a better place work together for kingdom purposes.
We partner and collaborate with the City, the School District, Social Service Agencies, the local Food Bank, the County Housing Authority and many other sectors of our city. We are at the table where the needs and resources of our community are discussed and then addressed as best they can in collaboration to make the “community livable again”.
More later including:
Some specifics in mission group creation, including financial sustainability.
How a congregation moves through the kind of change necessary to cultivate incubating passion for God’s healing in our world…incubating, or the term “birthing” is interesting. My friend is a doula, she has a lot of stories for walking alongside a woman giving birth. I, myself have given birth tree times and my husband’s first wife, Wendy was a mid-wife. He witnessed the pregnancy process and birth of hundreds of babies. The birthing metaphor is fitting for where our journey has taken us these past few years and very metaphoric for where we are heading.
May 2, 2008
Jenell Paris in talking about the Emergent Movement. I would add great thoughts here for us to consider as the Vineyard finds a way forward.
May 1, 2008
The following post is from my perspective as a woman who has served in the Evangelical tradition of the Church for the past thirty years. There are many groups marginalized from the Church today, at the center of each group are those that hold the power to give access, to share power with those at the margins or those that have been denied to function in all of their God-given gifting, talent and calling.
As a woman navigating leadership in the church (not the church I serve but the wider church) my experience has been “ being caught” between two worlds. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where I didn’t question the issue of leadership. From my perspective the way a woman attained leadership was to become a nun. Having left the RC at the age of eighteen, my next church experience was in a Pentecostal/Evangelical church where male and female leadership was modeled. My next church experience was in a Vineyard church that embraced biblical equality. It wasn’t until the time of my ordination in 1996 the realization hit, I had been insulated from how far behind the wider church was on this issue.
While I believe this falls under an issue of justice, I have learned to restrain from pugnacious arguments on this issue. In some ways, restraint has been necessary to get a hearing, but at other times, since this is an issue of justice, I have used my power to speak up even when it is not “politically correct” to do so.
Part of the issue of power and understanding power is being self-aware enough to know when you are reacting and when you need to stand for what’s true. These are not easy issues, especially when you have felt the injustice of someone judging you because of your gender. In many ways this injustice is not unlike the caste system, one does not have control over what position in life they are born into.
This brings me to the question at hand. How do we change structures in the Church that have not allowed women access? I know this is a complex issue with many implications when you are dealing with denominational structures. What I do believe is that if people that are in the seats of power will not share power (this usually comes with a cost), i.e., step aside and let those without access have space, then real change, systemic change does not occur.
The Vineyard is in the midst of navigating how to give women access to all levels of leadership. This means changing structures that have been in place since the Vineyard’s inception that have not allowed women equal access. This is reflected in the amount of female lead pastors, the AVC Board of Directors, (all men, while their wives attend and give input, their vote does not officially count), and in countless other ways.
My husband and I have been asked to participate on a task force within the Vineyard to address empowering women for senior leadership. This is a great start. However I still have questions.
How do we navigate this kind of change? Local Vineyard churches are autonomous, with each church deciding its own governance and stance on women in ministry. It is a centered set movement. However, when we come together for regional or national events, there will now be women recognized in senior leadership. I believe this decision has caused some churches to disengage from the Vineyard.
The implications of how to move forward in a movement that embraces both sides of the issue of women in ministry but nationally adheres to a Theology of the Kingdom in this area is no easy matter. I don’t for a minute think I can speak to all of the issues that this kind of change in a movement raises.
What I can speak to is the issue of power. You see, I believe when this kind of change is on the horizon, the people that hold the power must be willing to step aside and make room for those very ones that have been without access. This means when you have an all male board of directors, a few of them would give up their vote to qualified women. It means that if you are a woman with access to power in the existing system you lobby for the women who are as our founder would say are, “doing the stuff” and you hand them the mic so to speak. Does this come with a cost, you bet it does. This kind of change does not come without the cost of someone giving up their “rights” their “place” for the sake of the “other” think Jesus.
I am hopeful that our movement can have the courage to make the necessary change structurally to give women access. I believe that the intention is to do so. Will those that actually hold the power be willing to step aside (not out) and share the power they possess to make space for others…I hope so.
What changes in structures do you see that must happen for this kind of change to occur?
April 29, 2008
“The church is an ecclesia, which means an assembly that has been called out in a public way as a sign, witness, and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation in Jesus Christ. The church, in its life together and witness in the world, proclaims the destiny and future of all creation. Local congregations are embodiments of where God is calling all creation to be through the power of the Spirit. The God we meet in Jesus calls the church to be a community of people who no longer live for themselves and their own needs but as a contrast society whose life together manifests God’s future for the whole of creation.
As a contrast society, the church is formed around beliefs and practices, which continually school and form it in a way of life, which cannot be derived from the particular culture in which it is found. The culture in which we find ourselves, and within which we are called to be that people, is now designated as late-modern or postmodern. It is a context where the explicit story is that everyone lives within his or her own expressive rights. We live in a context where it is simply assumed that the operative and appropriate means of living in a tolerant and open society is to create environments, which do not step on or over any specific set of personal rights, feelings or wants. This is part of the madness of the needs-centered, seeker-driven mentality of the church. These approaches actually believe they are faithful to the tradition when, in fact, they undermine the elements essential for missional faithfulness. We want to affirm everyone’s need for personal autonomy to such a degree that we have lost the resources provided by Scripture and great tradition to shape, form and create a people as a contrast society.”
Recently, (while speaking of what it means to belong to a faith community) I have heard it said, our culture is swept up in elevating the rights of the one at the expense of the whole (we have become narcissists in search for personal autonomy) however, in the community of faith it is often the opposite, we elevate the whole at the expense of the one, folks lose themselves and don’t know how to differentiate in a way to belong inter-dependently.
Years ago a very wise person suggested that the “one” and the “whole” always are held in tension. There are times when a person is in intensive care and is dependent on the whole. But most of the time, part of our ability to heal is in our ability to give, to serve, to follow the example of Jesus self-sacrificing love. Elizabeth O’Connor, scribe for the Church of the Savior has much to say about the tension of belonging to community and healing our true selves in many of her books.