Transition Preparation Document for First UMC El Dorado

One month from today, I will begin serving as pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the key leaders and staff from the church. I shared a document with everyone that I met outlined some of my personal priorities as well as top five objectives for the first six months and a few of the questions that I will be asking as I arrive. Here is what I shared:

Personal Priorities and Dates

  • June 12 – Expecting the birth of our second child
  • June 25 – Move into parsonage
  • Care for self and family

Top Five – First Six Months

  • Be a good guest and allow the congregation to host
  • Love the people
  • Learn the history and culture of the congregation
  • Learn the history and culture of the community
  • Help discern an appropriate vision

Questions – First Six Months

  • Who are you as a congregation?
  • How did the congregation get to where it is today?
  • Where do challenges and opportunities exist?
  • What has changed the most / least since you joined the church?
  • When have you been most proud to be connected with this church?
  • What means the most to you about this church?
  • Why does this church matter to people?
  • What do you sense God is doing right now?

Contact Information

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Questions for a Congregation from a Newly Appointed Pastor in the #UMC

Question mark

Question mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am preparing to transition to a new appointment beginning July 1. One of the things that I have learned from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership is that good leaders ask the right questions. I have been working on a list of questions that I believe will be helpful in getting started well at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado.

Ministries

  • How is the church engaging the community?
  • What can you tell me about the United Methodist Men?
  • What can you tell me about the United Methodist Women?
  • How would the church say that they have grown in the past year?
  • What is going on during the week?
  • What is the congregation’s favorite way of learning? Teaching, book study, etc.
Congregation
  • How are people growing in their faith outside of worship?
  • Who are the key influencers in the congregation?
  • Who are the people / families that will do whatever it takes at the church?
  • Who might peer churches be for support, encouragement and benchmarking?
  • Who are the staff and leaders that are great Bible study / small group leaders?
Mission and Vision
  • In what ways do the vision and purpose guide what the church does?
  • How are the vision and purpose communicated to the staff and congregation?
  • What is the vision and purpose of the church?
Facility
  • For the facility, what needs regular maintenance?
  • For the facility, what needs to be repaired?
  • For the facility, what needs to be replaced?
  • What is the state of the facility?
Pastor’s Role
  • How might can I best serve the church?
  • What are some ways to get congregational buy in?
  • What are some ideas for “quick wins” that might be possible?
  • What are things that I might do that have never been done before?
  • What facts or realities about me or my ministry can I share that might be helpful for the congregation?
  • What are the die hard principles or practices that if I change them will get me tarred and feathered?
Connection
  • What efforts exist to close the back door? (Keep people engaged who might otherwise leave)
  • What are the biggest barriers to people coming in the door?
  • What is being done to bring in new members?
  • What kind of follow up for first time visitors happens?
  • What new networks of people can I engage and develop?
Finance
  • How does the budget break out between compensation, operations, mission and ministry?
  • Is the budget growing?
  • Is the church paying its apportionments in full?
Community
  • Where do people gather for coffee or breakfast in town?
  • What opportunities for mission in the community exist?

What other questions would you add to this list?

Vision Questions for Resurrection Online

Yorkminster

I have recently been asking those who regularly worship with Resurrection Online questions about vision. Here they are:

  • What is Resurrection Online?
  • Why does it matter to people?
  • Where do you think it is going now?
  • Where do you think it should be going?
I have received some interesting and insightful responses. How might these be applied for you? What other questions do you ask stakeholders about the church or ministry area?

4 Steps to Starting an Online Worship Service

As Pastor of Resurrection Online, I have heard from several others who are interested in starting an online worship service. I suggest the following:

1 – Ask the Right Questions

Pastor(s), key staff and volunteers need to be able to have clear answers to the following questions:

  • Why are we considering starting an online worship service?
  • How will this initiative further our mission as a church?
  • What are we hoping for?
  • How will it be implemented?
  • What will comprise the worship experience online?
  • What impact do we anticipate on the current congregation?
  • Why does this make sense within the culture of our church?
  • What balance between service to the current and future congregation will be struck?

At Resurrection, I was part of a staff team that considered these and other fundamental questions about the structure of an online worship service for nearly a year before we launched weekly worship online. While many of our initial responses to these questions changed, it was crucial to getting off the ground.

2 – Clarify Scope and Ownership

A key to success in launching an online worship service is to be clear about the scope of the initiative and who will own it.

  • Will there be interaction around the online worship experience?
  • Will there be intentional efforts to provide care and discipleship?
  • Is it to be just a worship service or more than that?

The scope of the online worship service will provide a guide to who will own the effort. It may be within the worship team, volunteer effort, stand alone ministry area or some combination. Before launch, it is necessary to know who will own it.

At Resurrection, it was clear that Resurrection Online would become a stand alone ministry area. It did not begin that way, however it was clear that this was where it was headed.

3 – Get it Started

Go for it.

If you have spent time on fundamental questions, scope and ownership, it is time to kick it off. You might start with a webcam, a laptop and livestream.com or you might have high definition cameras, broadcast quality switcher and dedicated encoders. In any case, start and see what happens. You will not be able to really tell what works and what doesn’t until you actually get started.

4 – Be ready adapt or hit the kill switch

When you start an online worship service, you have to be flexible. Be ready to make changes as needed and incrementally. Always be ready to pull the plug on the online worship service if it is no longer making sense for your church. Don’t make it something that starts and can never stop. It would be helpful to go back to the fundamental questions on a regular basis to check for any changes in direction or to realign your efforts.

Additional Posts that may be helpful:

What do you want?

I enjoy writing on this blog and want to be intentional about asking what you want as a reader. Will you please share:

  • What kind of posts on this blog do you enjoy?
  • What is a topic that you would like to have me address?
  • What questions do you have about faith, life or ministry?
  • What questions do you have about Resurrection Online?
  • How could this blog be more meaningful or helpful for you?

Please leave your responses in the comments or email me directly at andrew dot conard at cor dot org with “Blog Idea” in the subject line.

I look forward to hearing from you!

6qumc – What I learned about social media.

6 Questions for The United Methodist Church was an exercise in social media for me. My hope was to use social media to spread the word about the opportunity throughout the denomination. It didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations as far as numerical participation, but I did learn some keys about social media:

  • Initial buzz and word of mouth is an excellent catalyst for growth. In a campaign that lasted 98 days, over half the participants had joined in the first 6 days.
  • Sustaining traffic over a long period of time is difficult. If I had it to do over again, I would have ended the project after two weeks.
  • While participants at http://bit.ly/6qumc grew slowly. There was not much interaction on the Facebook Page, but fans continued to grow steadily throughout the entire project. I have no idea why.

Will you please share your thoughts, feelings or opinions about social media initiatives?

6qumc – What I learned about focus…

I learned the value of focus from 6 Questions for The United Methodist Church.There were a large number of topics which diluted the focus and made it more confusing to participate. For a similar project in the future, I would change the topics to less than seven.

I could have learned this lesson from Simple Life and Deliberate Simplicity – two books which I have read recently. Simple is most often better.