categories: church, working together
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February 25th, 2010

by Craig Groeschel

16 comments (+ Add)

UMC - Part 5

The United Methodist Church (and other mainline denominations) have many (mostly) empty buildings. To survive and thrive, these churches must learn to work together.

I’d suggest that many UM churches consider merging and become multi-site churches. If you have a strong UM church with limited space and a struggling UM church with an empty building, why not link arms?

(For more thoughts on “merging churches,” click 1) here, 2) here, 3) here, and 4) here.)

While I acknowledge that this is a complicated suggestion, the UMC church could also consider partnering with other churches outside its denomination.

Currently, we are partnering with many UMC churches that use our teaching for no charge. The possibilities of these partnerships are enormous. I’d suggest the leaders of the UMC search for other Kingdom-minded ministries and churches to unite with for a greater impact.

I can’t help but wonder how many struggling churches could have a chance for survival (and more than simply survival) if they shared resources with other churches in their communities or from around the world.

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  1. Feb 25, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Here’s a thought. It doesn’t matter how awesome one preaches in a quiet cemetery…the result is always the same…no response. :)

    God never meant for man to be “an island” why would he want his church to choose “spiritual anorexia”??? Churches are choosing death by starvation because they are not feasting on the “Potluck Buffet” HE has provided. If everyone brought what they had to the party and everyone shared in all THE individual gifts…Man what a NEVER ENDING FEAST that could be…The world would say…NOW THAT IS GOD!

  2. Feb 25, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Love your spirit of cooperation Craig. Suspect many other denominations could do the same-even those who consider themselves independent. ‘Course might require some ego blasting to get it done but God is good at that. :)

  3. Feb 25, 2010 at 7:26 am

    I think the some of the greatest advice members of declining churches could receive is that it’s not about your long history at that church, it’s about taking His Story to the world. You can’t be effective when your goal is simply paying the bills. Get creative and do what you have to in order to make Kingdom impact.

  4. Feb 25, 2010 at 8:31 am

    What a great challenge to move churches on to furhter the Kingdom.

    Thanks for these post - they were challenging - for a non UMC person!

  5. Feb 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Criag - i have really enjoyed these posts this week.
    I’m affiliated with the SBC. Many of our churches need to the things you have suggested!

  6. Feb 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I think the challenge should be more directed at pastors than to the UMC “system”. One of the things I like about the UMC is the flexibility within its existing structure. When I was first appointed to the church I currently serve there was another church from another denomination renting out our worship center on Saturday nights. It was a great arrangement. They told me that every other church turned them down. The church that was renting space had a large campus elsewhere and was coming to our neighborhood. I suppose others saw them as competition? Which I think is ridiculous. We also share resources with other UMC churches. VBS, Vans, trips, choirs, etc. This is not to brag on me, but to say I and my church have a choice, the question is what will we do with that choice.
    A pastor friend of mine, in the UMC, had a 2 point charge. He took the initiative to present the need for these churches to merge. He had a choice. Maybe the challenge to the leaders of the denomination is to be more intentional about selecting pastors who have this gift of merging churches and appoint them to these areas. In both of these examples, no one waited for a “powers that be” to initiate effort.
    I think the ultimate paradigm shift for most pastors and denominational leaders is the need to move from maintenance to mission, as you stated. My great concern with the UMC is that our drive to change has to do with a fear of denominational death. Jesus was clear that in order to live we must die. Paul said to die is gain to live is Christ. What if our focus was not on saving our denomination, but on living out our call. It might not mean that our strategies would change, but I believe our drive would. When we operate from crisis management we work out of the assumption that our only resource is what we have left to offer and our vision is one of danger. If we operate out of the commission of Christ we work out of the assumption that we are not limited by resources because we are animated by “the source”. In turn, our vision is of the unlimited possibilities of the Kingdom of God and not the impossibilities of man. Hebrews 11:12 states, “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” God is notorious for using the barren, both literally and metaphorically, to bring forth life. We have a God who promises to be with us always and supply every need as we seek first the kingdom of God. When we operate out of faith, being obedient to our mission, living in God’s grace we will merge when we need to merge, close when we need to close, plant when we need to plant. Our revitalization will not come out of our frantic activity, but out of the refreshing waters of God’s grace.

  7. Feb 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Craig, Your series on the UMC really hits home for me in a slightly different way that others have expressed. There have been many comments on younger pastors new to the system. but, what about older pastors new to the system. You may not remember me, but I was in your local pastor licensing class in 1992. You were a formidable young man and I was a 47 year old former college professor with a PhD. I was really energized but soon discovered that the hoops were too large. I did become a diaconal minister and quickly sought new venues. I have found a real home at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, where I am now V.P. of Institutional Advancement and also on the staff of FUMC in Bartlesville.
    Bob Pierson, former pastor of Christ Church UMC in Tulsa is my liaison for church relations and we are excited about bringing church growth possibilities to evangelical UM pastors in Oklahoma. We are bringing George Hunter in April. I never felt that evangelical United Methodists had the support they really needed from OCU. I would love to find a way to have you Craig, and others, bring some educational opportunities to mainline pastors in our state who have our same experiences with the hoops.

  8. Feb 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    P.S. Craig
    My daughter Becky, who is now Dean of the nursing school at Oklahoma Wesleyan and was in your ministry group at FUMC OKC says hi. Amy’s brother also sang at Becky’s wedding.

  9. Feb 25, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Merging? Why would I-a pastor might think?
    Wasn`t I called?

    That`s the mentallity here in our Central American region. Due to fear, doubt of the calling and for simple close mindedness. (that`s how you write it?)
    We need to start raising young leaders that see the advantages in UNION, after all that`s how we are going to be known as HIS followers.

    Great stuff Craig!

  10. Feb 25, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    “I can’t help but wonder how many struggling churches could have a chance for survival (and more than simply survival) if they shared resources with other churches in their communities or from around the world.”

    Kingdom-mindedness. Love it.

    I’m excited to start asking ministries on my campus if I can merge with them and get a united “Lifegroups” vision, leadership and mission-mindset going. I really want to get all the lifegroups on campus on one big list, so someone looking for a lifegroup can sure as heck find one :) Because heck - we’re college students - and if we hear that the church we go to doesn’t have a lifegroup on the night we’re free…well we feel we have no option.

    I’m hoping that will no longer be a problem!!

  11. Feb 25, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    This is something every denomination needs to put into practice.

    Craig, I’m still hoping you can start a movement of dying/dead churches giving their land & building to new church plants.

    Something like that would completely revolutionize the Church in America. It’s not the only answer for new churches, but it’s a huge barrier out of the way.

  12. Feb 26, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Hi Craig,

    I’ve always worked at larger non-denom churches. I was recently recruited by a 7000+ member UMC to help them lead as they began to merge with another UMC (about 600+).

    It’s been interesting to say the least. I’ve been here 8 months now, and the merge has happened. Multi-site and serving extremely different neighborhoods (economically and ethnically).

    We’re learning so much. I resonate with much of what you’re writing. I too appreciate the rigor to become a UMC elder, and on the other hand, I came in with 9 years of pastoral history and education and must wait over 3 years to be an elder here. I feel both respect and frustration at times.

    I surely can’t speak for all UMC’s, but, the thing that was attractive to us about coming to this particular church was the vision to reach people that weren’t being reached by merging and going multi-site.

  13. Feb 26, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    [...] 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4, Post 5, Post [...]

  14. 15David Wofford
    Mar 3, 2010 at 8:31 am

    This “merging” suggests a lot of assumptions…like that these smaller churches are more about Christ and less about family…or control. Walk a mile in these little churches and you may find that merging is not as easy as you’d initially think. Then there is gobs of tradition that the generational leaders are holding on to quite often with white knuckles. Bishops are going to offer strong and perhaps forceful leadership to encourage said merges…but its just not that simple.

    However, thanks for the suggestions. UM-ers have been considering your proposisions for years and consider to do so.

  15. Mar 29, 2010 at 10:51 am