What I’m Learning Outside the Church Bubble: Day One

To cut to the chase, here are my latest sweeping declarations:Garden Gate Northwestern University

  • All pastors need post-seminary training in leadership, non-profit finance, and innovation/social entrepreneurship.
  • Sally Blount should be the keynote speaker at your upcoming conference or retreat or seminary graduation.
  • Business School dining hall food is way better than Seminary dining hall food.

Several colleagues and I are spending a few days in a class called “Leading a Vibrant Faith Community” in the Non-Profit Management Program of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University this week, and we wish you could be here too.  My mind is awhirl with ideas about church vitality.

A couple of insights from the day’s lectures:

  • How we organize a congregation, plan worship, create a church budget, do mission is about PROCESS.  The process is especially precise and hard-wired if our connections to each other are weak.  How we feel about the organization, worship, budget, mission is about CONNECTIONS.  If our relationships are strong, we can more easily tweak our processes to adapt to particular situations.  So, here’s a question for my PCUSA sisters and brothers:  If we are “a connectional church” why are our processes so intrinsic to how we do things?
  • Our churches are first and foremost communities of spiritual formation so that we can go out into the world and make an impact/make disciples of all nations.  But too often our churches have become clubs (with membership/per capita dues), social service organizations (offering tutoring, homeless shelters, 12-step organization space – but without necessarily connecting this outreach to our faith) or continuing education centers (providing classes that make us smarter but not more engaged in the world.)  Are we teaching our leaders – from the ushers to the coffee hour servers how to always be in spiritual formation mode?
  • We must always be aware of why our church exists.  And everything we do must point to this.  The job of a Sunday morning usher is not to unlock the doors and turn on the heat.  It’s to make the worship space safe and comfortable for anyone who gathers so that they aren’t distracted as their souls are fed.  The job of a fellowship hour server is not to pour coffee.  It’s to offer hospitality to every person so that they feel loved and welcomed.

There’s much more, but the best part of being here is the blessing of seeing what we do and how we do it through a different lens.  More tomorrow.

Image of garden gate at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

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4 responses to “What I’m Learning Outside the Church Bubble: Day One

  1. Yes! I totally had the same experience when my wife was in the MBA program at the University of Texas at Austin. I was fresh out of seminary and thought these would be the worst people ever. Was I wrong. I sat in on a social entrepreneurship class and found the most interested, engaging, and engaged people ever. I wrote a small piece about our experience here: http://www.faithandleadership.com/content/ken-evers-hood-renewing-the-mind-without-forgetting-the-flesh

  2. Your statement about the ushers at the end reminded me of this quote: “Coffee is the product that we sell, but it is not the business we are in.” Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s.

  3. Pingback: Wednesday Festival: Church Stories | RevGalBlogPals

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