Lay session offers Rx for healthy churches

May 31, 2012

By: Amanda Yanchury

Bishop Sally Dyck was delivering to Wednesday’s lay session an informative overview of her ministry in Minnesota when she was interrupted by moans from the back of the room.

An ailing church walked up the aisle.

“That all sounds good, Bishop Dyck, but I’m feeling very ill,” the church proclaimed. To which the bishop responded, “Well—do you want to become well?”

The response from the sick church was an overwhelming “yes!”

Bishop Sally referred the sick church to “doctors” Jeff Kruse (conference lay leader) and Dan Johnson (director of congregational development).

Kruse and Johnson, dressed in doctors’ scrubs, took a hard look at the church and its “symptoms.”

They checked the church’s “temperature”--it seemed the church was a little cold. Not good for attracting visitors!

Then, they checked “reflexes”--a very slow response time indicates the church might not have a clear sense of purpose and direction!

More examples followed, and Kruse and Johnson put together a “diagnosis”: that the church wasn’t doing what it needed to be doing in order to be effective.

Kruse and Johnson pointed out that different churches need to show certain vital signs that are appropriate for their church size in order to be effective. A “church by size” demonstration explained how the size of a church can mean it takes different things for it to become healthy.

For example, a smaller church, otherwise known as a “family” church (1 to 50 in worship), should have a “right-sized” staff, have healthy leaders who can mentor new ones and pass on responsibility and authority, and have a signature ministry known by the community.

The next size church, a “pastoral” church, is a little bit larger with 50 to 150 in worship. This type of church is vital when laity are equipped and empowered for ministry, small groups are cultivated, and there exists democratic participation of stakeholders in the life of the church.

A “program” church has 150 to 400 average worship attendees. This type of church has developed ministry systems for invitation, integration, leadership development, and pastoral care. They typically should have at least two worship opportunities, offering a choice of time and style. A church this size should begin to minister through the organization rather than to individuals.

Last, a “corporate” church (400-1,000 in worship) is one which employs a wide range of ministries, has a diverse set of revenue streams, and a streamlined governance structure.

Johnson and Kruse outlined a “treatment plan” for ailing churches, which focused on using resources from the ministry programs the conference provides.

One representative from each of these teams gave a three-minute presentation on how their programs can help churches make disciples: Kaleidoscope Multicultural Competency; Camping; Healthy Church Initiative; Investing in Congregations Grants; Equitable Compensation Grants; Congregational ministry plans and dashboard metrics; UMYs, JUMYs, and YIAT; Healthy Small Church Initiative; Mission Volunteers and Disaster Response; and communications.

At the end of the session, the once-ill church came back into the room and thanked the “doctors” for giving the church ideas on how to become well.

The church exclaimed—“reach new people and cultivate spiritual vitality? No problem!”

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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