My reflections on the Leadership Institute 2016
November 15, 2016 / By Pastor Alicia Wood
Our Upper New York Annual Conference session three-day meeting in spring 2016 included a three-part learning time with Adam Hamilton, the lead church planter of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. He started this church 26 years ago, and now it has four sites/campuses.
The church is so generous that it hosts a Leadership Institute annually, sharing what the congregation has learned as they planted and grown a very large church. Twelve people from the Syracuse area, including myself, were able to attend this year. (Editor’s Note: Next year’s trip to the Leadership Institute is slotted for Sept. 26-29, 2017).
My head was spinning by the end. It was spinning with excitement and real-life tools that I could apply in my own context as a pastor of an urban church and lead planter of a new church hoping to launch in the next year.
Why was I so excited and ready to get to work?
The Leadership Institute included a mix of training and networking as well as a reminder of the “why” we do this work. Each of us from Syracuse went to different workshops. I’ll share with you a little about what I learned so that next year you can come and learn along with us.
The first day I went to the workshop “New Church Planting Convocation.” Don’t let the name fool you. Everything I learned applies to existing and new churches!
First, we were reminded not to ever lose sight of the view from 30,000 feet. In other words, always look at the big picture when planning with your church. Ultimately, the big picture is “make disciples.” So, in your context, how will you and your church make disciples? For me, this means growing deeper in faith as a congregation and reaching out beyond the walls of the church to those who are not yet a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Second, the reaching out part – if you really want to get to know new people – is talking with new people every day. Make a goal for yourself to reach out to 10, 20, or 30 new people a day and then do it.
Third, in your church planning, keep track and participate in four calendars: the calendar year, liturgical/Church year, school year, and community calendar. Each calendar creates a unique way to engage the church with the community.
The next day and workshop included a systematic way to engage visitors, a path from visitor to member and a way to, in Christian Love, keep up with current members. I learned it is best to touch base with a visitor within 24 hours of the visit. The Church of the Resurrection has volunteers that drop off a gift to the visitor’s home within 24 hours after his or her visit. They have chosen a mug for their gift. And within 72 hours, a letter is mailed or emailed to welcome the visitor.
After three visits to the worship, the visitor is invited to a gathering with the pastors. At the end of the gathering, they are invited to become members. New members are told from the beginning, “membership comes with responsibility.” The church has created a culture of volunteers, a commitment to small group classes to grow deeper in faith, and the expectation to attend worship.
Once members, if someone is not in worship for three weeks, a letter or email is send asking if everything is okay and saying they are missed. Calls are made by volunteers and pastors if someone is not in worship for a longer period of time. Three times a year, the church does a mass mailing, inviting people to Christmas Eve service, Easter service, and “Welcome Back” in September.
Finally, the church has a step-by-step system for disciple growth. I believe there are five classes one can take as a new member to grow in faith. This is a big part of the ministry of disciple making. New members aren’t created and then forgotten. They are cared for. They are able to grow in faith through small group learning. They also become connected to the people they are growing with in the small groups.
This is just a small sample of the information to be learned from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute.
I’m currently working on implementing these tools into the life of the Church in Syracuse. I was blessed to have members of my clergy team and two members of the congregation where I preach attend with me. So, we got to work as soon as we got home!
As Christians, we have so much work to do! What an honor we are called to serve and glorify God!
Editor’s Note: Pastor Alicia Wood serves at the Syracuse United Methodist Churches.