Monthly Archives: April 2011

It’s a Small World (Wide Web)

A couple of months ago I wrote about my love/hate relationship with twitter.  Recently I have had much more love than hate.

A member of the Tonganoxie United Methodist Church (where I have been appointed to serve beginning 7/1) and I have recently connected on twitter and shared a few friendly exchanges (she’s a mizzou fan and I’m a jayhawk, I even Jesus Juked her on twitter the other night).  Tuesday evening on my way back to Lawrence from Leavenworth I dropped off my copy of Love Wins and ended up chatting with her and her husband and daughter for nearly an hour.  She also loaned me a couple of books to read.

One of the books was Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans.  I had never heard of Rachel before, but read the book in less than 48 hours and really enjoyed it.  Yesterday I sent out a tweet saying just that and acknowledging both the woman who loaned me the book and the author herself.  Last night I received a nice direct message on twitter from the author saying she was glad I had enjoyed the book.

Thanks to twitter I was able to connect with and have a great conversation with one of the families in the community to which I have been appointed to serve.  That is and was a real gift!

Thanks to twitter I was also able to express appreciation for an author who lives in Tennessee.  She was able to see that appreciation and respond with her gratitude, all within a matter of hours.

Twitter (like many other social networking sites) provides a powerful way to connect with people in our immediate communities as well as with people we have not yet met in different parts of the country (and the world).

How has twitter (or another social networking site) recently helped you connect?  In what ways are tools like these making your world smaller?



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An Introductory Letter

I am working on starting a letter, at least in my mind.  Over the next several days I will begin to put some thoughts down on paper (or rather the computer screen).  Care to help?  Great!  Here’s what I have so far:

  • The letter will go to all of the families who are a part of Tonganoxie United Methodist Church (where I have been appointed to serve beginning July 1st).
  • I will hand address the envelopes.
  • I will mail it in mid-June.
  • It will start something like this… “Hi my name is Jeff, as of July 1st I’ll be your new pastor…”

Can you help me fill in the blanks for the rest?  Specifically I’m wondering:

  • If you were to receive such a letter what would you want it to say?
  • What wouldn’t you want it to say (what’s just TMI)?
  • If you have sent a letter like this in the past what have you said that was helpful?
  • If you have sent a letter like this in the past what do you wish you had said?
  • If you have sent a letter like this in the past what do you wish you wouldn’t have said?
Any and all of your thoughts are appreciated and will be taken into consideration.  Once I have mailed the letter out in mid-June I’ll share the finished product here.


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A Mother’s Prayer for Its Child by Tina Fey

I first found this posted here via a link from Sheila.  I’m not a mom, but know that becoming a dad helped me appreciate my parents all the more.

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance.Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen.Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a *** in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that ***. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,”she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


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Simple Math Church Growth

I like to play with numbers, but confess that at times my crunching can become competitive.  I want to be cautious of this, but nonetheless, as I prepare to begin a new appointment I have been thinking a bit about the future and church growth and started playing with numbers the other day.

Let’s say a church has an average worship attendance of 90.  It wouldn’t be unrealistic to think that over the course of a given year, with some intentionality, a church of this size could become the church home for two new families.  If this does happen, it’s likely that the church could experience growth by about 10% (from 90-99 in worship).  What could happen then if that church were to continue developing intentional efforts to reach new people and continued to see 10% growth each year over the course of the next 15 years?

  • Year 1 – 109
  • Year 2 – 120
  • Year 3 – 132
  • Year 4 – 145
  • Year 5 – 159
  • Year 6 – 175
  • Year 7 – 193
  • Year 8 – 212
  • Year 9 – 233
  • Year 10 – 257
  • Year 11 – 282
  • Year 12 – 311
  • Year 13 – 342
  • Year 14 – 376
  • Year 15 – 414
Sure, people are going to die, and others are going to move away, but this still illustrates an interesting starting point.  If a church averaging about 90 in worship can add a couple of new families one year and then maintain a similar rate of growth for 15 years they could be averaging 414 a week in worship.
What do you think?  Do these numbers represent a plausible scenario?


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Contemplative vs. Competitive Ministry

Having recently read Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of competitive ministry vs. contemplative ministry.

Like Peterson, I am a competitive person by nature living in the midst of competitive systems.  For eight years I was involved in competitive speech and debate.  After college I was married, started graduate school on a nice scholarship, soon began serving a church and have marked much of “success” in life and ministry in competitive ways.

  • Is giving increasing?
  • How about membership?
  • Worship attendance?
  • How is our church doing (in statistically measurable ways) in relationship to how we were a couple of years ago?
  • How about in relationship to the church down the road?

While I appreciate the contemplative/competitive conversation, after finishing Peterson’s book I found myself wondering if might be a false dichotomy.  Might there be a middle way, a way to do life and ministry that is both competitive and contemplative?

Over coffee recently I asked Ben what he thought about the potential for a competitive/contemplative middle ground.  He responded with a question of his own, “what do you think that other option would look like?”

My answer today is the same as it was then.

I don’t know.

But I continue to think about it and wonder what a competitive/contemplative option might be.

What do you think?  Do you think these two ways of living and being in ministry can co-exist or are they by nature mutually exclusive?


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Sowing Seeds in Appointment Transitions

On Saturday afternoon Heather and h and I went to Tonganoxie to see the parsonage to which we’ll be moving this summer.  The current pastor and his wife were incredibly gracious showing us the house, talking about their experiences in it, and entertaining h (while there she managed to get both a banana and some chocolate from the current pastor’s wife and had fun rolling a big balance ball around from room to room).  It was great to see what will be our new home and Heather and I both left excited about what life will look and feel like in the church’s parsonage.

The thing that struck me the most though was a relatively simple statement made by the current pastor’s wife.  As we looked at the backyard she said, “Let me know what you want in the garden.  I’ll get it planted and then you can have good veggies through the summer and fall.”

Her forethought and generosity will yield fruit (or veggies) that my family will be able to enjoy.  She will invest work and energy into something this spring knowing that she will never see the harvest.  She will do this knowing that the harvest will be a blessing that provides nourishment to those who will come after her.

I will likely use this story as a sermon illustration for years to come.  More importantly, I hope to model this generosity in my own life and in clergy transitions of which I am a part in the future.


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Foursquare Check-In Special: Church Edition

I continue to dabble with Foursquare.  I don’t use it every day, but it is growing on me and I see increased value, especially as many businesses are now offering check-in specials for regular users.  These specials work like this, you open the Foursquare app on your smartphone and it determines your location.  You can then check-in at your current location or view a list of nearby specials.  Specials I have seen recently range from 50% off your order for the mayor (the one person who has checked in the most at a particular location) to 10% off for your 1st check-in.  You check in on your smartphone, show your server or the cashier that you have done so and they ring up your discount.

So here’s what I’m thinking, what if local churches set up Foursquare check-in specials?  When a Foursquare user in the community opened the app and checked specials in their area they could see “Your United Methodist Church” listed as one of the specials.  Details could read something like this, “Free Bible: Check-in for the first time and receive a free Bible.  Come by the Connection Point on Sunday Morning or the office during the week, show your check-in and receive a free Bible.”

For relatively little investment, I think this idea could see great returns:

  • People in your community who know nothing about your church will see your church’s name in an arena where they live (social media)
  • The curiosity factor of a church giving away Bibles via Foursquare could be a great conversation starter in the community
  • People who are hurting and struggling will know your church as a place interested in meeting them where they are and serving their needs
  • People who have never before owned or read a Bible will have an opportunity to do so thanks to your church’s ingenuity and generosity.
  • People who might not have otherwise may come into your church to see what is happening there and may ultimately come to know God through their interactions with you.

What are your thoughts on this idea?  What other benefits might exist?  What drawbacks might there be to using Foursquare in this way?  Are you or do you know someone who is already offering something like this?



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