Smaller Committees and Life-Changing Discipleship

For some strange reason, I have been paying closer attention to some of the United Methodist megachurches. I just ran across this article on Emergent Village by Michael Slaughter. It’s an excerpt from the new edition of his book UnLearning Church.

Two things in this article stood out in my mind. First, some folks might assume big church = many meetings. Apparently this isn’t true at Ginghamsburg,

Older-mindset churches usually require a lot of committees and meetings. Ginghamsburg finds that its people have neither the time nor the patience for multiple committee activities, so we are down to one committee of nine people called the Leadership Board. No more staff-parish, missions, or finance committees. Major businesses operate with one board, but too often tiny churches become immobilized by layers of committees. They spend hours debating about what color carpeting to put in the church narthex, or about the precise wording of the congregation’s statement of beliefs.

Imagine a leadership board of nine people. There are congregations in United Methodism who average fifty people in worship and have 25 people serving on boards and committees. Imagine Ginghamsburg, who averages 4,000 in weekly attendance, with a Leadership Board of nine people. Interesting.

Another thing that stood out is his comment about “listen and learn” meetings,

Fifteen years ago, we would have emphasized getting people to show up for church programs and listen-and-learn meetings. We would have sponsored a seminar and gauged its success by how many attended. Now we measure success by asking “How are people finding life change and purpose through the experience?” People are not looking for church meetings so much as for life meaning.

This is something that really interests me, and it may be something I try to explore more in my D.Min. project and dissertation. Are there alternative ways for people to find life meaning through the local church that we aren’t taking advantage of? I think Web 2.0 and its emphasis on participation, rather than simply receiving information, might be one of those ways. Have any of your churches developed participatory Advent or Lenten studies using some of the newer technology (Twitter, Blogging, etc.)?

I know some of my purist friends will think I’ve lost my mind, and they’re probably right. I simply think we’re going to have to get more creative in our approach to making disciples. It’s too important to ignore. As United Methodists, I believe we have a tradition and commitment to offering in-depth discipleship. I’m not saying we need to “jazz things up” to get people interested. I’m just saying we need to work our tails off to think of creative ways to encourage discipleship via the means people are comfortable with and excited about using.

As always, there will be the argument that this will leave a certain segment of our people behind. That’s the great thing about a world where we can embrace “both/and” thinking. We don’t have to quit doing traditional bible studies, devotionals, and the like. There will be a segment of people who will continue to be powerfully transformed in those environments. We simply need to be mindful of the people that those setups won’t reach or transform. It’s not choosing one or the other. It’s about doing both with excellence.