March 30, 2013

Time for a Change

First I want to say, "Thanks!" Thanks for taking the time to read the sometimes random things I write here. Thanks for encouraging and challenging me with your questions and comments. Thanks for making it worth blogging.

Because of you, faithful readers, I have decided it was time for a change. I have been blogging here at A Journeyman's Catalog for over 6yrs and have realized I was ready for something different. This will be my last post here and from now on I will be writing at a new blog I created entitled, In The Neighborhood of Holy. <> I am not "officially" launching the new blog until Monday, April 1st but thought you deserved a sneak-peak if you're interested.

I would be honored and flattered if you would consider joining me there. Don't forget to update your RSS feeds and change them from this site to Thanks again for coming along on this part of the journey, I look forward to traveling the next part with you as well.

March 15, 2013

Church Communication & Our Older Adults

I spent some time leading the older adult study group at our church earlier this week and used the opportunity to have a conversation about communication. We talked primarily about the ways in which they communicate and their thoughts on the communication coming from our church. I learned some interesting things from this group of individuals who averaged 75yrs in age.

  • Only 50% of them have email and the ones who use it check it daily. 78% of those who use email are subscribed to receive church emails.
  • 78% use cell phones but only 14% of those text. 7% use their cell phones to access the internet. 
  • 6% use Facebook to "look at" family & friends but have not updated their profile.
  • None of them use Twitter. 
  • 6% look at our church's website, and that only once a week. A few did not know the church had a website at all and did not know the address. 
  • 94% take the Sunday bulletin home with them each week. Many of them could not understand how individuals "survive" without it. 
  • They viewed announcements made from the pulpit as the most important.
  • They felt that our church communications included too much "insider lingo" and too many confusing acronyms. 

  • The communication challenge within the Church for the foreseeable future will be to walk this tension of traditional and modern forms of communication and how to best use the two while honoring their users.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

    March 5, 2013

    Ongoing Preparedness

    Henri J. M. Nouwen had taken a prayer sabbatical away from his teaching duties at Yale for a few days at the Trappist monastery in Geneseo, NY. While on his retreat, he was approached by a group of college students asking him to lead a retreat for them. He did not want to and asked the abbot of the monastery about this...

    The abbot said, "You're going to do it."

    "What do you mean? Why should I spend my sabbatical time preparing all those things?"

    "Prepare?" he replied. "You've been a Christian for forty years and a priest for twenty, and a few high school students want to have a retreat. Why do you have to prepare? What those boys and girls want is to be part of your life in God for a few days. If you pray half an hour in the morning, sing in our choir for an hour, and do your spiritual reading, you will have so much to say you could give ten retreats."

    The question, you see, is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that, when someone who is drowning in the world comes into your world, you are ready to reach out and help. It may be at four o'clock, six o'clock, or nine o'clock. One time you call it preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling, or later administration. But let them be part of your life in God-that's ministering.

    (an excerpt from "Time Enough to Minister" (Leadership Spring 1982))

    February 20, 2013

    Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 6

    After receiving the Prescriptions, we held 3 different Town Hall meetings with the same agenda for each, to discuss and ask questions pertaining to the Prescriptions. We met on 2/5 @7pm, 2/10 @2:30pm, and 2/12 @7pm (on the Sunrise Campus).

    Each of the 5 Prescriptions were given 20 minutes, with a running clock, and we asked those in attendance to limit their comments to 45 seconds or less. This only worked part of the time though we held to the 20 minute time limit per item.

    Overall the comments and questions were quite interesting and I found to be fairly telling. Confusion, passion, concern, excitement, caution, anger, and hope (just to name a few) all made an appearance. It has been difficult to guess which one will prevail but I guess we'll find out at our Church Conference this Sunday, 2/24 @2:45pm whether the Prescriptions are adopted or not. As I've been saying all along, it should be interesting.

    February 15, 2013

    Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 5

    And here are the "Prescriptions" from the Weekend Report. Feel free to share your thoughts or questions.


    1. Develop a Clear, Focused, and Shared Guiding Vision – The date these prescriptions are adopted, Castleton UMC will embrace the mission of every United Methodist Church stated in the UM Book of Discipline: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    The congregation will have a day of prayer, repentance and healing during all Sunday worship services. The purpose of this day is to embrace God breaking open the hearts of the congregation for the local unchurched, and prepare them for the Lord’s vision for the future. To accommodate this for both campuses, two Prayer Coordinators will be chosen by Paula Gast, in consultation with the Lead Pastor, to lead the services. The day of prayer will be held no later than March 15, 2013.

    The Lead Pastor and coach will conduct a Day of Visioning workshop by March 30, 2013 to assist the congregation in clarifying and providing a more focused vision (of reaching the community) to guide Castleton UMC into the future. This vision will be affirmed by the leaders that participate in this vision workshop. The days between the Day of Prayer and the Day of Visioning will be utilized by the people of the congregation as a call to prayer and fasting for this vision for the congregation. The vision will be presented to the Church Council by May 15, 2013. Upon approval, this vision will be communicated to the congregation in order to align your ministries to accomplish the vision.

    Upon adopting the clarified vision, every ministry in the congregation must demonstrate how it will accomplish the mission and vision. To that end, the Church Council will conduct a ministry audit aligning the church’s ministries with the vision. This audit will be completed by August 1, 2013. Ministries will be evaluated by their faithfulness to the mission and vision and their fruitfulness (results). Any ministries not faithful and fruitful will be given up to one year to rectify. Any ministries that are not faithful to the mission and vision will be dissolved; any ministry that is faithful but still not fruitful will be modified and re-evaluated for fruitfulness. All continuing ministries will set goals and objectives in alignment with the mission and vision.

    The pastor and Staff-Parish Relations Committee, with the help of the coach, will review the staff audit conducted by the consultant to insure it aligns with the mission and vision and the ministry audit. This will include creating result based job positions and descriptions, aligning them with the church’s mission and vision by October 1, 2013.

    The pastor and the coach will see that an Accountability Leadership workshop for all staff and leaders is held by September 1, 2013. Upon completion of the Accountability Leadership workshop the Lead Pastor and Church Council, in consultation with the coach will develop a team of 4 to 6 leaders to explore the implementation of a single board structure for the church. Their recommendation will be presented to the Church Council by September 30, 2013.

    The consult team discovered there was significant confusion and frustration on how to be one church with two sites. We encountered multiple examples of the campuses functioning as separate churches. Therefore we recommend the Church Council develop a plan to more fully become one church with two sites. The issues needing to be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following: language of the “us and them”; the development of a common DNA (the mission, vision and values); the name of the church and each campus (like Castleton UMC with a Geist campus and a Shadeland campus); communication between the campuses; collaboration of ministries (like youth, mission projects, preschool); locations of ministries and meetings; etc. The Church Council will report this plan to the congregation by October 1, 2013.

    2. Outward Focus. – The Pastor, in consultation with the coach, shall develop an Outreach Team to study the MissionInsite reports, and then dream of creative ways to reach out to each surrounding community. Persons on the team should have a deep passion for mission and evangelism.

    This Outreach Team will develop 4-6 externally focused events to connect with the community. Each event will have a measurable way to invite and connect people into the fellowship or worship of the church. These events should be strategically placed through the calendar year. Multi-aged church participation is vital. Existing events could be used such as: VBS, Fish Fry, Chili Cook-off, basketball outreach, etc. At least 2 of these events must be new, not having been done previously. No event will be a fundraising event. In addition, new creative ways will be dreamed of such as: random acts of kindness, community service projects, tent services, etc. In addition, a way to better connect the preschools and adult day care people to the life of the church should be developed.

    3. Discipleship Path. – The pastor, in consultation with the coach, shall put together a team to strategize a discipleship pathway for both campuses designed for first time attendee through the most seasoned saint. This path will include:
    • A well-marked path for a newcomer to get connected to either campus. The process will differ because of the size of each campus. The team should consult with other churches that have a successful newcomer connection process (i.e. Clay UMC in South Bend; Cornerstone UMC in Grand Rapids, MI). This process should be ready to implement by April 1, 2013.
    • A process of faith development that receives people at any step of the journey and leads them to the next. This will include basic spirituality (how to pray; read the Bible; big questions, etc.) and will progress through a more seasoned spiritual walk with God (Disciple Bible Study, advanced ministry training.) This process should be in place by September 2013. Pastor Tracy’s work in this area is much appreciated by the participants.
    • A process of developing new small group leaders and groups for new disciples being developed through your ministry.
    • A focus will be placed on developing new children’s opportunities at 11:00 at Castleton campus. Children’s ministry will be offered concurrent with worship. The Orange curriculum can be expanded to all age levels.
    • The Student Ministry (youth) shall explore a youth worship experience along with small groups on Sunday nights. This could be combined with middle and high school students at first, but split as soon as they have sustainable numbers.
    4. Strengthening Communication – The pastor in consultation with the coach will select a team of 3-5 people by March 1, 2013 from staff and laity from each campus (at least one having a background in marketing and communication) to research and implement healthy and effective ways to communicate surrounding major decisions, general updates, finances and capital debt. Particular attention will be given to transparency, accountability, and effectiveness that use various forms of technology so that the church is not weighted down with more meetings just to share pertinent information. The team will review practices of other multi-site churches that demonstrate clear and concise communication, and present a plan for improvement to the Church Council by May 15, 2013

    5. Capital Debt. – The consult team affirms the work of the sub-committee of the Generosity Committee which is working on resolving the issues surrounding the capital debt. An insurance consultant has been contracted to evaluate the current situation. The committee will write a report to inform the congregation on the specifics of the debt and the progress toward a viable plan in a town hall meeting by April 15, 2013. The congregation will have the opportunity to hear updated information about the debt and current liability. An additional town hall meeting will be held by June 30, 2013 to hear and discuss the viable plan for the debt retirement. The plan to resolve the debt will then be voted on by the Church Conference. We recommend the team consult with Jennifer Gallagher, the Conference Treasurer, to help the team think through and clarify this issue.

    The capital campaign giving of $400,000 a year will end in July, 2013. This giving has been used to pay toward the $1.3 million life insurance annual premiums. The policies funded by these premiums are the collateral for the capital debt. With a new debt reduction plan in place, a capital campaign will be held during the fall of 2013 to fund the plan. This is important because no principle or interest is being paid so the amount of the debt continues to increase.

    The tithe giving to the Annual Conference will no longer be held in escrow. We affirm the decision to pay the tithe monthly to model to the congregation the importance of tithing. Church participants will be encouraged to tithe as they pull together to resolve this major issue.

    In combination with the day of Prayer and Forgiveness in prescription 1, a 21 day Daniel Fast is recommended. The pastoral staff and willing persons can research this type of fast and challenge the church body to fast and pray for God’s deliverance.

    February 13, 2013

    Lenten Photo-A-Day Challenge

    A great idea from for Lent. Find a place to share your photos during Lent. I'll be sharing mine on here and Twitter (@mattlipan). Join me!

    February 12, 2013

    Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 4

    The highlight of the consultation weekend was the reading of the Weekend Report which gave us five different prescriptions to vote on as a church after highlighting five strengths and five concerns. I have shared the noted strengths and concerns here and will post the prescriptions in Part 5 of this blog series. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts or ask any questions.

    1. People. – Both campuses affirm that their most valuable resource is their people. There is a strong sense of community and commitment at each individual campus. Sunrise is a friendly church with a strong sense of community. Castleton campus has a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers. Both campuses are known for their caring and authenticity.

    2. Kids/Youth Ministry. – Both campuses have excellent leadership and ministry for ages 0-18. Sunrise has great opportunity with families of infant and small children. Castleton has excellent ministry offered to children during the 9:40 service, middle and high school students throughout the week.

    3. Worship/Preaching. – Both campuses are blessed with the leadership of their Pastors. We heard repeatedly from people how Pastor Frank has encouraged and brought a spirit of unity. Sunrise deeply values Pastor Matt’s biblical life application preaching as well. Each church has talented creative musicians and worship leaders.

    4. Outreach. – Both campuses have opportunity for outreach in their communities. Both have initiated programs and ministries to better connect with their communities. For example: pre-schools; adult day care; VBS; Trunk or Treat; Fish Fry; Chili Cook-off. Both campuses expressed a desire to reach out more into the community and to better connect people to the church.

    5. Location. – Both campuses are strategically placed in their communities. Their buildings are attractive and suited for ministry. Demographic materials reveal that large populations of people are present, and there is a great opportunity for extended ministry in their immediate areas.

    1. Lack of Clear Unified Vision Based on the Mission of the Church. – We affirm your efforts to be a vital force as a multi-site church in your respective communities. However, these actions lack a unified vision and a clear, direct connection to the mission of the church. The results are a silo effect of ministries, committees, staff and the two campuses. Attempts to unify the campuses has been done through “programming and structures” instead of a unified mission, vision, and values.

    2. Connecting to Community. – The Consultation Team heard that people have a heart for their communities. They desire greater impact and outreach. However, some ministries do not consistently connect people from the outside with the church body. There is a lack of clear invitational follow-up, and thus many opportunities are lost for community presence.

    3. Discipleship Path. – Both campuses have opportunity for spiritual growth, biblical learning, and ministry involvement, but lack an intentional plan to help people become deeper disciples of Jesus Christ. For adults, both campuses offer classes on Sundays, Wednesdays, and other times without any coherent plan. The model now being used is to “inform” people of opportunities and randomly offer a variety of choices. No system exists to encourage a person grow from one step of the spiritual life to the next. No measurements or marks of maturing exist in terms of what we would hope a disciple becomes. Leaders desire to be in spiritual growth classes or groups but are too busy attending meetings. Only 30% of regular worship attendees participate in some kind of small group.

    Follow-up process for first time guests to both campuses needs attention. Castleton has a process in place but it quickly breaks down after three visits. Nothing exists to connect guests with a discipleship path. Castleton received 200 visitors last year while Sunrise attracted 50. Both campuses will benefit from reading the Mystery Guest report and implementing needed changes.

    The Children’s ministry at Castleton campus was rated high by the mystery guests at 9:40 but lacking at 11:00. Children’s ministry at Sunrise campus is taking root for the very young. The rooms were not all age appropriately equipped. Youth have many opportunities to grow as disciples at Castleton campus. But, very little is done to combine the ministry to youth for both campuses at one location.

    4. Communication – People expressed communication is poor primarily between leadership and the church body, committee to committee, and between each campus. There is an overall concern for lack of transparency, especially surrounding the finances and capital debt. Poor communication has created rumors, speculation, and misinformation which undercuts trust and ultimately impacts the level of involvement, giving, fruitful ministry, and the willingness to serve and lead.

    5. Capital Debt – The consult team affirms the efforts being taken by the Generosity Committee to address the dark cloud of capital debt which hangs over virtually everything in the church. This has been consistently shared with the consult team during the interview process. The issues surrounding the procurement of this debt, the viability of repayment, and the lack of transparency in reporting the current status to the congregation has had a negative impact upon the church. This has created a “spirit of scarcity” which has resulted in the repeated squelching of creative ministries due to a resultant lack of funds (i.e. Family Life Center and sports fields). Therefore the capital debt is negatively impacting overall stewardship.

    Insights from Daniel 7-9

    I did a 4-week study through the book of Daniel at Sunrise and thought I might share a couple thoughts from the study each week.

    Reading through Daniel, it's important to keep these theological principles in mind: God's sovereignty; the power of persistent prayer; long-range view of God's plan; God's grace remains despite our disobedience.

    Chapter 7
    -Despite what might happen or come, God is sovereign throughout all of time.

    -Daniel continued to make himself available to God. So often we find ourselves being distracted and miss the things God might be trying to show us, despite our confusion.

    Chapter 8
    -Sometimes God needs to communicate the same thing to us in different ways before we grasp what He's trying to say.

    Chapter 9
    -A powerful example of confessional prayer and a reminder that even the great prophet Daniel was in need of confession before God. I have been incorporating Daniel's prayer as part of my daily devotional time. It has been quite meaningful and helpful.

    February 6, 2013

    Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 3

    Moving into Phase 2 of the Fruitful Congregations Journey found our church preparing for the consultation weekend which took place on January 18-20. Leading up to this weekend included doing the following:

    -The creation of a Prayer Team. 

    -Completing a Self-Study which involved background information on history of the church, staff, facilities, worship schedule, small groups, member statistics, finances, community demographics, and leadership development.

    -Ask the congregation to take an online survey. (We had approximately 208 surveys completed)

    -Complete a Readiness Test.

    -Have the pastors complete a DISC Inventory.

    Once the consultation weekend arrived, we had staff interviews conducted throughout the day on Friday, scheduled 3 focus groups for Friday evening, an all-day staff and leadership workshop on Saturday, and had guest preachers for Sunday worship. Following the worship services on Sunday, the lead consultant read us the report from the consultation weekend. I will share the contents of that report in my next post.

    January 24, 2013

    Insights from Daniel 4-6

    I started a 4-week study through the book of Daniel at Sunrise and thought I might share a couple thoughts from the study each week. Feel free to join us by reading 3 chapters a week and share your thoughts and questions. Next week we'll be reading chapters 7-9.

    Reading through Daniel, it's important to keep these theological principles in mind: God's sovereignty; the power of persistent prayer; long-range view of God's plan; God's grace remains despite our disobedience

    Chapter 4
    -Daniel was not particularly excited to share the meaning of the dream with the king and yet he is willing to share the difficult truth. Makes me wonder how we communicate difficult truths with others. We often say, "Speaking the truth in love." but we are seldom good at doing it.

    -We continue to see how pride is a very slippery slope.

    -It was only by God's divine grace that not only was the king's sanity restored but his kingdom as well.

    Chapter 5
    -God doesn't always show up how we might expect. A floating hand or otherwise...

    -So often we forget, ignore, or miss the lessons of the past. Often times we think we are the exception and that the same fate that befell others will not be our own, even when we witness their hurt firsthand.

    Chapter 6
    -Daniel's integrity forced others to make stuff up. May we live in such a way that people have to make up bad stuff about us.

    -Note how king Darius points out: 1) Daniel's God is alive and acts in history, responding to the needs of his people, 2) God's rule is eternal, and 3) God miraculously delivers his people, with wonders in heaven and on earth.

    Any thoughts that you had?

    Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 2

    I was recently asked by a friend and colleague of mine, Pastor Brian Durand (@revbriandurand), who also happens to be the Associate Director of Leadership Development for our conference, which of the Phase 1 books I found most meaningful and/or challenging for our context.

    Great question!

    Of the 7 different books we read through as a team in Phase 1, I found 2 to be particularly meaningful and challenging for our context. "Direct Hit" by Paul Borden and "The Externally Focused Church" by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson.

    Paul Borden's book focuses on leaders and leadership development. He encourages pastors in churches that have lost their outward focus to be leaders that bring about systemic change. "Direct Hit" talks about communicating vision and motivating people to embrace a new vision, one that focuses on those "outside" and brings about change. I found this to be meaningful for our context because we struggle as a church (Castleton & Sunrise) to embrace change, which can make it especially easy to pursue the wrong vision.

    A few highlights from "Direct Hit"
    "Leaders cannot afford to have throw away conversations." (pg 24)

    "Attempting and failing is much better than existing as a victim of the system." (pg 122)

    "Authority, responsibility, and accountability should be married." (pg 113)

    "Many will talk of the need for change while doing everything in their power to inhibit it." (pg 71)

    The main reason I found Rusaw & Swanson's book, "The Externally Focused Church," meaningful for our context was because it discusses the need to partner with our surrounding community, which automatically implies we must know our community. We must get to know our community on their terms and turf and stop expecting them to come to us and introduce themselves.

    Have you read any of these books? Which did you find most meaningful/challenging and why? 

    January 22, 2013

    Fruitful Congregations Journey: Part 1

    I have been on staff at Castleton UMC for over 10yrs now and the lead pastor of the Sunrise campus for over 2yrs. Our church embarked on the Fruitful Congregations Journey in late 2011 with a team of 12 laity and 3 clergy members, including myself, beginning monthly meetings in January of 2012.

    This is a program facilitated by the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church and led by our Church Development team. Over the course of several months our team spent time reading and discussing a number of books dealing with church growth, vision, and purpose (see list below). This nearly year process was known as Phase 1.

    Upon completion of Phase 1, as a team we voted to apply for and pursue Phase 2, which is where we find ourselves right now. I'll write more about Phase 2 in a future post. If you have questions or thoughts about the process or anything I share, don't hesitate to ask.

    Phase 1 Book List
    "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Robert Schnase
    "Direct Hit" by Paul Borden
    "Taking Your Church to the Next Level" by Gary McIntosh
    "Simple Church" by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger
    "The Externally Focused Church" by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson
    "Communicating for a Change" by Andy Stanley & Lane Jones
    "Unbinding the Gospel" by Martha Grace Reese