Thom Rainer is a writer, researcher and former pastor. His blog and podcast are often thought of as provoking especially for pastors. Here are his reflections on the church growth movement - what was good and bad about this era in church world. His thoughts give all leaders good fodder for reflection and conversation as well as a challenge for all of our churches.
Click here to read Thom Rainer's, "The 200 Growth Barrier in Churches Revisited: 9 Observations."
Because so many people ask me, “What exactly do you do as Director of Church Health,” I decided to pick a week in the life of me and share with you some of what I do as well as the some of good things that are going on in our movement. For the purposes of this blog I have selected the week of Thursday, March 27th to Wednesday, April 2nd.
Thursday – I met with the Board of Dryden FMC in Dryden, ON. The purpose of the meeting was simply an informal introduction for both parties but as the evening progressed we had a good conversation about some church health issues specifically disciple making. Pastor Doug Wightman and I also got to spend some time together. Doug is my Network Mentor and it is always good to check in with him.
Saturday – Dan Sheffield and I met with about thirty people from O’Connor FMC in Kakabeka Falls, ON. Dan led them through a process called Appreciative Inquiry while I was observed. Briefly, Appreciative Inquiry is a facilitated series of conversations that help a group (let’s say a church) identify and understand its strengths, potentials, opportunities and hopes for the future. The goal is to identify several potential next steps for a church as it works towards robust health. It was a good day with good people as we thought and prayed about what God has in store for Kakabeka Falls and surrounding area. This was followed by sharing supper and stories.
Sunday – I had the privilege of preaching and worshipping with the folks at O’Connor. That evening I found myself in Thunder Bay, ON with Pastor Andre Korstanje (Thunder Bay FMC) talking about the victories and challenges of life there. Again, disciple making dominated the latter part of our conversation. I also learned how the church is touching lives and being touched through a ministry with a group home near the church. You should ask Andre about it sometime.
Monday – I met the Pastoral Leadership Task Force and interim Pastor Kevin Kay at Crestview Park FMC in Winnipeg, MB. My job is to get this group of leaders oriented to their task of putting together a profile and a job description for the church as they search for their next pastor. It was a good meeting and they are looking forward to what God has next for them.
Wednesday – I had a Skype conversation with Barrie FMC’s Pastor Roger Keyzers about the results of their Church Health survey. It was encouraging to learn about the good work in Barrie as well as plans to address the next steps they need to take.
Throw in some travel and time connecting with both Dan and Bishop Keith on various projects and that was my week. Pretty cool job huh? If you have any questions about what I do or if you are interested in talking more about any of these church health tools just let me know. I am always happy to talk.
Twice as a church we have set-up Stations of the Cross in someone’s house and walked them together (not like a stranger’s house cause that would be awkward but in the home of someone in our community.) I have found this to be a meaningful experience so when I heard through the grapevine that Pineridge House Church in Calgary, AB does an outdoor Stations of the Cross I wanted to know more - so I called Pastor Dan Jansen to get the scoop.
For the past nine years the Pineridge House community has gathered for worship in the Jansen home and only recently did they relocate Sunday morning to a Boys and Girls Club two blocks away because they outgrew their living room. As Dan shared, “We never wanted to go to a building. We hoped we would stay on top of the growth and keep planting churches. We have planted Okotoks but we still can’t all fit in the house anymore.” Not a bad problem to have really.
This year as Easter approached Dan began thinking about the Stations of Cross which for the past nine years happened in their yard on Easter Sunday. The thoughts included should we do stations this year? Should we set them up in the new location? Should we do it on Good Friday instead?
The voice of the people (including Dan’s four daughters) was heard loud and clear. Don’t change a thing. This tradition has meaning for the Pineridge House community so they plan to gather at their new location to share a meal and then make their way over to the Jansen home to walk the Stations of the Cross on Easter Sunday morning.
Participants travel from station to station with a booklet that includes a bible passage and reflection. Most of the stations are interactive and have included painting a red mark on a door frame, lifting a 110 pound cross and hammering a nail into a cross. The following is a list of the stations Dan has set up the past couple of years.
Station 1: The Passover
Station 2: The Lord’s Supper – the new Passover
Station 3: Gethsemane
Station 4: Jesus Carries the Cross
Station 5: The Crucifixion
Station 6 The Resurrection:
Of course I made the mistake of mentioning to our Stations of the Cross organizer that Dan places a heavy canvas cloth in front of a door to represent the cave and now our Dan (Rev. Sheffield) has all seventeen of us cramming into a tiny, dark, cave-like space to pause and reflect. I joke but I’m really looking forward to walking our Stations of the Cross on Good Friday as it powerfully leads me to think about Jesus’ sacrifice, his immeasurable love and his great gift to me.