Monday, March 01, 2010

My Thoughts on Craig Groeschel's Thoughts on the UMC- Pt. 1

Throughout last week, Craig Groeschel- Pastor at Lifechurch.tv wrote a blog engaging some issues and thoughts on the United Methodist Church.  You can read through his post here.  Groeschel began his ministry in the United Methodist Church before becoming a church planter.  It was interesting to read through some of his thoughts- and read the comments from others both in and out of the UMC.  This week, I want to put some of my thoughts down on the topics that Groeschel writes about. The first thing that Craig wrote about was Financial Resources.

Craig brought up the Rethink Church advertising campaign that the United Methodist Church recently spent $20 million dollars on.  He suggested that rather than spending the $20 million on a advertising campaign that $20,000 could be given to 1000 new church plants.  Groeschel wrote that starting a new church is easier than revitalizing an old one. 

I really felt strong about the money the UMC spent on an advertising campaign.  I thought it was a waste of money.  (Kind of the like the Census Bureau creating a Super Bowl Ad- why is the government paying for a commercial??)  $20 million dollars could have been spent more effectively- whether putting it into new church starts as Groeschel suggested or by injecting it into leadership training for annual conferences and clergy in the four areas of focus of the Rethink Church campaign (Growing congregations, becoming leaders in the world, addressing poverty and fighting disease).  I personally have seen little to nothing happen in our local church or conference around this theme of Rethinking Church- or the four focus areas. 

That said, there are areas where more inertia could be created within the United Methodist Church.  First, is the Nothing But Nets campaign.  I have seen the campaign referenced in numerous places in the media and otherwise.  The campaign provides nets for people in high-risk areas of malaria.  This is the kind of ministry that young adults who are unchurch or nominally churched can get involved in.  The Nothing But Nets campaign could be a "door" for people to enter the UMC rather than a commercial.  This campaign and others (debt relief, anti-sex trafficking, HIV/AIDS ministries) are the places where we can "be the church" rather than attending a church.

What do you think?  Do you like spending $20 million on an advertising campaign?  How could the denomination do a better job of 'being the Church?"   

11 comments:

Matt said...

I cringe whenever I see ads for Rethink Church.

I see it as the cart before the horse because in large part the UMC is only now starting to rethink church.

Groeschel is right - the money would have been better spent on church plants that rethink church.

In large part, the campaign is only advertising dying churches that aren't rethinking much more than the color of the choir robes or how much they can get away with cutting the senior pastor's salary.

James' Journey said...

Yeah, I agree with you and Craig. Having grown up in the UM church, my home church is dying because it fails to change, but there is a thriving UM church plant 20 minutes down the road that is exploding!! In 10 years time, it went from a small core group to over 2,000 regularly attending. Marketing doesn't mean change. The money would have been better spent on starting new churches or some kind of ministry that will make a difference. It's better allocation of funds to do that than try to revamp a marketing scheme, but it is much easier to throw money at marketing than addressing real change. Because you can paint a great picture via media, but if the UM church is still the same what does it matter. What a waste of money! It makes me think of the passage that Jesus talked about whitewashed tombs.

Steve and Andrea LaMotte said...

Thanks for the comments Matt and James. I also cringe when I see the Rethink Church campaign/marketing stuff because I think it has become more of a marketing slogan rather than a true call for the UMC to rethink how we "do" Church. Aside from church plants- that money could be used to help some churches start satelite campuses or develop a better web presence (online church anyone?). It's sad to me that when we go to annual conference that worship doesn't look much different than it would have 30-40 years ago.

Jonathan Siggy Sigmon said...

I really enjoy a lot of your thoughts. Keep up the good stuff!

Rick said...

Rethink Church has such an auspicious name, but it comes up empty in practice. People don't attend UM churches because our TV ads are lacking--they don't attend because many of our churches are woefully unprepared (and in a sense unable) to evangelize in the modern world. I agree with Craig Groeschel in that the money should have gone to new church starts/church plants/satellites of large churches. It is downright impossible to breathe new life into many our our old churches. Even if they are willing to change (which isn't often), most don't have the capital (human and monetary) to actually do so.

The church that I pastor has ZERO interest in contemporary anything. About 80% of the membership is over the age of 80, and the few younger members don't have much pull because those older members rule the roost. Any new ideas are frowned upon, and I receive support from only about 10 members when we do any type of community service or outreach project. Finances are begging to grow tighter and tighter, and all I hear is, "Pastor, we need more people." What do we realistically have to draw them? We are dying, while the three contemporary churches in our area are growing and thriving. It would be depressing for any pastor, but it is especially depressing for a young pastor who is filled with life and ideas, yet has no outlet to bring them to life.

I have a friend in this conference who is fond of saying that one of the UMC's four focus areas is creating new places of worship, while our conference doesn't have a dime devoted to new church starts. A little bit of that $20 million sure would help us take a step in the right direction.

Steve and Andrea LaMotte said...

Rick- Thanks for your comments and thoughts! My prayers are with you as you lead the church. May God's Spirit bring renewal there!

I agree with your statement as well- people don't come to any church when the people of the church do not live out their faith in tangible ways. People generally are not looking for liturgy- they are looking for the transforming love and grace of Jesus- and they need to see that reflected in the everyday lives of Christians.

My prayer for any church- is that they move beyond doing church as usual to going outside the four walls and into the world. When we do that- people are going to want to take part because they see our faith.

Andrea said...

I also dislike the Rethink Church slogan. Open Hearts Open Minds Open Doors was nice--and I used it. In my opinion, the slogan and funds would have been more productively spent on training and educating church leaders, bringing in new programs, updating how "we" think about drawing people in the doors and helping them find salvation. A vital childrens/youth/young adult program would be more beneficial than trying to convince older, regular churchgoers that they should "rethink church."

Steve and Andrea LaMotte said...

Andrea- Thanks for your comments!

7200 said...

it was neat to see something different and modern as a way to reach society. It made me ask the question "what distingishes one church from another to the world"?

Then I read this today "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves". John 14:8-12

Outreach may be best by the actions we make instead of the words we say. Of course good preaching is important also!

journeyman37 said...

Steve,

Did you mean "the four areas of focus OR the ReThink Church campaign"?

The four areas of focus were not created with any particular connection to ReThink Church. The four areas of focus emerged as sort of "Connectional Table Promises" to the denomination for how the general agencies would organize their work.

ReThink Church is a separate campaign by just one of the agencies-- United Methodist Communications. What I see UMCom doing is sort of providing "provocative proposals" to try to move the corporate culture of the denomination in ways that younger adults can connect with better.

There are limits to what such communications campaigns can do. And they are expensive-- no question. And the "World Service Dollars" pie IS limited, and getting smaller all the time.

Still, I don't think General Conference, in giving UMCom $20 million to continue offering some sort of communications campaign (which wasn't mapped out at the time), was thinking about that as allocating resources AWAY from new church starts, for example. The reality, of course, is that General Conference didn't allocate much TOWARD church starts, either.

Steve and Andrea LaMotte said...

Journeyman37, thanks for the clarification. When I read the rethink church website- I misread the description that the "Four Areas" were part of the rethink campaign- when I should have saw that the rethink church is consistent with the four areas of focus in the UMC.