Experimentation is the road to the future

October 25, 2011

Do you remember when

  • twitter was a bird’s song?
  • text was ink on a page?
  • applications were something you filled out for college admission?
  • outlook was an attitude toward life?
  • facebook was your family photo album?
  • GPS was a Good Passenger in the adjacent Seat?
  • and Skype was simply a typographical error?

The world is changing at an accelerated pace. When we don’t try some new things, we sometimes feel left behind. So it is with the church.

Congregational Development is constantly trying new things. We’re like the R&D (research and development) branch of the Minnesota Annual Conference.

As a connected community of faith, we all learn new methods of cultivating spiritual vitality for a new day of reaching new people in and through our newest churches. STORM Faith Community is teaching us how to build churches in our own homes. Anoka and Crossroads (Lakeville) United Methodist churches are teaching us how to launch second campuses in new mission fields. La Puerta Abierta (St. Paul), Korean Evangelical, Hmong Community (St. Paul), African, New Harmony (Minneapolis), and Nexus are teaching us how offer culturally relevant ministry to a specific demographic group. Mosaic (Brooklyn Park) is teaching us how to be intentionally multicultural. The Wesley Foundation at University of Minnesota–Twin Cities is teaching us how to engage young adults in spiritual development. Good Samaritan (St. Peter), New Day (Big River), and Spirit River Community (Isanti) are teaching us how to infuse community involvement and impact into our very DNA.

A chance to learn

New ministry in any setting is always a challenging opportunity for learning. That’s why we launch each new ministry with a vision for outcome, a set of benchmarks to measure progress, plans to achieve those benchmarks, and coaching to guide each step of the journey.

Sometimes in the process we discover that an initiative is no longer a fruitful investment of time, talent, and economic resources. In the past six months, we closed two new ministries: New Light in Baxter and Paradox in Uptown. Through them, new disciples of Jesus Christ were nurtured and transferred.

We also learned important lessons about leadership deployment and support, the challenge of getting a foothold in transient communities, and the difficulty of introducing the gospel to audiences skeptical and perhaps even hostile toward Christianity.

No matter how young or old our congregation, we are all still learning because our respective mission fields are constantly changing. Minnesota Conference’s Congregational Development is really a macrocosm of the work of each local church. Every congregation is in a continual cycle of evaluating the past, supporting the present, and experimenting with the future.

Through our Congregational Development efforts, we not only experiment with new churches but also provide resources for existing churches to experiment with new ministries. We offer our churches subscriptions to Marcia McFee’s online worship resources.

Kaleidoscope, Resilience, MissionInsite, HCI, SCI, PLD, and NCD might sound like a lineup of television crime dramas, but they are actually programs tailored to help congregations with self-assessment, discernment of vision, planning, leadership development and ministry implementation. If you’d like to learn more, please give me a call!

When the church at Corinth became frustrated by their struggles and frustrations of experimenting with a new faith in the community of their day, the Apostle Paul wrote, “[God’s] grace is enough; it’s all you need. [God’s] strength comes into its own in your weakness...take limitations in stride, and with good cheer...abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. Just let Christ take over! And so the weaker [we] get, the stronger [we] become” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Experiment boldly and tell your story of God’s grace and strength in action!

Dan Johnson is now the Twin Cities District superintendent for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He used to be director of congregational development and Reach • Renew • Rejoice.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404


(612) 870-0058