What I’m Learning Outside the Church Bubble: Day One
By Jan Edmiston, DMin ’01 and Co-moderator of 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
March 26, 2015—This is the first of a three-part series by popular blogger and Columbia Theological Seminary graduate Jan Edmiston. In this series, Edmiston examines different ways the Church can utilize secular business practices and principles in the “business” of running a church. In this post, Edmiston asks some great questions of church leaders regarding why we do things the way we do, and they reflect whom we believe we are as a church.
Several colleagues and I are spending a few days in a class called “Leading a Vibrant Faith Community” in the Non-Profit Management Program of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University this week, and we wish you could be here too. My mind is awhirl with ideas about church vitality. To cut to the chase, here are my latest sweeping declarations based on what we were learning:
- All pastors need post-seminary training in leadership, non-profit finance, and innovation/social entrepreneurship.
- Sally Blount should be the keynote speaker at your upcoming conference or retreat or seminary graduation.
- Business School dining hall food is way better than Seminary dining hall food.
A couple of insights from the day’s lectures:
- How we organize a congregation, plan worship, create a church budget, do mission is about PROCESS. The process is especially precise and hard-wired if our connections to each other are weak. How we feel about the organization, worship, budget, mission is about CONNECTIONS. If our relationships are strong, we can more easily tweak our processes to adapt to particular situations. So, here’s a question for my PCUSA sisters and brothers: If we are “a connectional church” why are our processes so intrinsic to how we do things?
- Our churches are first and foremost communities of spiritual formation so that we can go out into the world and make an impact/make disciples of all nations. But too often our churches have become clubs (with membership/per capita dues), social service organizations (offering tutoring, homeless shelters, 12-step organization space – but without necessarily connecting this outreach to our faith) or continuing education centers (providing classes that make us smarter but not more engaged in the world.) Are we teaching our leaders – from the ushers to the coffee hour servers how to always be in spiritual formation mode?
- We must always be aware of why our church exists. And everything we do must point to this. The job of a Sunday morning usher is not to unlock the doors and turn on the heat. It’s to make the worship space safe and comfortable for anyone who gathers so that they aren’t distracted as their souls are fed. The job of a fellowship hour server is not to pour coffee. It’s to offer hospitality to every person so that they feel loved and welcomed.
There’s much more, but the best part of being here is the blessing of seeing what we do and how we do it through a different lens.
Along the Journey will post What I’m Learning Outside the Church Bubble: Day Two next Thursday.
Jan Edmiston is co-moderator with T. Denise Anderson of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) She has also served as associate executive presbyter for ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago, starting in 2011. Prior to that she served congregations in northern Virginia and New York. She completed her MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and her DMin in Christian Spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary in 2001. She has graciously agreed to let us repost some of her blog entries (including guest bloggers) from A Church for Starving Artists.
And when you need to re-enter the church bubble, The Center for Lifelong Learning offers courses on preaching and teaching for those in the pulpit and those in the pew. Visit our course list HERE to learn more about our classes.