During my summers in college I worked at Brown’s Lobster Pound. Every summer Mr. Brown would refer to the Triple Crown of summer to describe the three busiest and most profitable days for his business. These three days were Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. On those days we were jam packed with lines snaking outside the door.
I have come to believe there is a Triple Crown of Evangelism. There are three distinct seasons of the year when persons who have never been or have stopped going to church are most open to attending for the fist time. These three seasons of the evangelism Triple Crown are back to school, Christmas, and Easter. It seems that persons not currently connected to a faith community are most open during these times.
It is during these seasons of openness that the church does well to encourage a culture of invitation, hold people gathering events on and off the church grounds to which persons who currently attend can invite their friends, relatives, co-workers or neighbors. If the church does do any advertisement such as mailers, newspaper ads, radio etc. (btw advertisement in any form is increasingly ineffective for most churches) then now would be a good time to do such advertisement.
I also believe there are other times in the seasons and life of the church in which one might especially encourage a culture of invitation. This might be at the start of a new year when persons have resolved to go back to church. Or, during Vacation Bible School.
Are there other times in your ministry setting where persons seem most open to invitation?
The problem with resources is not that we do not have the resources but it is often we do not know about the resources. Here are 5 resources made available by the Communications Office of the Virginia Conference United Methodist Church that you may have missed but may be helpful to your ministry. These resources are generated by the Communications office or by others and compiled by the Communications Office and open as pdfs.
1. Outline of a Simple Communications Plan
2. Sample Welcome Brochure
3. Communication with a Secular Audience
4. Assessment Tool for Local Church Communications
5. 21 Ways to Use Technology in the Local Church.
For more resources visit the resources page of the Communications Office.
What communications resources have you found helpful in your ministry?
This year at the Virginia Annual Conference, as part of the All Things New-Equipping Vital Congregation’s report, we were asked to look under our seats and there we found a postcard with the name of a local Virginia Conference church. We were asked to pray for that church.
As the small card said, as United Methodists we are part of a wonderful connection that:
- Helps us accomplish more together than any one of our churches can do alone.
- Offers an opportunity for us to support each other, pray for each other, build each other up as brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Enables us to work together, with God’s help, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The card under my seat asked me to pray for Bermuda Hundred UMC. I will do so and invite you to pray for this church and its clergy and lay leadership as well.
Location: Chester, VA (James River District)
Pastor: Rev. Beth Spencer Anderson
Worship Times: Sundays 8:30AM and 11:00AM
Fast Facts: Bermuda Hundred UMC is led by Pastor Beth Spencer Anderson. Under her dynamic leadership the church is seeking to reach its community in fresh ways. On Wednesdays they meet for Acts Wednesdays to go out and serve in some tangible way in the community. They have held a recent Stop Hunger Now event, have a prayer shawl ministry and a backpack feeding ministry with two local elementary schools. They are getting ready for an upcoming Backyard Bible School program.
Please pray for Rev. Beth and her church and let us know you have by leaving a comment.
Soon the people your parents warned you about (Virginia United Methodists) will gather in Hampton for Annual Conference. I will be there and look forward to seeing old friends. I thought I would share 5 things you just have to do at Annual Conference.
1. Connect with old friends. No matter how grueling or difficult an Annual Conference might be it is always good to connect with old friends, some of whom you have not seen in a year or so.
2. Go to one of the meals sponsored by a group or organization within the Annual Conference. I am partial to the Church Development Team’s annual breakfast myself. But you might go to the Men’s or Women’s breakfast, or Laity dinner, or your favorite educational institution’s lunch.
3. Visit the Cokesbury display. This is especially important this year as Cokesbury gets ready to close its brick and mortar stores. This is also a great place to connect with friends.
4. Attend the Ordination service. When one realizes the prayer, spiritual wrestling, and time that has gone into the ordination process for these individuals one cannot help but to be inspired.
5. Be there for the preaching. There is always excellent preaching that challenges and engages listeners and faithfully proclaims the word.
What would make your top 5 lists of things to do at Annual Conference (sleep is not an appropriate answer!)?
When going to a new appointment it is always important to start off right. One way to do that is to send a letter of introduction to members of the church introducing yourself and inviting them to be part of your first Sunday or a subsequent Sunday. I did this in every church I transitioned into and found it to be a great benefit.
Here are four steps in creating your new pastor introductory letter.
1. Check with the secretary of the church you are going to see if they will help you get the letter out. The letter can be sent before you begin your appointment or if you do it quickly in the days preceding your first Sunday. Ask to see if they can print labels, stuff envelopes and fold pages. Check with the SPRC chair or Finance chair or the appropriate person who can give approval of the small amount of funds it will take to do this mailing to ensure the church will pick up the cost of the mailing. Be sure to explain the “why behind the what” in writing the letter to get decision makers on board.
Not everyone will have have a secretary. If that is the case communicate with someone in the know like a lay leader or newsletter editor who can get you the roll or maybe even help you so you don’t have to do it all yourself.
2. Write, copy, fold, stamp, address and seal the envelopes. Keep the letter brief (one page) and make it positive telling them how much you are looking forward to coming and being in ministry together.
3. Stress in your letter what a wonderful new beginning this will be and invite them to be with you on your first Sunday or any Sunday after that whether they regularly attend or have stopped coming since this is a great time to return to church. What this does is make a great first impression with those associated with the church. It is a good start to your communication efforts with the church. It may bring back people who have strayed or have become disenchanted and excite people who already regularly attend. It creates a sense of anticipation and curiosity about the first Sunday and the new pastor.
4. Be sure to mention that you are available to assist them and please call upon you.
This is an easy way to start off right. Yes, it takes a little work. And, even if you are past your first Sunday think about writing the letter for the beginning of the fall. You will find this a great way to introduce yourself to the new church.
Here is a sample letter I used at my last appointment. Please use it and share it with others!
What are some of the things you do or have seen done to start off right in a new appointment?
We love to measure in the United Methodist Church. We have been measuring for years. We measure and report at Charge Conference time, then a little while later we produce year end statistical tables that focus on much of the same information. More recently, as part of the Vital Congregations Initiative, churches have been asked to measure and report weekly. Someone has called us the “Measuring Methodists.” And, there is some truth to this.
I for one appreciate and believe in the principle that what gets measured gets done which says that what we pay attention to (i.e. measure) becomes a focus. The question I have is whether we are measuring the right things or do we need a new scorecard? As I see it now the things we measure (mostly nickels and noses) are inward focused and about us and preserving the institution. How could we change the metrics to better measure ministry that is not about us or about institutional preservation but is instead about ministry outside the four walls of the church building?
I recently came across a blog post by Vince Antonnuci who suggested a different set of metrics. Vince suggested we might measure…
- The number of hours the church served in the community.
- The number of struggling people counseled that week.
- The number of formerly lonely people now connected in community because of the church.
Reggie McNeal in his book The Present Future also suggested a different set of metrics for the church. Here is what Reggie suggested measuring…
- The number of new initiatives we are starting on the street.
- The number of conversations members and friends of the church are having with pre-Christian friends.
- The number of volunteers serving in local, state and global missions. (This is one item being measured by the Vital Congregations initiative).
- The number of community groups using the church facility (for free or low cost).
- The number of church activities designed to target people not already present at the church.
Measuring is tricky business. I would imagine the reason why we don’t measure some of the above is because those things are messy and don’t fit into charts and Excel spreadsheets.
What do you think is a good measurement of church vitality?
Here are some resources you might use whether you are leaving or entering a new ministry. I hope you find them helpful.
Virginia Conference Pastoral Transition Guidelines– this is a great resource for making sure your transition goes smoothly. It especially has some great reminders about parsonage transition. I have used it every time I have transitioned.
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership– the Lewis Center and Lovett Weems offer a few pastoral transition resources here on this page. Some have a cost others are free.
Resource Ministry Partners– has a ton of great information on transition including entering a new church setting.
Bishop Willimon– shares a best practice in his conference shared by one of his DSs where they ask each receiving congregation and each moving full time pastor to make a 90 day plan. Check it out here.
What other resources are available for pastoral transitions?