I wanted to share with you about a new opportunity we have been asked to be a part of. The pastors of Wabash 1st UMC, Richvalley UMC, Lincolnville UMC, and myself have been discussing creating a Cooperative Parish. This model has not been tried. It would deal with some issues the United Methodist Church is facing both at the Conference level and the local level.
1. Conference level: In 2015, 100 elders will be retiring, and only 18 are being ordained.
2. Local Church level: The local parish will be the one losing its pastor. Not only that, but no one pastor excels with all things pastors are to do.
Large churches get around these issues by planting compass sights. They hire multiple pastors who are specialized in ministry so they get the best each person has to offer. They use technology to multiply preaching and other ministries.
Our small churches have been looking into sharing leadership and other resources the way large churches do with compass ministries. The big difference is that all our churches would be sharing these resources as equals, not as off-shoots of a mother church.
I want to invite you to start imagining what this would look like for our church. How could we share resources? How would it look if we shared preaching, whether through podcast or by rotating live preachers? What would it look like if we combined small groups to maximize on location and time for people? What if we shared our gifts not only at the local level, but with all the churches? We could have experts of all different fields building the kingdom with their gifts in multiple communities.
So where would we start to form a Cooperative Parish Meeting?
First, we must ask ourselves, “Are we willing? Would we be willing to share a pastor and expertise with other churches in exchange for their shared resources?
If the answer is yes, then we can talk about areas of ministry we could share those resources in:
1. Youth Ministry. Coming in February, we will be inviting parents and youth to form one youth group made of members of all 4 churches.
2. VBS: We could share curriculum and volunteers for 4 programs in 4 locations this summer. (Note: We could still partner with La Fontaine Christian Church, if they are willing to use the same curriculum.)
3. Preaching: What would we be okay with in shared preaching? Podcast or live preacher; same live person for a sermon series and then we could change or is it okay to have a different person each week? Or would we want a primary preacher with other pastors taking a few weeks?
4. Teaching/small groups: Would you be willing to go to a small group with people from different congregations?
a. What would you be interested in studying?
b. When and where would that small group meet?
I invite you to start the conversation of what this would look like for our congregation. Share them with me and others on my blog, and see others’ ideas as well. I also want to invite you to start talking to friends and family in these other congregations as we brainstorm. Most importantly, pray with me as we begin exploring how God may be moving our church forward in cooperation.
Join us in conversation on our group page "Wabash County Cooperative Parish" on Facebook here: