A Beautiful Video that Teaches the Nature of Mission
2×2 first featured this video in 2012. Although it is not about church, it aptly describes the hopes, frustrations and joys of any mission-driven church worker. Your leaders will relate!
It features Caine, a boy who has a clear sense of mission.
Caine’s mission is to help people have fun. The work is incredibly hard and promises no rewards.
His passion for his project is a God-send to his father who brings the 9-year-old to work with him during the summer. He gave the boy space, boxes, scissors, tape and freedom to use his imagination.
Caine taught himself the rest by observation.
See for yourself how Caine worked at mission with little help and what would be an overwhelming sense of futility for the less mission-driven. Note how Caine optimistically sticks to task, always working to improve what he offers — even when there are no takers.
This video is a primer for all Christians in mission. You might even share it with prospective members but start by sharing it with your leaders. Look for analogies and inspiration. Add their stories of mission to Caine’s.
My favorite scene is when the cash register drawer opens and hits the boy in the face. Now that describes church work!
Why Church Size Will Mean Much Less in the Church of the Future
The Vertical Church values big. Big translates economically into more support for centralized services—one of the reasons the Church was structured vertically in the first place. It often ignores the reality that the effectiveness of church mission relies on community, which functions best on a smaller scale—and who today can do a great deal more on their own than they could twenty years ago.
Above is our infographic that describes congregations by size. It depicts this from the lay point of view. Clergy will be familiar with this terminology. You can find a lot written about it online from the clergy point of view. Clergy discussion usually centers on how church size translates to leadership style.
Less discussed is the economic significance. But it is surely on every pastor’s mind.
The playing field for congregations was more even when churches provided parsonages. This helped to contain one of the largest expenses in hiring professional help. It kept the leadership in the community. No commuters need apply. Almost any size church could afford significant help, sometimes by yoking with another parish or two, but often on their own.
Compensation packages today have put significant professional leadership out of reach for many — maybe even most congregations. Yet the small church continues to play a vital role in community—even as their status wanes.
Much of this disparity will disappear in the coming horizontal church. Even small churches will have wide reach once they embrace modern technology. 2×2’s mission is an example. We are about a dozen members who are reaching about 80,000 people at the first level of engagement each year. The expanding network of social media makes our greatest reach immeasurable.
We will face many challenges as the horizontal church emerges. Here are three.
Attracting leadership that is savvy in the use of social media and willing to shift the focus of delivery of the Word from nearly empty sanctuaries to the densely populated online community.
This requires skills many who are already in the ministry never imagined having to learn. Since seminaries today are attracting a large number of second career students, who also are new to social media, it will take a while to develop this mindset among church leaders. Congregations eager to start using social media will have to rely on lay leadership or wait—perhaps until it is too late!
Creating an economic infrastructure for this type of ministry requires looking beyond the offering plate for funding.
Prioritizing church resources differently. The structure of today’s church centers on church communities with property. Property is important but expensive. The horizontal church will have to find ways to make owning property economically sustainable or reconsider the value of owning property.
There are many other considerations, but this is enough as we start to consider the emerging horizontally structured church.
Here’s the big problem. As the Vertical Church begins to die (and this is already underway), leaders, steeped in tradition, will try to bolster the larger churches at the expense of the smaller churches. Haves and Have Nots. This is an economic necessity. Their survival depends on offerings that most churches cannot spare. Larger churches have more resources (at least for now). Leadership focus will be on placing their stable of clergy in churches who can support them and the hierarchy.
Leadership in smaller congregations (most congregations) will increasingly rely on laity who have little voice beyond their own community.
The shift to the horizontal church can be made peacefully, but it is a dramatically different way of thinking. It is likely to come at a cost that will first hurt small churches but will benefit larger churches only short-term. Very short-term.
The First in A Series of Posts
that Explore How Congregations
Must Change to Meet the Modern World
The Church is frustrated. We know something isn’t working like it used to. We don’t quite know what is wrong.
We have many reactions to our weaknesses and failures.
Most of them are not constructive but protective. Dead end.
While 2×2 reconstructs our site for better delivery of hands-on resources, we’ll explore some of these topics.
We hope they spark some discussion in congregations.
Horizontal Thinking vs Vertical Thinking
The church is structured vertically. We can’t help ourselves. Our roots are in ancient thinking which is tribal and monarchical.
Tribal leaders—Abraham, Moses, Jacob. etc.
Under the tribe comes the family clans. Think the 12 tribes of Jacob—all named after men.
We then enter the monarchical stage of thinking. King Saul, King David, Christ the King.
It was natural to continue that thinking as Christianity spread. We still live in a vertical world. It’s tilting, for sure. But there are still despots and kings and queens and plenty of people who wouldn’t mind playing that role, whether or not they are good at it. They are slowly losing power, but there is still something in our society that remembers them fondly. Even American children who know only the Disneyworld Castle play dress-up with crowns and tiaras.
Democratic republics are still a relatively new concept—we are proud of them, but we struggle. There is always a temptation to return to bigger government.
For the last 30 years change has accelerated. Younger generations will embrace this. In another 50 years people will not understand that it wasn’t always this way.
The horizontal church will embrace lateral thinking.
Power will shift from traditional authorities, wielding power over the needy masses, to the masses no longer needing the powerful’s help in achieving their goals. The powerful may not take to this well!
In the Church, that means the congregations will have less need for central authority and members will be active in congregations only to the extent that their dedication to membership complements their ideals—some of which will not be shaped by religion.
There will no longer be loyalty to group as a continuation of heritage or validation.
This may sound scary. But it shouldn’t.
Christianity laid the groundwork for this a long time ago. Christ empowered individuals. As he roamed about Palestine, Christ didn’t pay a call on the kings. At his “trial” he stood before them as a stranger.
In this series of posts, we will explore step by step, as we, along with thousands of other small congregations, find our way into the future.
The Loss of A Church Is A Loss to the Neighborhood
PBS’s Religion and Ethics ran a 10-minute report on the future of many city churches. It focuses on our home town—Philadelphia. It addresses a phenomenon that is playing out across the country.
One of the people interviewed is Bob Jaeger of Partners for Sacred Places. They help churches preserve their sacred space.
I think it is fair to say that this is a national crisis. It really is a national crisis.
This short video barely begins to cover the topic of church closings.
“In Philadelphia alone, with an estimated eight hundred houses of worship, Jaeger estimates between one to two hundred churches are at risk of closing.”
The video attributes closings to shrinking congregations and shrinking budgets.
The root cause of church closings is much bigger than that. Whole denominations are in difficult financial straits.
Churches that could survive with creative leadership are dying because creative leadership is rare. The focus is on staying afloat—paying salaries, utilities, insurance, and here’s the big one—law suit settlements. Those law suits, often dealing with clergy misconduct, are not paid by the offending clergy but by fewer and fewer people in the pew. The law requires payment, but the law cannot force congregational giving—the only source of income for many denominations. Property—especially property with endowments attached—is the most liquid asset available.
The dire state of regional bodies skews their thinking and mission. Organizations established to assist ministry now seek to force church closures to assure their own survival. Ecclesiastic cannibalism.
We at Redeemer in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia are very aware of the danger many congregations face. We have survived the most aggressive forced closure imaginable. We were obviously viable, so the strategy was to isolate the congregation, refuse to approve professional leadership—and when that didn’t work—attack the laity as a group and—just to make sure—attack the most trusted congregational lay leaders as individuals.
Bite the hand that feeds you.
Other churches may not realize that by standing quietly on the sidelines while this played out, they were selling out their own future. There but by the grace of God . . . .
The slightest weakness may attract the attention of a regional body. It will include plenty of pious pronouncements. “This is stewardship—preserving assets for mission.”
So don’t get into a conflict—no matter how justified it might be. Don’t start an initiative that may seem bold (cost money). Don’t borrow money to renovate your property before things get really bad. Don’t ask for denominational help. Just keep on doing what isn’t working as long as the money holds out.
Stay off the denominational radar!
The case of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod vs Redeemer, weakens the rights of congregations. These vary in different denominations. The courts are not likely to know the distinctions—or care. The courts ruled that they have no jurisdiction to enforce church constitutions. Unless a denomination enforces its own rules, it’s the Wild West of Religion. No sheriff in sight.
Our experience is that our denomination is unable to enforce its own rules. Two thirds of the people with a vote are unfamiliar with church law and the other third may not only be unfamiliar with church law but also owe their career trajectory to their relationship with the hierarchy.
Strong lay leadership, theoretically equal to clergy in Lutheran tradition, is feared or seen as somehow threatening. Silly.
Consequently, a provision of the Bill of Rights, (separation of church and state), meant to protect the practice of religion, can and is used by church leaders to sidestep their own rules to gain the property and assets of small congregations to benefit ministry in neighborhoods that are more demographically friendly—or more likely— to plug their own deficit budgets.
The churches of the suburbs are coming back to the city for what they left behind in the decades of white flight—property and endowments.
“Unless they [congregations] do something creative and bold many of them will close or merge in the next ten, twenty years.”
Denominational leadership is stumped. They don’t know how to minister in the urban neighborhoods that are increasingly mixed racially, ethnically, and economically. They want to become inclusive, but their entire structure is geared to “come and be like us” —no matter how many “Welcome” signs are posted.
Frequently, people making decisions about neighborhood ministries know nothing about the neighborhoods. They are following leaders without question.
They might learn from Jaeger’s advice:
“You may love the architecture. You may love the fact that it houses a concert or recital every month. You may love the fact that kids in your community go to day care. You may love the fact that homeless are sheltered there in the wintertime. You may not be a member but you can say this is a place that matters.”—Jaeger
Our subscribers may have noticed fewer 2×2 posts in the last couple of weeks.
Well, we are a small church and we are undertaking big changes. For the next TEN weeks we will be revising our site to make 2×2 resources easily available to more small church ministries. And so we expect content to suffer for a few weeks—all in the interest of great improvements.
We’ve invested in learning the latest techniques for using the web. If you are into technology you know that it is constantly changing. That’s one of the reasons churches have a hard time keeping up.
2×2 has more than 1000 posts sitting on our site in blog form. They consist of
several series on implementing social media
several series on branding, marketing and evangelism
weekly object lessons for adults
weekly slideshows for use in worship
religious art history
easy but interesting worship ideas for small churches with little professional leadership
commentary on state of the church from the lay point of view
We’ll categorize the material and revise the navigation for ease of use.
We will also implement the latest social media strategies and share the process and results so that any church can learn to use the internet to spread The Word.
So, here’s our thank you to faithful readers and our request for patience.
We look forward to getting back to mission of sharing content to inspire the ministries of the smallest churches.
We are one week into the Pentecost season. We just celebrated the birthday of the Church.
This week is a good week to take a look at how we operate as the people of God.
Here’s a list of things we often do without thinking twice.
1. We rely on offerings as our sole support.
What else is there?
There may be ways of doing ministry that develop cash flow. They often take investment to get them up and running . . . and that’s where plans stop.
2. We fail to communicate the costs of being a Christian community.
We are often great at planning. Many of the people voting on these ideas have no idea what they cost and rely on someone else paying the bill. Church members can walk away from their responsibilities any time! Communicate potential benefits and actively enlist support from everyone.
3. We often fail to help members understand that they can contribute in non-monetary ways.
We talk about giving of ourselves, our time and our possessions but concentrate on dollars.
4. We never discuss our failures.
Did we fail to accept new members last year? Did we fail to baptize? Is attendance down? Is giving down? Are programs attracting the same few people? Solutions to these problems cannot be found if we don’t acknowledge their existence.
5. We don’t address discontent.
It happens in every church. But often the only way of dealing with discontent is to let those who express concerns marinate in their own juice. We don’t even notice that they stop contributing and later stop coming. And then their relatives stop giving and coming. And then their friends stop giving and coming. Sometimes we notice but breathe a sigh of relief. It may seem like a problem is solved—or is it?
6. We look only to clergy for answers.
Sometimes clergy have the answers. Sometimes they are struggling to find solutions like the rest of us.
7. Lay experience is undervalued. Do you have teachers, doctors, community leaders, students, contractors, writers, photographers, marketers, and business people in your congregation? Are they able to use their skills?
8. We fail to keep in touch with members who left or moved.
There may have been a reason for this back when it cost money to mail newsletters. There is no excuse today. The people who are loyal to you are valuable no matter where they live. Add them to your email list.
9. We often underestimate the cost of providing resources to the community.
Communities come to expect free when dealing with churches—and that leads to hard times for the churches. Churches once benefitted from consideration of vendors, but that is rare these days. So churches pay full freight while others still expect free from them.
10. We fail to budget for mission. We put a great deal of emphasis on our mission statements but when we approve our budgets we allow nothing for implementation.
11. We fail to expand our databases beyond our members.
Ask everyone who comes in contact with your congregation for two basic pieces of information—First name and email address. This is for starters. As you get to know them, add their addresses, phone and organization name. Marketers know this information is gold. It’s important for evangelists, too.
12. We put too low a priority on education.
Many churches have very little in the way of educational offerings—especially for adults. If adults won’t come to traditional Bible studies, find another way to teach. Weave learning into everything you do. A congregation with a firm foundation in their faith is better equipped to serve.
13. We fail to keep a secular church calendar.
Members live in the secular world six days a week. It’s important for churches to recognize secular holidays and community days such as graduation or the neighborhood block party, homecoming, or walkathon. It helps make the events you plan more successful and it broadcasts that you care about the community.
14. We put scripture into the hands of our members but we don’t put the governing rules of the church into their hands.
It is surprising that often even clergy do not know how their constitutions read. When conflicts occur the members who have read the rules are often cast as the “bad guys.”
15. We fail to understand the value of our communities to the neighborhood.
This is usually our own fault. We tend to step back, especially when times are tough. When we disengage from our communities, we lose the confidence of our neighbors.
16. We fail to dream big dreams.
Our faith is built upon stories of underdogs who prevail and miracles, but we have lost confidence in our own place in this ongoing faith story. Progress often starts with a dream—and it often comes from the most unlikely places.
17. We dismiss fiscal responsibility with “But we’re a church.”
Sometimes that means we have to try harder!
18. We fail to laugh at ourselves.
Pity the poor church secretaries whose bulletin bloopers have been the focus of church humor for decades. Would we laugh as long and hard if we published lists of sermon bloopers? We all make mistakes. Admit them. Laugh at them. Learn from them.
19. We fail to follow up on our successes.
Did your church follow up your big Easter breakfast or Homecoming with a personal message to everyone who attended? It’s a great way to stay in touch and let people know they are valued. Consider follow-up campaigns. For example: Hi, Sheldon and Donna: It was great to spend time with you and your family at Easter breakfast. We hope you’ll join us for worship on Pentecost. It’s the birthday of the church and it won’t seem complete without you!
20. We forget that not everyone knows the inside scoop.
Do you run notices like “Contact Anita with questions.” Does everyone know who Anita is? Always look at your promotional information with the eye of a first-time visitor.
21. Sometimes we don’t share enough of our inside stories.
People might be interested to know some of your members’ individual situations and service projects. Make sure that sharing is OK, but know that the faith journeys of members are great opportunities for witness.
22. We tend to think that we cannot negotiate in our dealings.
When this becomes the expectation it creates low morale Why bother? Approach the people you are working with confidence and documented plans — and negotiate! That’s how transformation happens!
23. We fail to respond.
Have you ever left an email message on a church website? Did you get an answer? Our congregation has written a dozen letters to our denomination and the national church that have gone unanswered. The duty to communicate or respond is easily passed off or forgotten, especially when modeled by leaders who have better things to do.
24. We don’t ask questions. The church is a safe haven for those with less than noble motives—even for criminals. We all want to think the best of one another. Embezzlement happens. Sexual abuse happens. Theft happens. Infidelity happens. False witness abounds. These are often camouflaged with charisma and ostentatious good deeds. Sometimes we suspect. Sometimes we know. Often we abide. The Church is just beginning to discover the cost. Your insurance payments reflect it. But the cost to fellowship is immeasurable.
25. We accept less than honest answers to our questions.
No one in church life likes to question or argue. We tend to accept what we are told and complain privately. Foster an environment that provides honest answers to the most challenging questions. Over time it will improve your credibility among members and outsiders.
26. We accept failure.
The Church may be the only organization that applauds the status quo. If nothing bad is happening or things are slipping “just a little” but everyone is content, than we calculate that the cost of asking for better performance as a risky investment. Ten years later we realize the slope is steeper than we thought.
27. We try to please everyone. It’s impossible. But often we bend over backwards to please and sometimes forget who we are Whom we serve.
We could spend today remembering the first Pentecost.
We could celebrate the New Pentecost. Our Pentecost.
We stand, sit, and kneel today at a time when the Church is being reborn.
Many look at statistics and see decline. Without a new Pentecost, this thinking could prevail.
I’m betting it won’t. It may seem like a long shot—but hey!—Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit!
There is a great shift in society—one that will greatly benefit the church—if we allow it. The video above explains this shift — mostly from a societal and governmental standpoint. It applies to the Church, too.
A new tongued-flame is swooshing into our sanctuary cages. Just as on the first Pentecost, it is landing on our heads. Stale air is being sucked out. In its place is a great rush of new power. Can you feel it?
It is the power of the individual.
Is this different from that first Pentecost? Probably not. The gathered disciples, including the often unnamed women, experienced a great empowerment that day.
We look back on that day and imagine that all of church structure was magically set in place that day—with all the limitations and constraints that actually developed since.
On that first Pentecost, there were no pronouncements about qualifications for ordination—no breaking the faithful into gender specific roles and rules. No kisses on the ring of any pope. No constitutions were written that day. No votes were taken. Just a magnificent empowerment. The disciples left that room and went their own ways and began carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth—on foot.
In our New Pentecost, we are not locked in a room with people just like us. Instead, we sit alone with our laptops, pads or mobile phones, easily connecting with others in faraway places. There is no cacophony of voices in separate languages. English unites the world. The power of the individual is being unleashed anew.
One of the true struggles in the Church is what to do with this power. We are used to thinking in terms of managing the power of Christians in groups, funneling individual efforts into sanctioned lines of service. This was once a strength.
Today’s New Pentecost is sapping this strength but not without infusing a new energy.
The Church of today and tomorrow must focus on the power of the individual—not to rein it in for the satisfaction of earthly order but to prepare individuals for unfettered use of the Holy Spirit.
It’s time for us in the Church to view our time and talent anew. We don’t have to wait until we are confirmed. We don’t have to wait for committee approval. We don’t have to seek out a congregation where we fit in and wait for years to work our way into leadership roles. The waiting is over.
Happy Birthday, Church. Happy Birthday, Brothers and Sisters.
The imagery of Pentecost is rich and diverse. Artists take many different approaches. Some focus on the disciples. Some focus on Mary as scripture suggests she remained with the disciples after the Resurrection. Others focus on the drama—the wind, fire, dove or tongues. Here are 22 depictions of Pentecost—many from modern artists. We’ve credited the creators when we have that information and will gladly add credits for others if they become known.
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We Know Where the Preachers Are!
Where Are the Listeners?
I am reprinting Seth Godin’s daily post in its entirety. It describes the pulpit of tomorrow.
The shift is slow and subtle—but the pulpit is no longer the primary place for the telling of God’s Word. Neither will the “preacher” be the primary speaker—if the Church gets it right.
The delivery of a weekly message is a Christian habit—an expensive fix. So much more is possible at far less cost.
Pulpits are growing more anachronistic every day. They are still there—a fixture in church architecture—but many pastors never use them—even on Sunday morning. The physical pulpit sitting at the left or right of an altar in silence for all but 20 minutes a week is no longer where the Word is best delivered. The voice is there. The ears are elsewhere.
Think about this as you read Seth’s post. He’s not writing specifically about preaching, but what he writes applies: (emphases added)
Opening the doors for the masses to speak, giving everyone who cares to have one a microphone–it has led to an explosion in people speaking. And most people, most of the time, are saying virtually nothing. Nothing worth reading, nothing worth repeating, certainly nothing worth remembering.
They’re speaking, not speaking up.
But a few people…
A few people, people who would never have been chosen by those in power, are saying more. Writing more deeply, connecting more viscerally, changing the things around them.
That’s each of us, at our best.
There’s a cost of speaking up, of course. The cost of being wrong, or rubbing someone the wrong way, or merely in living with the uncertainty of what will happen next.
There’s a cost to being banal, though. That cost isn’t as easily felt, but it’s real. It’s the cost of boring your audience, of dumping ‘me too’ on people who have something better to do with their time. And especially, the cost of living in hiding, giving in to our fear.
Every day we can wonder and worry about whether a blog post is worth it. Not whether or not the microphone is working, but whether it’s worth using at all.
It’s much easier to spend a lot of time making your microphone louder than it is working on making your message more compelling…
The path of chiming in is safe and easy and carries little apparent risk and less reward (for you and for your readers). Choosing to dig deep and say more, though, is where both risk and reward live.
03 Jun 2014
FREE Modern Parable with Study Guide
Undercover Bishop: A Parable for Today’s Church
Join Bishop Ruby Kinisa as she visits small churches "under cover" to learn what people would never share if they knew they were talking to their bishop.
Undercover Bishop will always be available in PDF form on 2x2virtualchurch.com for FREE.
Print or Kindle copies are available on Amazon.com.
For bulk copies, please contact 2x2: firstname.lastname@example.org.
MISSION INSPIRATION OFFER
You can reach
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We were all once strangers, the weakest, the outcasts, until someone came to our defense, included us, empowered us, reconciled us (1 Cor. 2; Eph. 2).
Be calm. Wait. Wait. Commit your cause to God. He will make it succeed. Look for Him a little at a time. Wait. Wait. But since this waiting seems long to the flesh and appears like death, the flesh always wavers. But keep faith. Patience will overcome wickedness.