May 14, 2020 | by JB Brayfindley
“The Book of Discipline is your friend!” said Rev. Debra Brady, District Superintendent of the Central Valley District and one of two guest speakers featured during the May 13th CNUMC Webinar entitled, “Ordering the Life of The Church During a Pandemic.” District Superintendent of the Great Northern District, Rev. Blake Busick started the discussion by focusing on the importance of undergirding the ministry of the church with Wesleyan principles of order.
“John Wesley’s genius was to create a method…a way of ordering the life of the church,” said Blake. He defined the term ‘order’ as more than having committee meetings or keeping the lights on. “Order is more than a good administration—it is a method to awaken and keep disciples … to [intentionally and consistently] nurture and grow disciples in the grace of God.”
Busick challenged the more than 100 people participating in the Zoom webinar to consider ways their churches can use this time of sheltering in place to reflect more deeply on how to provide a conducive environment for deepening faith practices of current members and newcomers.
“We are able to reshape!” said Busick explaining that a call to change usually fails due to inertia, resistance, or just the willingness to follow the natural flow of whatever is already happening. Given the pandemic disruption, the past way of doing things is now in the past. “…the old way is laying fallow—it’s been disrupted. This is an opportune time.”
Brady and Busick reflected on the Book of Discipline’s recent addition Paragraph 247.2 wherein a church can modify the organizational plan to fit a particular church’s ministry needs by using “alternative models for the conception of a local church (P243).” The personalized plan would need to be approved by the church’s charge conference. Such a plan could streamline the administrative portion of the church and strengthen the ministry aspect.
“What is the best way to accomplish our mission strategy?” asked Busick. Given this ‘one church board’ type of organization, Blake was quick to note that it was not meant to collapse the leadership into merely administrative functions. “The more important aspect [of church administration] is to support discipleship, mission and service work.”
Brady went on to address new ways local churches are conducting meetings using conference calls, emails and Zoom conferencing. She noted that information on organizing each committee is published by Cokesbury and is available online, too.
“[Online meetings] allows for more diversity and involvement,” said Brady asking that churches continue the practice after the sheltering in place restrictions are lifted. “You get those who don’t drive at night, those who are working full-time and those who need childcare.”
Brady report that one church in her district provides an iPad to members who move into a living situation without access to a computer. The iPad is pre-loaded with specific apps that connect the person(s) directly to the church services and other ministries.
“People are increasing their evangelism skills by sharing on Instagram, Meetup…” added Brady. She went on to encourage participants to think about how to design effective membership classes in light of what has been learned during this time. Brady shared a template and noted that offering a series of up to seven classes helps people make a connection.
During the Q & A time, one participant asked how churches are reporting attendance. Brady noted that the United Methodist Church General Council on Finance and Administration (GCF& A) will be sending out guidelines for churches to follow.
For more information on this and other webinars, visit the conference website at cnumc.org.
Next week’s webinar, “Building Online Small Groups” will feature guest speakers Matt Smith and Rev. Linda Dew-Hiersoux. Participants will have the opportunity to learn how to use digital platforms to create small groups in living rooms across their membership. The webinar itself will break into small groups and model how the platform works. Register at cnumc.org under the Wednesday Webinar title button on the righthand side of the home page.
Click here to view the webinar recording and download session materials.