Have you been pondering how to initiate conversations about the way forward for United Methodism in your congregation?
As you know, I wrote Unafraid and Unashamed in the hopes of providing churches with a resource to guide these conversations in an honest, constructive and faith-filled manner. In my last blog, I provided suggestions for creating a timeline for these conversations. In this post, I want to share how to structure these conversations based on the time and setting available to you.
If you have 4-8 weeks available for your study, I recommend downloading the free leader’s guide and teaching one or two chapters per week as dictated by your schedule. The leader’s guide is a great tool written by Rev. Glenna Manning, an ordained United Methodist Deacon who combines an insightful theological perspective with keen insights into teaching theory gained from decades working in the public-school system.
But what if you don’t have enough time to follow the leader’s guide through each chapter?
Let’s say you have only 3 sessions to teach the class and there is no way you can work through all the material in that time. I have already taught several three session classes myself on the book and here’s my recommendation.
Week 1 – Focus on chapters 1&2. These chapters provide a history of the debate with United Methodism around LGBTQ inclusion and charitable respectful articulations of the traditionalist, centrist, and progressive viewpoints.
Week 2 – Focus on chapter 5. This chapter looks at all the other challenges the United Methodist church must face to minister effectively in a rapidly changing culture outside of LGBTQ inclusion. It concludes by inviting participants to reflect honestly on whether the denomination can face these challenges within its current structure and to consider how their local church can best reach out to its changing community.
Week 3 – Focus on chapters 7&8. These chapters help participants calmly and faithfully consider what to do if they feel differently from their local church or denomination about LGBTQ inclusion and the importance of working with Christians of various perspective on the issues we all agree on.
Okay, now let’s consider what to do if you do not have the luxury of multiple sessions. What if you only have one 50-minute session? Can you still discuss these complex issues in less than an hour? Yes, you can. Here’s how:
Minutes 0-5 – Discuss the “About This Guide” section and pray the “Opening Prayer” from page 2 of the leader’s guide. This will help establish an honest and respectful atmosphere for your session.
Minutes 5-20 – Focus on chapter 1 and the history of the debate within the UMC. Without knowing the history, it is very hard to make sense of the present and very easy to become disillusioned.
Minutes 20-35 – Focus on chapter 2 and understanding the different viewpoints within United Methodism. Without understanding why sincere Christians might see things different, it is hard to engage in constructive conversations about the future of the church.
Minutes 35-45 – Focus on chapters 7&8. Spend just a few minutes discussing 2 questions with the class: 1) What should you do when your opinion is in the minority within your faith community? 2) Where can Christians of different perspectives on LGBTQ inclusion work together to bless the world and spread the Gospel?
Minutes 45-50 – Q & A.
Be prepared for participants to ask you to provide more classes. I have received this request at every presentation I have made about this topic. Your church members know this is a big deal and they want to be ready to face it with honest informed perspectives.
What to do if you have another class format not covered in this post? Email me at email@example.com. I’m always happy to brainstorm with you about the right set up for your context.
By the way, if you have been waiting to order copies of Unafraid and Unashamed for your church this may be the best week to do it. Throughout this Cyber Monday week, my publisher is offering discounts of 30% on all orders of 5 or more books using the coupon code CMBULK on purchases made through marketsquarebooks.com. Individual copies can be purchased at a 20% discount using the code CMW2017.
Blessings to you and your church,
When I talk to fellow pastors about a Way Forward for United Methodism, the most common question I hear is: “When should I begin talking to my congregation about a Way Forward?”
Some congregations have already picked a side. Some congregations have stayed up to date on all the denominational happenings. But it seems most pastors have been patiently waiting for the right time to prepare their congregations for the possibility of significant changes to United Methodism as we know it.
It’s understandable for many pastors to be waiting. They want to have as much accurate information as possible and they do not want to unnecessarily interject anxiety into the life of their congregation. So, generally when I have gotten the question about the right time to talk to your congregation about the way forward, it has been difficult to answer.
Thankfully, the new statement by the Council of Bishops about the way forward offers a timeline that helps answer the question of when to talk to your congregation. In their statement, the Bishops say they are exploring 3 options for the Way Forward (we’ll discuss those options in more detail in future posts) and they say that the Commission on a Way Forward will give their final report to the Council of Bishops in May 2018.
Here’s what we can infer from that tidbit of info:
How do we take this information and turn it into a timeline for constructively talking to our congregations about the Way Forward? Here’s my basic recommendations. (As always, you may need to adjust it for your local context.)
I realize this suggested timeline may not be right for everyone. I have been working with numerous churches recently to discover the best timeline and most constructive format for these important conversations in their local settings. If you need help discerning the timeline for your congregation, please feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to help you find the right timeline for your context.
In my upcoming posts, I’ll share options for how to structure these classes and what we have learned from the 3 options presented in the recent statement by the Council of Bishops.
Blessings to you and your church,
Wil Cantrell serves as the Associate Pastor of Concord United Methodist Church in Farragut, TN. Wil’s driving passion is to help people live an authentic life while experiencing a real growing faith in Jesus Christ. Previously, he served as the associate pastor at Middlebrook Pike UMC and as the pastor of Lebanon Memorial UMC (Lebanon, VA) before coming to Concord UMC in July 2015.