Friday, October 27, 2006

A2 Blessing

Shane,

I think the A2 Indicators has been the best thing that our UM Conference has ever done. It has been a wonderful tool and experience for our church (all churches) to see where we are and how we are lining up with God's purpose and plan for our particular church while also helping the UM Conference as a whole get a health check up, too. For our church in particular it has brought us together in discussing the strengths, weaknesses, positives, negatives, and other such things about our church. It has helped us hunker down on issues of communication, seeking God's will, doing what we do from our heart, doing whatever it takes to be the church is calling us to be. Now, for sure, only a handful of our folks really took part in our A2 discussions. But if the small group of folks that have been a part of the A2 experience will let it be a guide for our church then I can't see how but our church could go from being an okay church to a good church then on to a great church. I can't see how anyone could call this A2 experience negative. Maybe it's because it is rather "forcing" us to deal with things that we would normally just turn our back on, or we hope would just go away, or things we don't want to talk about or whatever. Again, A2 Indicator: the best thing that has happened in our conference in a long time. I love the scripture that it's based upon as well (Acts 2:42-47). If we would but prayerfully pour our hearts in to the heart of what the A2 Indicator is about then I believe we would see great things happening in our churches as well as our individual lives.

Thanks. Keep up the good work!

Glory to God!
Todd Sanders

Monday, September 25, 2006

Two Pastors Reflect on A2s

The following reflections are from pastors who are currently implementing the A2 Indicators. Their reflections are posted as submitted.

September 23, 2006

Dear Shane:

We have had 2 brief meetings. First Sunday: I asked representatives I selected from committess of our church and gave them minimal information - asking only that they pray for 1 wk. seeking God's will regarding thier participation in a program for our churched based on a study of Acts chapter 2. I told them the program was a requirement for all our churches and that I personally believe it is something God will use to bless our church. I also told them we would be called on to discuss the program during our charge conference as part of our vision/mission for our church in the coming year.
Second Sunday: (This was 9-17-06.) We met briefly after worship just to ask and answer: Do you believe God will have you participate in this program and, is so, are you willing to do so following my leadership? All but one said "Yes". One was not sure but willing. This week we are deciding on dates/times for four meetings. Our charge conf. is Dec. 10.
I had hoped the 3 churches of our cluster could do this together but that does not seem to be workable. (One of the sister churches is joining us to celebrate Holy Communion together Oct. 1st.)

More later as we go,
In His service, Steve T. (Bassfield UMC).

Dear Shane:

One of the things that I have done with the Bible study is to introduce the theme each week with a member of the church speaking to that point. For example, for growth I had two of the newest member speak on what got them started at our church, what keeps them there and how does the church help them with their spiritual growth. We put the scripture in an insert with the questions and theme for the week and have the congregation turn them back in the following week. This gets some buy in from the congregation and makes all of them a little more aware of the church and the ministries. After the study we will have a cross sectional group of 15+/- to address the A2 indicators specifically. I will let you know the outcome but so far I have seen a great response by the congregation and a willingness to participate.

Sincerely,
Pat Thompson

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Indicators Pros and Cons: By Barbara Hite

Hi, and I hope this is the sort of response you are looking for. The indicators are very concrete, and offer us a way to grade ourselves and how we are doing as a church. Some of us need to see the state of affairs in black and white to get a feel for that state. In this way, the indicators will be helpful, especially if the pastor (and this is our challenge!) is able to lead the congregation into honest assessment of where we are. And the indicators are written in a way to help us do that. However, I have revisited an email I received last year from UMCOM and GBOD and Susan Ruach about what seekers are looking for in a church. It seems to me that some of the very conditions she lists are missing in our assessment. She says these are 4 "conditions" that unchurched people are looking for: 1) Acceptance - the church accepts you no matter where you come from, what you wear or what you look like. 2) Activity - (this one is measured) the church is very active in helping people in the community who are hurting or in need. 3) Caring - (this is very hard to get a handle on objectively) the church people care deeply for one another and support each other. 4) The church participants believe God's love is available to all persons regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. (This is the same as #1 to me, except expressed in more concrete terms) She further says that what is not of utmost importance are worship styles, preaching, Bible study and rules to live by, which also seem to be left out of the indicators. However, as I read Acts 2:42-47, Bible study and apostolic teaching (preaching?) are very important to the early church, as is prayer. Neither are assessed, and I don't believe we can leave verse 42 out of our consideration of what the church of today should be doing. However, these are very difficult to assess. How are we going to allow people to "explore their relationship with God both individually and through the church community" and "make(s) Scripture easier to understand and apply to everyday life," both which she said were also of high importance, if we do not attempt somehow to get a handle on how well we are preaching, teaching through Bible study, and praying? I know this is an awkward sentence, but I hope you understand what I'm saying. The indicators seem to be a little heavy on how many people are coming and for how long, how much money is given, and how long the preacher stays. This pastor indicator seems a little unfair because often the pastor is moved when the people do not wish it. All in all, this is a good beginning for us to begin to be accountable for our way of being the people of God. It is more than just a report on the pastor and her effectiveness. It also holds the congregation accountable for ministry and resourcing. I am excited to do this with my congregations and to see where this takes us in being more fully the "Body of Christ." Blessings, barb

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Word from Embra Jackson

Concerning Eric Campbell's statement:

Eric’s concern is valid and is addressed in part by the fact that will have several ways of assisting churches to respond to the A-2 Indicators in a positive fashion. The first will be the fact that Elaine Dye will train Health Ministry Teams. These teams will in turn train local church teams that will assist selected churches in responding to the A-2 findings. They will assist them in developing and implementing plans and ministries to assist them in their quest for holistic health. In addition local churches have access to the annual conference web site where various resources will be available to them for review and implementation. I am also working on the development of an instrument that each church in the conference will be able to use in order to develop their individual pals and this will include an evaluative component. Our goal is not just to ascertain where we might be unhealthy but to assist us in becoming and maintaining disciple making congregations.


Embra Jackson,
Congregational Development Staff

Saturday, September 02, 2006

How do the Indicators help churches and the conference?

Eric Campbell recently posted a wonderful segment on our blog that I wanted to highlight. His question was how would the Indicators, which seem to only highlight concerns, help the congregations and conference. He also asked why we couldn't focus more on helping churches deal positively with issues. Great questions.

The Indicators are meant to be a first line of response to exactly what Eric has mentioned. He is on target in wanting the churches to respond to difficult issues. However, as an Annual Conference, we've learned that many of our churches cannot fully articulate what their "concerns" actually are. And, as a Conference, it is difficult to respond to churches in a more comprehensive Assessment and response process when we have no way of measuring (apples to apples) where are our congregations actually are in ministry.

I appreciate Eric's comments very much because they highlight our task... To provide the very best for congregations and to resource them to be the most effective they can be. Again, the Indicators are simply a beginning, not an end. And, hopefully, this will be the first step in helping churches to 1) realize where God is blessing them, 2) understand where God is challenging them, and 3) how all of us can share and resource together to make our churches and Conference the best for the Kingdom.

Thanks, Eric!

Monday, August 14, 2006

FAQs

As the Indicators are being distributed, several of you are raising important questions learned from your meetings, discussions and interactions. Below are a few of the questions asked and, hopefully, some helpful responses.

What do we say to congregations who have early charge conferences and do not have time to complete the Scripture guide and process in a timely manner? We are encouraging congregations to complete the guides as they go through the process. Although finishing the Scripture guide prior to the process is optimal, they certainly my work these simultaneously. Also, it is my understanding that churches who feel they cannot complete the process in time, may ask for adjustment in their charge conference schedule. I have found the District Superintendents, who want the very best in this process too, to be helpful and understanding.

Why is there an * on the Worship Attendance since the descriptors do not necessitate an adjustment for church attendance? The descriptors were changed at the last minute to reflect a more usable form of information that we could gain from the assessment. The * was not removed and this is a mistake.

Can you explain the “2 year” and “3 year” requests for Baptisms/Professions of Faith and Apportionments paid? There is no “trick” question here. What we want is the last three years of information for these categories. Although we can get this information from the conference office, we want the congregations to retrieve it and look over it themselves. So, please convey to churches to gather three years of information and to disregard “2” and “3”.


Some forms seem to have “is your church handicap accessible” and some do not. Can you explain? The final draft of the Indicators includes the statement and assessment for accessibility. This issue was discussed at A2 Training session and included in later documents. However, some districts began distributing the Indicators prior to the Training Session and, thus, did not include the accessibility question. We encourage all churches to include a statement about their commitment to accessible facilities for all individuals.

Is there a formal process for the Congregational Affirmation section? No. We are allowing churches to be creative with this process. As congregations send ideas, we will pass them along to everyone.

What if we don’t have the “date joined” information to calculate the Average Attendee Tenure? Although congregations should have this information in their records, we know it can be difficult and confusing to find. Giles Lindley developed an easy process. In a church conference or worship service, simply ask people to identify if they began attending prior to 1940 or between 1950 and 1960… This will give you a rough idea of the “tenure” for your attendees.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How Are You Implementing the Indicators?

We want to know how your district is implementing the A2 Indicators. Take time to reply to this post or email your comments to lsstanford2003@yahoo.com. Looking forward to your innovative ideas and suggestions.