Several other authors have suggested what the #NextMethodism might look like. I agree that the Next Methodism will be radically different from the Methodism that we have today, so I want to take a turn and suggest something that I believe the Next Methodism will look like.
The Next Methodism will be more connectional than today. Think about this for a moment. When I mention the word connectionalism, what are some images that pop into your mind? Itineracy? Apportionments? Health and Pensions? Annual Conference? General Conference?
When I think of the word connectionalism, I think of shared ministry and mission. This is why I believe that the next Methodism will reclaim a renewed sense of who we are in this together as one body. How will this happen? I can think of three ways that will transform the church of today into the next Methodism.
- Connecting local churches together into local ministries together. The single biggest outreach of our church is a community client choice food pantry that is shared with another United Methodist church in the community. We share the responsibility of the cost, the volunteers, the space, and the resources. Our two churches together impact more people than our church could do by itself because we find ourselves in a common ministry together. I see connectionalism being redefined as local churches coming together in order to do bigger things in the community.
- Example – Can you imagine if three to five churches banded together to create a mega outreach place? One that could have food pantries, financial assistance, job assistance, addictions counseling, homeless shelters, and other local ministries. What if our local churches pooled our resources to create something like we used to do with hospitals and schools?
- Connecting local churches together into local parishes together. This might be somewhat of a controversial suggestion. Do you know what non-denominational churches are doing right now? They are not building bigger buildings! They are adding new campuses! The United Methodist church has so many churches that are struggling in rural areas all over the United States. The funny thing is that we have a model for ministry in this way already in our DNA! I am talking about a radical redefinition of connectional ministry to parish based ministry. What if we did away with connectionalism through a district of churches which can be spread 100s of miles apart and instead redrew parishes of 5-10 churches that had a “supervising elder”, a connectional youth minister supervising teams of volunteers, and a connectional children’s minister supervising teams of volunteers?
- Example – Can you imagine 5-10 churches sharing a rotating VBS event? How about confirmation classes that crosses typical racial and church boundaries? How about a youth group that spans different areas of town? A children’s group made up of children from all over the area? What if we saw ourselves as ONE church with multiple campuses instead of a single church?
- Connecting local churches to global ministries. This one we already do in some cases, but we could be doing it so much better. We have missionaries all over the world, but we could be supporting them in a far better way. If you go to the Global Ministries website you can search for missionaries by context, continent, or project. The problem is that most of these missionaries or projects are known simply as a number: (Advance #3022180). That is it. You don’t know a face, what they are doing, how their work is going, or anything else. Just a number on a website and a brief bio. Many of our churches would love to support a missionary as their missionary. The times my churches have given to the advance are the times when they personally knew what or to whom the money was going to!
- Example – Can you imagine our local churches personally connecting to 1-3 missionaries and 1-3 projects? This means that the local church would have a personal relationship with their missionary and they would promote the work they are doing in the worship service, their Sunday school classes, and on their social media! We are truly a global church doing vital ministry in every part of the world, but if our local churches are personally connected to these ministries in some other way than just a poster on a wall then we will never claim these ministries as our own.
That’s it. Three ways to make the Next Methodism more connectional. Local Ministries, Local Parishes, and Global Ministry! What do you think? Are there ways to make the Next Methodism more connectional that I haven’t mentioned? How can we do a better job of being connectional?