Pastor's Blog: One on One - Book 6, Volume 43

Youth Mission Trip All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner & Dessert Auction Sunday 4-6 pm.

Sunday evening Nancy and I flew to Houston so I could attend the Large Church Initiative. I’ve wanted to attend this conference for six years but it seemed something has always gotten in the way. This year, with it being held in Houston and during a slow week for me, the timing seemed right. Nancy could visit her son Cory who lives in Houston while I attended the conference. Wouldn’t you know it, Cory ended up being sent on business to London all week. Nancy did get some quality time with her daughter-in-law Kat and grandchild Aubrey.

The LCI is a coalition of United Methodist Churches started in the late 1990s, which provides leadership conferences for churches that average more than 300 in worship. An interesting fact helps explain the motivation behind this initiative. There are over 32,000 United Methodist Churches in the United States; only 1700 average a worship attendance between 350-1200. Old Bethel runs 370-380 so you are truly in a unique category. You might say the best way to describe OBUMC is a small, large church. You are too big to know everybody and therefore need systems in place to welcome and disciple people. But by being at the small end of that large category means having adequate staffing is always a challenge.

Some of the take-a-way concepts and gems of wisdom that most apply to Old Bethel:

  • Decisions are made when resources are committed. I think we waste too much time in committees batting issues around but postponing decisions. If you haven’t made a decision then why did you meet?

  • If you don’t exist on google in today’s society you don’t exist. Fortunately, I did a test from a google site link provided by Jeff Echols and our website stood up well to Google’s new algorithm for smart phone compatibility. Thank you Joe Pellman for building such a good website!

  • Before churches spend too much time on technology and social media they need to define who they are and declare their big idea. I think our visioning work has really paid off here. Just remember our changing society means we have to continuously re-evaluate the message we are putting out.

  • Small Groups: I listened to a great presentation on small groups from Highland Park UMC in Dallas. After great intentional efforts and the dedication of two paid staff they now have 109 small groups which involve over 900 persons. After the presentation I asked the presenter what percentage of their members are either in a small group or Sunday School. Her answer: “It is abysmal, we don’t even have 10%. Their church has 17,000 members. OBUMC had over 10% do the Disciple Fast Track alone. Maybe we are not doing so badly in this area.

  • Burned out pastors end up working for Jesus (like an employee) instead of walking with Jesus. This is a good thought for all of us.

  • Finances: Rudy Rasmus was one of our speakers. He is the one who previously inspired me to declare that God is calling Old Bethel “to do more” regarding our ministry to those in poverty. His Houston congregation’s primary mission is to the homeless and people in recovery. Rudy shared that he has a budget of $3 million to serve a congregation of over 10,000. In that congregation he has 8000 giving units and of that 8000, 6000 give less than $100 a year. Contrast that to The Woodlands UMC, where our conference was held, that has just over 11,000 members and a budget of $14.4 million. Keep Rudy in mind when we face our financial struggles.

Unfortunately, the LCI conference meant that I had to miss Janae’s awards banquet for the Ball State Teacher’s College. She will graduate cum laude but in addition on Tuesday she received recognition for the Outstanding Immersive Learning Participant and was a Nominee for Outstanding Senior in the Department of Education. She will graduate May 2.

Today (Thursday) is the Weekday School Fund Raiser at the East Washington Street Bob Evans. Pick up a flyer from the Welcome Center or use the one emailed to you yesterday and then give it to the server when you pay your bill. The fundraiser is valid all day today only. Our small group plans to eat there for dinner and then head to Castleton UMC to hear Brian McLaren, one of this country’s great Christian thinkers.

This Sunday is Faith Promise Sunday and Ben Life will be bringing our message to inspire our response to God’s call to give beyond our tithe for Old Bethel’s ongoing mission ministries. Ben Life has asked that we familiarize ourselves with the lyrics to this song that will be shared in worship after his message as we come forward to pledge for the special missions supported by Old Bethel. Go to this link to hear the song

See you Sunday,

Rev. Jerry Rairdon

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