Starting a New Worship Service – Looking For Conversation

This spring we had a series of conversations at Tonganoxie UMC about worship offerings.  Acknowledging that our numbers in worship have been increasing, hoping that they might continue to do so, and hoping that we might be able to reach people we’re not currently reaching as a church, we’re now exploring the possibility of starting a new service.

It is my desire to lead a process that is prayerful, intentional, thoughtful, and creative in the starting of a new service.  As we work to map out the process that we might use in the coming months I’d love to hear about the experiences that other churches have had in starting a new service.  If you have been a part of starting a new service in recent years I’d love to hear from you on the following questions:

  • What was your process for starting the new service?
  • What worked well?
  • What would you do differently if you had it to do over again?
  • What did you read that was helpful?
  • Who did you talk to that was helpful?
  • What was your timeline for starting the service?
  • What parties were involved in the conversation within the church?
  • How, if at all, were people outside the church engaged in the conversation/process?
  • How has the new service impacted the existing service(s)?
  • How has the new service impacted the congregation?
  • How has the new service impacted the greater community?
  • What were the biggest surprises in the process?
  • What were the biggest challenges in the process?
Feel free to email me at pastorjeffclinger(at)gmail(dot)com or to comment here.

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Welcome Joshua Edwin!

At 3:30 in the morning on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd, Heather delivered a healthy baby boy weighing 6 pounds 13 ounces and measuring 20 inches long.  Joshua Edwin and his mom are both doing great!

Joshua’s big sister came to meet him last night and is clearly smitten by her baby brother.  Though, not too much so to be unable to cheese for the camera while smooching on him.


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January 20th, 2012 eNote

Below is my weekly email to the Tonganoxie UMC congregation.  I share it here so that others can keep in touch with what the church is up to.  Let me know if you’d like to be added to the list to receive the note weekly.

Dear Tonganoxie UMC Family,

This week I had the opportunity to spend three days in Topeka with United Methodist Clergy from Kansas and Nebraska.  The gathering was called by the Bishops of both states and provided an opportunity to worship together, to hear a series of great lectures by Brian McLaren, and to process and discuss the plans that are moving forward for the creation of a new Annual Conference that includes both of our states (currently there are three annual conferences – Kansas East, Kansas West, and Nebraska).
From the gathering I took a great sense of hope for United Methodism in Kansas and Nebraska.  I also took a great sense of confidence about the work that you have begun and that we are doing as a congregation.  It was once again clear to me what a blessing it is to be serving as your pastor as we journey into the future to which God is calling us.  It was a great conference, but I am glad to be back home and excited to share a few things with you today.
Year-End Finance Number Clarification
It seems that a statement I made in last week’s eNote, “we finished the year in the black by nearly $5,000” was heard differently by some than I intended for it to be and so I want to provide some clarity this week.  In 2011 we began the year with roughly $20,000 available in the general fund checking account.  At 2011’s end we had payed all of our obligations (including 100% of our apportionments, mission and ministry support through the denomination) and ended the year with roughly $25,000 available in the the general fund checking account.  We operated in the black throughout the year, but managed to finish the year slightly ahead of where we had started.
Souper Bowl Challenge – Pep Rally this Weekend
The challenge we received from McLouth UMC is now well underway and each congregation is seeking to collect as many cans of soup (as well as spaghetti-o’s, ravioli, chili, or beefaroni) as they can.  I am already hearing and sensing a great deal of enthusiasm about the competition and had some fun conversation with Morgan Whitaker Smith, McLouth UMC’s Pastor, and Mike Chamberlain, our District Superintendent this week.  Mike made good on his promise of 5 cases of soup and even upped it a can to make sure he was giving more to us than the Topeka DS was giving to McLouth.  I want to share a few things regarding the challenge this morning:
  • Mike also challenged all of you, as leaders in the congregation, to match his pledge of at least 5 cases of soup.
  • Some coupons have been left in the gathering area by the soup collection and you’re welcome to take them to purchase soup if you’d like.
  • If you want to support our efforts to fight hunger in Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County, but don’t feel that you have the time or energy to shlep soup to the church, you can make a donation of cash or write a check to the church (clearly marked for Soup) and we have some volunteers willing to shop on behalf of the congregation.
  • We will have people at B&J encouraging the community to help us out by buying some soup next Saturday the 28th from 10-2 and Sunday the 29th from 12-3.  Please invite your friends who might be shopping at those times to buy some soup or consider coming out to help with the display.
  • If you were in worship last week you heard me say it, but I want to make sure this promise is out there for all to hear – if you are able to collect 5,000 cans of soup I will shave my head.  Let that serve as some motivation for you!
  • At the conclusion of the 10:30 service this Sunday we will have a fun pep rally to help us get pumped up for the competition.  Many have been working hard on plans for this this week.  YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS IT!
Introduction to Tonganoxie UMC Class Rescheduled
I had previously announced that next Sunday, January 29th, I would be offering an “Introduction to Tonganoxie UMC” class as an opportunity for people to learn more about our congregation and consider membership.  This class is being rescheduled for February 19th (still from 3-5pm).  More details will be coming soon, but I invite you to mark your calendars for that class now, especially if you have questions about the church or might be interested in the possibility of joining.  All are welcome regardless of how long they have been involved in TUMC.
Again, it is a joy to be serving as your pastor and I am so excited to see how 2012 unfolds for us as we continuing living into our purpose of being a community of faith inviting all to know God’s love, connecting with each other, growing in our faith, and serving our community and the world.  I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday as we continue our sermon series, “Come and See” by talking about  what it means for us to be Connecting on Purpose.
Grace and Peace,

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January 13th, 2012 eNote

Below is my weekly email to the Tonganoxie UMC congregation.  I share it here so that others can keep in touch with what the church is up to.  Let me know if you’d like to be added to the list to receive the note weekly.

Dear Tonganoxie UMC Family,


It has been a joy to be back in the office the last couple of days following a wonderful week of vacation.  I feel energized and recharged and am ready for all of the exciting things happening as we get rolling with 2012.  I’m just going to jump in to some things that I want to share today.


Sanctuary Sound Concerns

Over the last several days I have heard concerns about the sound quality of things in the sanctuary.  Some concerns seem specific to worship this last weekend, but others seem to be ongoing and longer term.  I am grateful for the feedback we are receiving and want you to know that members of the Trustees and the Worship Team as well as some tech-y souls and myself are in conversation about what needs to be done to improve sound quality throughout the sanctuary.  One of the things that we are deducing is that there seem to be different spots in the sanctuary where it is easier (or harder) to hear.  Please feel free to put some notes on your connection card in worship Sunday regarding where you were sitting and how the sound quality was.  Also feel free to experiment with where you sit in the sanctuary over the next week or so while we work on plans to address the needs.  And, as always, please feel free to share concerns with me – your feedback is helpful and appreciated!


2011 Ends in the Black

Our books are still being finalized for 2011, but I am excited to share that we finished the year in the black by nearly $5,000.  This is a wonderful testament to your faithfulness and stewardship as a congregation, especially given how difficult the times are for so many.  Regardless of how frequently or how much you were able to give last year, I want to extend my gratitude to all of you who played a part in helping us meet our goals and obligations as a congregation in 2011.


Souper Bowl Challenge From McLouth UMC

We have received a formal challenge from the good people of McLouth UMC.  Specifics will be explained in worship this week, but the gist of the challenge is this –  between now and February 5th each congregation will collect as much canned soup (or ravioli, spaghetti-o’s, or chili) as possible.  At the end of the contest the congregation who has gathered the most wins a fabulous prize (and bragging rights).  All of the food raised by McLouth UMC will be used to fight hunger in Jefferson County.  All of the food that we collect will be split between Good Shepherd and the Food for Friends program at Tonganoxie Elementary School.  If we happen to collect more than these two programs can handle, we will look for other agencies or organizations in town and in Leavenworth County that can benefit from the food.  Please join us in worship this Sunday as we formally accept the challenge and please begin shopping for canned soup when you can find it at a good price.  Our goal is 3,000 cans from our congregation and I have a good feeling that we can do it!


Administrative Council Meeting and Potluck Sunday

Don’t forget that Administrative Council will be meeting this Sunday, January 15th, following the 10:30 service.  We will share a potluck meal together in Hughes Hall.  The meeting is open to everyone associated with Tonganoxie UMC and will include reports from all of our team leads as well as some preliminary conversation about long range plans for 2012.  Please plan to join us for this important meeting!


I hope that over the last couple of weeks you have been able to experience the blessings of this New Year and that as you look to the rest of 2012 you do so with a sense of hope for all that God will do in your life and in our life together as a congregation this year.  I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday as we continue our sermon series, “Come and See” by talking about the important work that we do as a congregation focused on “Inviting on Purpose.”


Grace and Peace,




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January 6th, 2012 eNote

Below is my weekly email to the Tonganoxie UMC congregation.  I share it here so that others can keep in touch with what the church is up to.  Let me know if you’d like to be added to the list to receive the note weekly.

Dear Tonganoxie UMC Family,

I hope that you’re all doing well and settling into rhythms and routines this first week of the New Year.  I am currently on vacation enjoying a bit of time without too much of a fixed schedule.  My primary agenda for the week is to move all of the furniture from our “office” at home and consolidate it with the “guest bedroom” so that what has been the “office” can be set up as the nursery in preparation for our family’s new addition this spring.  My secondary agenda is to rest and relax a bit as we prepare for an exciting year of ministry together in 2012!  I’m writing today to share a few things and to encourage you to be present in worship this weekend as you won’t want to miss our special guest preacher, the Rev. Ira DeSpain.

Looking for TUMC Historical Information – Can You Help?

As I shared in last week’s email I’m going to be offering a class to serve as an Introduction to Tonganoxie UMC on Sunday, January 29th from 3-5 (mark your calendars now if you’re interested, whether you’re a lifelong member or someone just beginning to get involved with our church).  The class will serve as an opportunity for people to learn more about the church and then decide whether or not they might be interested in becoming members.  As  part of that class I’d like to be able to provide some historical information about the church.  Ideally I would share pastoral record (who served here when) and history of building renovation/addition/development as points of historical reference.  I would also want to be sure to include significant moments and events in the life of the congregation.  If you have any documents or records that contain this information, I would be most appreciative if I could take a look at them.  I wonder if maybe something wasn’t put together for our 125th anniversary?

Souper Bowl Food Drive & Competition

More official news will be coming in the next weeks, but we have been challenged to a friendly Souper Bowl competition with McLouth UMC to see which congregation can raise the greatest number of canned goods to support hunger ministries in their communities.  McLouth UMC has done this competition internally the last several years and last year raised more than 3,300 cans of food.  This year they have challenged us and we hope to beat that total (and them)!  This will be a fun and friendly competition that addresses a very real need in our communities and the surrounding counties.  All of the food we raise at Tonganoxie UMC will go to support Good Shepherd and Food for Friends (the weekend backpack program) at TES.  All of the food raised by McLouth UMC will support hunger in Jefferson County (and potentially into Topeka if they raise as much as they have in the last years).

Please start shopping now (find the deals and buy a case or two!) for the following items that you’ll be able to bring to church on 1/22, 1/29, and 2/5:

Canned Soup*

Canned Spaghetti-o’s

Canned Ravioli

Canned Chili

*”victory” in the competition will be based on total points scored.  Each team scores 1 point for each can of condensed soup and 2 points for each can of hearty (non-condensed) soup, spaghetti-o’s, ravioli, and chili.

Susan Geiger is leading our charge, feel free to be in touch with her to get involved!

New Sermon Series Begins this Sunday with a Special Guest

When Jesus called the early disciples there were questions about whether or not anything good could come from Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. As the disciples began to experience the teaching and works of Christ they responded to this question with a simple invitation, “Come and See.” This January you are invited to “Come and See” the good news of God as we seek to live it out at Tonganoxie UMC. You are also encouraged to share this invitation with family, friends, and neighbors so that all might “Come and See” the good news of Jesus. This exciting series kicks off this Sunday with a special guest preacher, the Rev. Ira DeSpain, University Chaplain at Baker University.  Please plan to be in worship for his message, “Branded.”

I trust that you’ll be blessed by Ira’s message on Sunday and look forward to hearing about it and building upon the foundation that he provides as we continue the sermon series in the coming weeks.  I also look forward to returning to the office next Wednesday rejuvenated from my vacation time!

Grace and Peace,


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01 01 12 Making All Things New

My sermon from January 1st, 2012 based on Revelation 21:1-6.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I must admit that I was relieved to wake up this morning and see that the world hadn’t ended! At one point last fall I watched the 2009 film, 2012, the one where John Cusack is a limo driver racing against time to save his kids and ex-wife as the world comes to an end in the year 2012. As I watched the film I contemplated a fun little sermon series to kick-off this New Year looking at apocalyptic predictions and end times and stuff. But to be honest, I found myself tiring a bit of all of that conversation last year.

Do you remember the conversation last May about the supposed end of times judgment happening on May 21st? This Christian radio host and author was getting a fair amount of media play regarding his prediction that the world would end on May 21st. When May 21st came and went he amended his prediction to say that the final day of earth, and of the universe really, would be October 21st. In a statement that received very little media hype on October 16th he admitted that he really didn’t know when the world was going to end. Shocking, I know, this coming from a guy who first made a prediction that the world would end in 1994…

And so while I thought about a fun little Apocalypse 2012 sermon series to kick of the year, I decided against it. I also considered a message that looked at the idea of making New Year’s resolutions and talking about them a bit from our Christian perspective. There was something about that idea that just seemed a bit tired and overplayed as well.

As I have thought about this morning over the last couple of months I have wondered a bit what kind of a crowd we’d have and what type of a person would be here for worship on New Year’s morning. Though I could never decide how big of a crowd might show up to worship on the first day of 2012 I was sure of one thing, that those of you who would be here would be folks seriously engaged in your faith and hopeful for the role that God would play in your life in the coming new year.

The book of Revelation is one of the most unique books in all of scripture. Over the last century or so scholars have done a great deal of work in parsing out answers regarding who wrote what books of the bible, when they were written, and even the intended audience for the books. While scholars have established a fair amount of consensus around many of the books of the Bible, the book of Revelation is not one of those books!

On one end of the spectrum there are some who read the text as a literal prediction of the end times when Jesus will come back and the world as we know it today will end. On the other end of the spectrum are those who look at the various symbols and characters in the story and understand it to be a dramatic predicting and telling of the overthrow of the Roman Empire that was hoped for by those living in the period of it’s writing. An entire sermon series or bible study could be dedicated to parsing out each of these possibilities as well as countless others that exist between them, but I want not to take us down too many rabbit trails this morning.

I do, however, want to share one understanding of the book of Revelation that I find to be particularly helpful. I believe an exploration of these ideas might be helpful as we springboard into 2012. The particular understanding of Revelation that I want to explore this morning comes from Rob Bell in his short film titled Trees. He talks about the biblical narrative as a story that starts in the Garden of Eden in Genesis and ends in a new creation that is discussed in the Book of Revelation.

He explains that the scriptures tell a story about our human relationships with God that begin in the Garden where we are created. Shortly after being placed in the garden, however, we disobey. And as our story unfolds we experience separation, God reaches out to us, we reunite with God, we wander again, we reconnect with God again and we wander yet again. This cycle continues until such a time as God intervenes by sending his son into the world. In response to the gift of God’s son we then react to the message of Jesus by alternately being drawn to him and pushing him away.

Bell supposes, though, that life is not just a random journey through and toward nothingness, but that we are on a journey that does have an eventual end. As individuals and as creation there will be a time when God recreates, as it is referred to in Revelation, a new heaven and a new earth. Bell explains that there was a garden in the beginning of our story as Christians and that there will be a new heaven and a new earth in the future. We are living, Bell supposes, between these two times.

Chapter 21 of Revelation provides the dramatic climax to the telling of this story. The author writes…

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.


In his commentary in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Christopher Rowland, puts forth the premise that the most significant symbolism in this passage is that God is again intervening and coming into contact with humans. Any separation that existed between God and humanity is being dismantled and that there is or there will be again a closeness between humanity and God that has not existed since the Garden.

I believe that God desires for us to experience closeness with God and that God works at making that possibility a reality. God is making all things new. The question that then poses for me is this. Are we also working to make all things new?

Over the past couple of years I believe that God as well as each of you who are a part of this faith community have been doing incredible work for the renewal of this congregation. The numbers that mark worship attendance and giving provide insight into this. I also see it in ways beyond anything that we can measure with numbers. There is playfulness that I see as people of different generations laugh with one another and share life with one another.

Near the end of 2009, some 13 or 14 months ago, Susan Geiger worked to put together a video with the Vision Team. The video served as the state of the church report for Charge Conference that year and I found it online shortly thereafter when the conversation was first beginning about the possibility that I might be appointed here to serve as your pastor. I want you to have the opportunity to see that video today on this first day of 2012.

Click Here to Watch Video

I wanted to share that video with you this morning for a couple of reasons. First of all, I wanted to share it as a way to celebrate the incredible things that have happened and that are happening here. As a community of faith we can celebrate that God is working to make all things new. I celebrate that so many of you have been a part of that work, working to make all things new. I have only come in on the tail end of the work that has been done, but from what I can tell great strides have been made in the transition from being passive to dynamic and from being fearful to faithful. God is making all things new and we can celebrate that reality as we look at our church! Thank you to the visioning team and to all who have played such a significant part in the work of the church over the last couple of years.

I also wanted to show this video today because the last line of text projected really strikes me. Anyone remember what it said? “We hope to transform lives.” While I believe it is important for us to celebrate where we have come as a church in the last couple of years, I also want to provide a little nudge this morning to each of you. If we believe that God is working to make all things new, do we believe that WE are a part of that all things? Do we believe that God is working to make our broken relationships new? Do we believe that God is working to make us new in those places where we experience hurt and brokenness? Do YOU believe that God is working to make you new?

Friends, we all have baggage. We have all done things that we aren’t proud of. We have all done things that fell short of what God would have hoped for us in those particular situations, but the good news is that God loves us and is seeking to make all things new. No matter who we are or how badly we have messed up in the past. You have heard me say it countless times, but it bears repeating here – God loves you exactly the way you are, but doesn’t want you to stay that way…

As a church we believe that our purpose is to be “a community of faith inviting all people to know God, connecting with each other, growing in our faith, and serving our community and the world.” As we seek to live out this purpose as a community I invite you to reflect on what it would look like to focus on making these themes – inviting, connecting, growing, and serving a priority for you and for your discipleship. I invite you to live into the reality that God is working to make all things new – yes, even you. And I invite you to partner with God in that work in 2012 and until the end of the world.


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December 30th, 2011 eNote

Below is my weekly email to the Tonganoxie UMC congregation.  I share it here so that others can keep in touch with what the church is up to.  Let me know if you’d like to be added to the list to receive the note weekly.

Greetings Tonganoxie UMC Family,

I hope that you’re all doing well and have been able to enjoy some of the unseasonably warm weather this week! I spent a couple of hours yesterday morning visiting businesses up and down 4th street on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and there seemed to be a general cheeriness about people that I can only attribute to the beautiful weather! I look forward to enjoying it a bit more today and tomorrow and hope that you are able to as well. I am finishing up my sermon and preparations for Sunday this morning, but I want to share a couple of quick things with you as we prepare to head into another holiday weekend and into 2012.

New Year’s Day Worship – One Service, 10am

This Sunday, January 1st, we will be worshiping together at 10am in the Sanctuary. We will have some extra strong coffee ready to go about 30 minutes before the service if you want to gather and visit before worship. The service will be a casual, yet meaningful opportunity to kick-off 2012. We will celebrate communion and reflect on the reality that God is “Making All Things New.” Please plan to be present for this service of worship!

Church Office Closed for New Year’s

The church office will be closed on Monday, January 2nd, in observance of New Year’s Day. The office will open again at 8am on Tuesday January 3rd.

Introduction to Tonganoxie UMC Class

I am currently working on putting together a brief class that will serve as an introduction to Christianity, to United Methodism, and to our Church. The class is being offered on Sunday afternoon January 29th from 3-5pm in the Chapel. Whether you are a lifelong member of our congregation or are not yet a member, this class will provide a great opportunity for you to learn more about who we are and who we believe God is calling us to be as a congregation. Once you have been involved with one of these classes you are welcome to join the church. However, you are welcome to attend the class and not join the church. More information will be included in the bulletins in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share this with you now so that you might mark your calendars.

I have now been your pastor for just shy of 6 months and it has been an incredible journey thus far! I am so excited to see how God continues to move and guide us in 2012 so that we might continue being (and becoming), “a community of faith inviting all to know God, connecting with each other, growing in our faith, and serving our community and the world.”

If I don’t see you before, I’ll see you next year (and in worship on Sunday)!

Grace and Peace,


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