#nextchurch reflection

Nextchurch was probably the best place to hear (and tell) about the passage of Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Queer/Trans marriage i.e. the marriage of all people, being legal. It was amazing. We heard Brian Ellison preach about grace ind diversity in the morning and More Light Presbyterian hosted (what ended up to be) as huge reception-that-turned-into-a-celebration that night.

Good Ideas I picked up included

the Bird: Shawna Bowman took the prayer chains that we had made, opened them, read them, prayed over them, and then recreated them into the bird that flies about us. Ok, this is a step beyond the prayers on a slips-to-make-a-thing…which is awesome

Sketching-through-Worship with John Hendrix: Where he discusses sketching not to be perfect but to literally practice the story and see it from a different perspective. Discussing how freeing and meditative it can be to keep the hands busy well soaking in a story

Root and Branches- Church plants as business plans…what I really heard hear was that each step was planned, leadership is slow, shared (by 3-co-pastors) and given time to foster and grow. These pieces are hopeful for any kind of organic ministry

Tapestry Ministries: Call and Partner, start small

Diana Butler Bass: We are Re-Awakening, and a big part of that will be a radical change in social justice

Too white; This was echoed everywhere, we are the majority, the “Vatican of Rome” is the PCUSA in the USA, and yet we are WAY way too homogenous

Look for unity: What do we have in common, build on those New Year’s traditions? Everyone likes music? A passion for the community. What language is your congregation fluent in–and how can you expand it

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sunny all the time at Nextchurch (in case you check my twitter feed), the conference/movement is getting to be more popular and experienced some growing pains…but it is still the best conference I have gone to anywhere, anytime.

What is Nextchurch?
Its a movement to push the boundaries of default Presbyterianism (writing things down, 5 year plans, studies, little risk taking, minimal testifying, oh and the homogenous nature of our denom)

What I love is how it pushes these boundaries.

What I love about Nextchurch is that it creates a successful reframe for me. In a time where the struggle in church is real. But as Diana Butler Bass noted

What I walked away with was the reframe of my work as God’s work. For me, that is not just a mountaintop experience, instead it is a reaching into my life and being able to see and apply God’s Kingdom reality

So I’m going to talk about what I love about Nextchurch and what I want (and mostly its MORE of what we are already doing)

More talk about where the church is going, more awakening ideas/experiences

More teeny, tiny (but important) ministries/churches

More Longer Breaks (which I know is hard to do)

More Conversations with Spiritual But Not Religious/Nones, More partnering with them

More serious discussion of debt and how we can practice forgiveness of debts

More Failure Lab:

Good ideas

More Ignites

More Open/Diverse/Other kinds of Worship More quiet/contemplative spaces More plugs More Caffeine (tea esp.) More Stories

More ART! Loved last year where there was art everywhere to work on
Nextchurch is growing in leaps and bounds, I hope I am able to help in whatever way I can as we look forward to our time in Atlanta

Katy’s Seminary Class

 

Great thoughts about cultural shift and how it should be taught here!

If I were leading a practicum on ministry I’d probably include the following in the course/cotinuing ed. Workshop

Media: what it is, what it means, and how to communicate effectively in a low/no media environment<–Not Touched and currently the most ongoing hurdle

How to handle critiques on a. clothing b. editing skills c. family dynamics  <–these are brought up as issues, but not really strategized

How to write an effective newsletter (and pulling apart why newsletters are important)<– We NEED to learn how to do this on paper and online, because most people do it because its always been done and its not an effective piece of ministry.

Alternatives to Committees: exploring MANY different options (not just the seasonal taskforce) and how to implement

How to read a budget & how to put one together<–a VERY necessary skill, that is not taught at all even if you aren’t the one doing it, you need to know how its done

Stewardship Campaigns: (NOT how to do one) figuring out timing and leadership<–The theology is taught, but the practice of which is left entirely up to the pastors I ended up going to a conference which is layleader run, it was a good handbook of running a basic campagin, but I had many deeper issues (what about your congregants struggling with debt? what if your roof is falling in over your ears? How do we fundraise in a way that the bottom line isn’t actually the money) I do reccommend Consecration Sunday & the Kaleidoscope Conference, but I think they are merely the beginning of what we can do…

Social Workers: When to call, what to say and how to best get help for those beyond the church’s capabilities<–In four years of ministry I’ve already had to call social workers multiple times, this is surely as big an issue as suicidal tendencies, which we are definitely taught about!

Staff: How to run an effective staff, how to be supportive, yet in charge. How to deal with the cowboy personalities whether they be the choir director, the Sunday School Teacher or the renegade elder<–Again, there is little outlining what kinds of things help to SUPPORT a staff, everyone know what needs to get done, but how can we help our people to do it, are we practicing justice? (and in both the scenarios of a church with money and a church without)

Highlighting Strengths: we are all told to do this, <–How? and how to not just Tell a congregation, but also to show them! make them part of the narrative! Sample Exercise Be Wormwood (From Screwtape letters) and denounce ALL THE GOOD in the congregation and explain how its getting in the way of evil,

How to help someone move towards eldercare options/nursing homes<–A HUGE issue in most churches, when to help (and when to not) where to draw a good boundary about the help the church is giving, etc.

Community Connections<–Ideally this is beyond networking! Who are potential partnerships for the congregation? How can you meet them? How can you be supportive of your local community

Look a whole Conference worth of what I didn’t learn in seminary

Parenting Parable: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Once Upon a Time there (around Matthew 21) there was an actual father who had to deal with two sons. And this family was so typical, Jesus decided to use them as a guide to life. In this family there were two sons who’s father told them to go and work on the vineyard. The first son refused. The second son agreed.

But in an ironic twist, the son who refused changed his mind and went and did the work anyway, the second son didn’t go at all….

Then Jesus asked, which son did what his father asked (not which was the better son, not who was more faithful, just who DID IT) and his disciples answered the first

This is classic teenage behavior: My father (a behavior psychologist and pastor) likes to point out that usually while teenagers are giving you mouth, they are doing exactly what you asked them to do. Hence my father advises parents to look at actions more than words.

You want your kid to do x, y and z and he/she is doing it, great!

They don’t have to be happy about it…that might be asking too much

I have a congregant who complains about every bit of work that has to get done–she is a veritable saint, showing up to everything, serving on boards, cleaning what needs to be cleaned, working when work needs to be done, and is dependable and loyal as anything. I’ll take an entire congregation of such people (even if it does wear me out).

With my eldest, we’ve learned not to give him the opportunity to argue–this is a child who thinks no=anopportunitytoargue, maybe=yes and if-you’ve-given-an-inch=everything-is -up -for-negotiation. I call him the negotiator. So often I don’t tell him what’s going on (against my extroverted nature!) and just start doing it–going upstairs to brush teeth without telling him, taking all the other kids out to the car (because they are too young to argue, at least verbally), or reading the stories whether or not he is present. When I do this, he often follows, because my actions as a parent speak louder than words! Putting things into action means that I REALLY mean that we are doing this now, I’m not just talking about it…

What does this say about parenthood (esp. on days like yesterday when I lose it?) What does it mean about us as Christians? Jesus ends the parable by pointing out that the prostitutes and tax collectors are getting in before the church people for they believed and acted first. A lot of the Spiritual not Religious data says that Christians do not follow through on what they believe. The practical aspect of faith is missing.

As parents, I think this means telling and ACTING on the fact that we love our children. If we do not act out love–if we don’t practice REAL forgiveness, if we are not open and accepting of EVERYBODY, if we curse people while we are driving or tell our children that dressing up in high heel shoes is a ridiculous thing for a boy to do (my son’s experience in nursery school), if we mock the weak, demean the different and blame the poor for their plight, what are we teaching them?

How can we enact love? How can we, on the days we don’t feel like it–go out and pick the fruit of God? How can we return to work in the Garden of the Kingdom of God again, and again in meaningful ways?

We might not always want to do it, but that’s ok, as long as we know that our actions speak louder than words, and its never too late (even after we’ve refused!) to go out and work the garden.