Dear friends – we have come to the last of our questions and answers series. These are the questions that just didn’t fit a particular category previously addressed so they got lumped together for the series finale. Please take a moment to read the questions and the anwers and as always – feel free to leave a comment.
1) Why does the Methodist Church start new congregations when existing congregations have low attendance?
When Bob Farr spoke to us two weeks ago he used two words over and over – “moral courage.” The assesment of our conference and denominational leaders is simply this – many of our churches do not possess the moral courage needed to change in order to be open to new people. Unfortunately many of you do not get to sit in on the meetings and conversations that I am privy to because it is not your calling or setting. I have listened to story after story being recounted about persons who call them open and yet practice exclusiveness or an unwillingness to accept and welcome “them.” New churches bring new – new energy, new ways of being the church, new understandings, and new life. There is a vibrancy to new and an excitement that many of our churches are just not capable of reclaiming. In order for the United Methodist Church to stop its decline and wanning influence, we believe it is vital to strengthen existing congregations who have the moral courage to change and start new congregations.
2) Since there are so many Methodist churches around, why is it necessary to have North Star UMC? Just one more church?
First, Liberty UMC is a growing church but for some it is too big. Second, there are no other UMC along 152 between Liberty UMC and Good Shepherd UMC. The area to the west and north of us is a growing area and it is anticipated that as many as 18,000+ more people could move to this area before the end of the decade. We believe in the theological and social stance of the United Methodist church and believe that it is vital for us to have an influence on our local community. Our grace theology is welcoming of all people, our table is an open table, and we balance salvation with mission and service. That is why we exist!
3) What happened to the children’s message?
A children’s message during the worship service works very well in the appropriate setting – a small (less than 75 in worship) family systems church. The other reason it works well is because churches of this size typically do not have the volunteers and resources to conduct a high quality children’s program. We do have the capacity to and we believe that this is the best option to serve our children as we teach them the value of community, prayer, worship, and God’s story. If we do a children’s message then we compress these values down into about a 25-35 minute window to teach and interact. We prefer the model that uses the full 60 minutes in order to give due time and attention to each element of nurturing our children’s understanding and faith.
4) Why don’t we lift up joys and concerns aloud anymore?
Sharing of joys and concerns aloud works very well in a church where everyone knows everyone and the likelihood of a guest is close to zero. While I appreciate the practice of sharing one another’s joy and concerns we could come to a concensus on exactly what that meant. And so some of our joys/concerns were actually announcements that didn’t make the screens or worship bulletin. Second – this is an exclusive practice. Any first time guest would be left out of the conversation during the period of sharing. NOW with that being said – we are a prayer community! We have a prayer team that meets twice a month and prays over the joys and concerns, we invite people to share them in written form each week, and we publish those that we have permission to every Monday. It simply becomes a matter of informing the office of your prayer requests (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asking to be on the prayer chain distribution list to receive a copy of the requests. We will continue our current practice of having community prayer with a moment for you to speak aloud the names of those you would like to pray for during worship and beyond.
5) I like some of the traditional gospel music – why don’t we do any of the “old” songs?
Several churches around us sing the old songs every Sunday. We choose to provide an alternative style of worship that welcomes post-modern and post-Christian seekers. This requires us to lead music and sing in a non-traditional style. That is our identity and that will continue to be our worship style. However, if you take note, we do sing a re-mixed version of several hymns – they just happen to be in a modern musical format. For now it is not our identity to sing with a piano, organ, and hymnal singing 3 or 4 verses in 4 part harmony. The musical element of our worship is passionate, it is lively, and it is engaging for a younger generation – I feel led by God to keep it this way for the forseeable future.