By Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D, 5/23/19.
Al & Pam Goracke are pictured with Rebecca and me in front of their church yesterday. It is a Thursday afternoon and behind us you can see people lining up two hours early for the food pantry at the Hope Church.
Al and Pam lead a Wesleyan church in Blaine, Minnesota that is ministering to over 2000 hungry people each week with a congregation of only 400.
Ministering to the needs of the community is how many churches today are finding they can best reach out and begin sharing the good news with people in a increasingly skeptical environment. “When these people go to the hospital they consider me their pastor. They ask me to visit,” said Al Goracke. “They attend our Thursday food pantry, and though they may not attend our worship services, they consider us their church family. It’s our way of beginning a relationship with them.”
“A lot of churches don’t like to have a food pantry, because so many people coming through their building tears up the carpeting. So we ripped up the carpeting,” said Al.
“And here we are a church that runs almost 400 in attendance, but we’re meeting the needs of thousands of lives each week.”
“But people often ask me, ‘Where do you get the volunteers to run it?’ At first we asked our congregants to do it. And they did. But over the years the people in the community who have been served by this come to appreciate it so much, that many volunteer. And they come to consider our church family, their family.”
Al is one of my students and a friend. To learn more about how they are building bridges to people in need, check out their website at https://everybodyneedshope.org/
And, if your church would like to launch such a ministry, Al can explain how even a small church can begin a ministry that will touch thousands of lives every week.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., February 6 2019.
Recent forecasts predict these 10 cities’ urban communities will grow exponentially in the next 15 years. John Wesley witnessed similar exponential growth in urban England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. He sought to help the displaced people of these communities have a faith community of their own. And, he sensed that such church planting began with meeting physical needs without asking anything in return. Simply by providing medical clinics, financial assistance, recovery programs, etc. he sought to demonstrate the Good News. As a result, people of faith could share how faith in Christ motivates and strengthens one to be sacrificial and charitable.
Then take a look at this forecast of worldwide urban growth. Then ask, “What is God calling you and your ministry to do to meet their needs?”
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have pointed out in the book “Cure for the Common Church” that Jesus often met people’s physical needs before he told them that he could solve their spiritual needs. Abraham Maslow, in his Hierarchy of Needs, confirmed this as the most effective approach.
Thus, churches today that are leading people to Christ do so by first meeting physical needs to demonstrate our compassion, care and good news of salvation.
Here is an important article that reminds us that most people do not see us in this, but they should! To understand the dilemma read this article. To you understand the “cure” read “Cure for the Common Church” chapters 1 and 2.
Fewer Americans Believe Churches Solve Social Problems
by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Facts & Trends, 7/28/16.
America may be facing problems, but a growing number of people say churches are of no help in solving them.
Four out of 10 (39 percent) say churches or other houses of worship offer “not much” or “nothing” toward solving society’s problems. That’s up from 23 percent in 2008, according to a new survey from Pew Research.
Six in 10 (58 percent) say churches and other houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving social problems. That’s down from 75 percent in 2008 and the lowest number since Pew began asking the question in 2001.
White evangelicals (70 percent) are most confident of the church’s positive role in society. Nones (38 percent) are far more skeptical.
But both groups have lost confidence in the role of churches in society.
In 2008, 86 percent of evangelicals and 56 percent of nones said houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving society’s problems. Both groups saw a decline of at least 15 percentage points in the latest poll.
The decline cut across religious and political lines.
Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/22/16.
Have you ever wondered where you can find innovative and field-tested ideas for reaching out to your community? As a researcher who studies how to connect people to Christ, I have found that effective outreach ideas are challenging to discover. But, one of the best resources I’ve ever discovered is the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA).
The CCDA hosts an annual gathering of thousands of Christian leaders who are not only meeting physical needs in their communities, but also developing a community socially, economically and most importantly in Christian transformation.
If you want a conference that will give you dozens of ideas, help you apprise suitability by speaking personally with those engaged in such efforts and result in better connecting a ministry to its neighbors, then the CCDA annual conference is the experience you seek.
Find out more at … http://www.ccda.org
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Kevin Watson is a Wesley scholar and professor at Emory University that is indigenizing John Wesley’s method for emerging generations. I agree with him that people misapply Wesley’s phrase, ” The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness” (John Wesley, 1739, “Preface” to “Hymns and Sacred Poems″). People usually apply this in a limited sense, e.g. to encourage social action, customarily through deeds of advocacy for the poor and disenfranchised. Yet Wesley saw social holiness as much more, meaning “communal holiness,” or in other words holiness bred in conferencing and intimacy between believers. Hence, Wesley encouraged participation in small groups (i.e. class meetings) and even smaller huddles (called bands) to foster this holy intimacy. Social holiness meant helping the needy as part of the task, but not as the complete task, because social holiness meant holiness bred of community and accountability. Read Dr. Watson’s helpful article for more on this.
The Methodist Band Meeting: Confession Is For Protestants Too!
by Kevin Watson, 1/21/15.
When was the last time that you confessed any known sins you had committed to another person, or group of people? When I discuss the value of confessing sin, people often seem uncomfortable with a practice that seems too “Roman Catholic.” Did you know that confessing sin was a very important practice that was at the heart of the early Methodist revival? Did you know the band meeting was the most concrete way Wesley put his understanding of sanctification and entire sanctification into practice?
Early Methodists were known for their organization and multiple layers of meetings and groups. In England, early Methodists gathered together in annual conferences, quarterly conferences, society meetings, class meetings, band meetings, love feasts, prayer meetings, select societies (or select bands), and even penitent bands. Historians have often noted the importance of conferencing for early Methodism.
Methodists gathered together because they were convinced that growth in holiness was most likely to happen in community, by “watching over one another in love.” Early on in his ministry, Wesley believed community was so important to the pursuit of holiness that he criticized the isolated individual’s pursuit of holiness as similar to pursuing holiness through the practice of idolatry. He wrote:
Directly opposite to this is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. ‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. (John Wesley, “Preface”; in “Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739″)
This is the one passage where Wesley uses the phrase “social holiness,” which has so often been misused in contemporary Methodism. The best example of what Wesley meant by social holiness was the early Methodist band meeting.
In discussing the early Methodist approach to small group formation, people often confuse the class meeting and the band meeting. The class meeting was required for everyone who was Methodist and it often included women and men in one group. There were typically seven to 12 Methodists in a class meeting (though they were sometimes much larger). The basic question of the class meeting was: “How does your soul prosper?”
The band meeting was optional, though highly encouraged, for all Methodists who had experienced justification by faith and the new birth. Bands had about five people in them and were divided by gender and marital status. There were several prerequisites for joining a band meeting. Once you joined a group, five questions were asked at every weekly meeting:
1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How was you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret? (John Wesley, “Rules of the Band Societies”)
The band meeting was a place of deep vulnerability and intimacy. It was a place where Christians were completely honest with each other about the ways in which they knew they had fallen short of who God was calling and enabling them to be in Christ. When Methodists discussed the rules or organization of band meetings, they nearly always started by stating that they gathered together in bands in order to be faithful to James 5:16, which reads: “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
The purpose of band meetings was not to shame one another or heap guilt and condemnation on one another. On the contrary, in telling each other the truth about their lives, particularly where they had fallen short, Methodists brought each other to the bottomless wells of God’s amazing grace. They sought to drench one another in God’s healing grace so that they could experience freedom from all that kept them from complete freedom in Christ.
Might this be a practice that God is calling members of the Wesleyan/Methodist family to retrieve? Confession of sin is a means of grace in multiple ways. Confession is a concrete act of repentance. As a result, it is a gracious act that paves the way for a new experience of one’s forgiveness and restoration as a beloved child of God. Confessing sin also expresses a belief in and desire for ongoing growth in holiness. One purges what is not of God to be freed from it, and in order to be further filled with the life of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the past, revival and renewal within Methodist communities tended to be preceded by humble, forthright confession of sin. This practice is not common in many contemporary Wesleyan/Methodist communities. This fact may say more about the extent of our current desire to hide, to cover up, and to avoid deep intimacy with brothers and sisters in Christ than it says about the ongoing relevance of such a practice today.
May the Triune God enable contemporary Wesleyan/Methodist churches to boldly reclaim this practice. And in so doing, may we find genuine repentance for any sin that lingers in our lives, a new experience of the Father’s audacious and neverending love for us through what has already been accomplished for us in Christ, and a freedom and desire by the Holy Spirit to entirely love God and neighbor, to the exclusion of sin.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/9/15.
In several other postings, I have explained how a simple SWOT analysis can help ministry leaders make better planning decisions.
And, the best tactics are those that build on an organization’s Strengths and Opportunities, called SO-strategies.
To show how the same SO (Strength Opportunity) strategy can have different tactics, I will share a dialogue between myself and two former students. This should help clarify how you get tactics (i.e. planning processes) from the SO quadrant (i.e. cell) of the TOWS matrix (which is a grid made from your SWOT analysis).
It began when a student noted that for his church an “Opportunity” was that there were many “working poor” in the church’s neighborhood. And he also noted the church had a “Strength” for teaching and education. So, the student suggested an SO (Strength/Opportunity) strategy in their TOWS matrix which built on the church’s strength and an opportunity would be: “Offer Financial Stewardship Classes with childcare and a meal provided.”
My question in response was the following:
Hello (student name). I wonder how other churches have addressed the working poor. I’ve heard some anecdotal feedback that financial stewardship classes don’t reach the working poor, but the middle-class. Thus, can you do a bit more online sleuthing (and other students can chime in and help you as well – they will then receive more points too) and tell us some more programming to help the working poor? Thanks in advance. Your research can make your church (and other students’ churches) more effective. Dr. Whitesel
Here is how another student in the cohort proficiently responded. I’m sharing it here to help everyone see how there can be different tactics (financial stewardship classes or long-term solidarity with the poor) for the same SO strategy: help the working poor.
Author: Jack (last name) Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 8:14:13 PM EST Subject: RE: SWOT & TOWS
Dr. Whitesel’s statement, “I wonder how other churches have addressed the working poor. I’ve heard some anecdotal feedback that financial stewardship classes don’t reach the working poor, but the middle-class planning poor,” is very true.
Here’s more anecdotal feedback for you Adam, but it’s based on eight years of experience working with low-income families through a local non-profit social service ministry and the United Way. The most critical thing to recognize is that programs for addressing financial stewardship with low-income families do not work unless they take into account cultural differences between generational low-income people and situational low-income people. This is where the distinction in Dr. Whitsel’s comment between the “working poor” and “middle-class planning poor” is so important. If we assume that the “working poor” have been low-income for generations and the “middle-class planning poor” are low-income only due to a job loss, demotion or other circumstance, then how you reach them is very different.
Ruby Payne, Ph.D. has done some tremendous work on the cultural differences between typical low, middle and high income families in her book “Bridges Out of Poverty.” In it she points out factors like how these groups different core values impact their stewardship of money. For example, middle-income people tend to value the Puritan work ethic, gaining more financial security than the previous generation, etc. Wealthier people, who have typically always had money, value things that transcend monetary value (like art, culture, etc.). Low-income people, who often feel like they’ll never have money, value relationships. Thus, when one of their own starts to achieve financial independence or pursue higher education they can hear statements like “you’re getting above your raising.”
Another key difference between middle income and low income values is the tendency for low income people to feel like they’ll never get ahead. Thus, when they get a financial windfall, they are apt to spend it on something fun instead of save it. Saving for the future is a middle income value, not a low income value. These values often stick with a person even if their income status changes later in life. For example, I have a friend who grew up with generationally low income parents. He’s been low income his whole life. A few years ago, he got a $6,000 bonus at work. He spent it all in one weekend on a trip to a Nascar race using the rationale that “I’ll never have another opportunity.” Years later, he is now middle income but still lives paycheck to paycheck and is often facing financial trouble because his attitudes about money prevail. On the other hand, I was poor growing up but my family was situationally poor. Dad grew up in a middle income family and money was tight because he was getting his business going. I learned from him the values of hard work and saving. So, even though I was poor growing up and when my wife and I were first married, by saving and being disciplined, we have managed to become financially secure. Dr. Payne’s work was based on American society, but I assume it would translate for Canadian society as well.
The main point is this, often well-meaning middle-class people can set out to help the “poor” by offering financial programs erroneously thinking that the “poor” just need more education and opportunity. While it’s true that education and opportunity are necessary bridges out of poverty, it’s wrong to think that if they are offered for free, the working poor will see the fantastic opportunity before them and pursue it. The “middle class planning poor” probably would, but the “working poor” probably would not. It takes long-term relationships with generational low-income people to help them out of poverty and an understanding of the values they hold dear. You can’t impose your values on them and just say “here’s the plan….work it and you’ll be successful.” I think Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University stuff is good. But, it’s designed for people with a middle-class mindset and value structure. The same principles are lost in translation with most generationally low-income people.