How will you avoid creating a CYA culture, #GC2012?

Tom Berlin, a pastor and clergy delegate from my conference for whom I have a lot of respect, just posted a blog piece called “Facts are our friends,” which seeks to address the elephant in the room at General Conference that’s behind young clergy anxiety: how will a more strictly quantifiable method of evaluation impact our career as pastors over the next 30 years when we will face a diminishing “musical chairs” game of appointments unprecedented in the history of our denomination? Tom related the experience of using attendance data at his church diagnostically to make some adjustments that worked. Using data to make improvements makes sense; the question is how it will be used. Will it be diagnostic or evaluative? For improving or making a career decision? I’m not sure if this question is dealt with by any of the GC proposals being considered, but if the United Methodist Church ends up using data in lieu of a more subjective, pastoral evaluative process, then we will create the same kind of Spirit-killing CYA (cover your ***) culture that has ravaged the public school world I used to inhabit in the wake of “No Child Left Behind.” Continue Reading

Anxiety vs. Kingdom in the United Methodist Church

I’ve been following the “Call to Action” debate on the twitter feeds from the Methodist General Conference. I realize that I’m just a scrub barely two years out of seminary. I still believe in theories; I still believe that fasting and prayer is the best approach to discerning God’s will. I’ve never had any training in systems theory or corporate organizational effectiveness. I’m the product of what the pundits malign when they say that seminaries should teach pastors practical managerial skills instead of filling their heads with all that !@#$%^&* theology. Somehow I’ve developed this foolish notion that God gives me things to say, and so I proclaim them, hoping that they’re not nonsense. The word that I have been given today is that United Methodists need less anxiety and more kingdom. Continue Reading

In the name of the Thinktank, Consultant, & Bubble sheet

The United Methodist Church is about to have a very significant international meeting called the General Conference where major changes are being considered that a lot of pastors like me are anxious about. I’m actually most concerned about an initiative that has already been adopted called “Vital Congregations.” Depending on the outcome of other proposals, Vital Congregations has the potential to do to the United Methodist Church what “No Child Left Behind” did to the public school classroom where I taught. I am not trying to impugn the motives or hard work of those who developed it. I’m sure that they were prayerful about it, and I imagine they sang praise songs to open their meetings and hopefully looked to the Bible for guidance (and not just the reports of church consultant industry thinktanks). But the way this initiative is being communicated makes it sound like United Methodism has replaced Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with a new Trinity –the Thinktank, the Consultant, and the Bubble Sheet. Continue Reading