Numbers – Bright Spot

In their (totally awesome) book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath explain how to bring about organizational change. One of the key principles is to “identify bright spots.” That is, find things that work and learn from them and celebrate them.

Even in the generally dismal state of affairs as the mainline church shrinks into insignificance, there are bright spots. The Methodist Church, in its otherwise disheartening statistical report, noted that the Greater New Jersey and the Kentucky conferences both grew this year: New Jersey for the first time in 45 years.

Here’s the bright spot:

Leaders in both New Jersey and Kentucky have embraced an adage from church-planting circles that it’s easier to make babies than to raise the dead.

“You don’t grow an annual conference by trying to revitalize existing churches,” Davis said. “I think some can be revitalized. But I don’t think we’ll ever revitalize enough churches to reverse the attendance and membership trends that we’ve seen over the last several decades.”

That’s triage at work, and it sounds harsh. But it holds out the possibility that existing churches can look to their younger, more vital sister congregations, and copy the things that work.

(Aside: what is it about denominational web sites that makes them pick link-unfriendly CMSes? The article itself is hidden behind a Flash(!) “headline,” so it took me three tries to figure out how to link to the article. It’s almost as bad as the PC(USA) web site.)


A survey of the fastest-growing Presbyterian churches shows they have lots of outreach vehicles. (Well, the article said “tentacles,” but I’m not comfortable with that image!)

One way these churches reach out is really reaching in to the congregation to communicate with members and to get people involved as members. They do that by using their websites and offering new member classes.

The fastest-growing congregations reach out to guests by offering multiple worship services and even starting new ones, among other things.

They also reach out to people in need by offering emergency relief, sponsoring mission trips, and allowing community groups to use their facilities.

A lot of those should sound familiar. Jewel Lake Parish is acting a lot like the fastest-growing churches in our denomination. What if it works?

Have you given any thought to who God might be bringing to us? What needs do they have? What gifts do they bring? What could we do with their help?

Take a look at the survey. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Study Questions for John 10

(Pastor Luke will preach from John 10 on Sunday, April 29. These questions may be useful if you’d like to study that passage in more depth. You may also download them in printable form.)

1. If you owned a flock of sheep, how would you tend them: a shepherd with a sheepdog, with technology (e.g., electrified fences and infra-red sensors), or by putting llamas among the sheep? Why?

2. If you had sheep, what would you look for in a shepherd? How does Jesus describe a good shepherd? Would it work with real sheep?

3. Read John 10:7–10, where Jesus contrasts himself with a thief. How does the thief in that passage differ from the hired hand here?

4. Why are the sheep scattered in v. 12? Does Jesus mean the time before he gathers them (v. 16), or after? Who are the “hired hands?”

5. Read John 10: 19–21. (Verse 21 refers to a miracle described in John 9, where Jesus healed a blind man.) How would you summarize that debate? Which is easier to believe: the wonders Jesus performed or the message he taught? Why?

6. We’ve been discussing the idea of the church as missional, or sent into the world, by its nature. How does that idea relate to what Jesus says in verse 16? What voice do those sheep hear?

7. Jesus says there will be “one fold” when the “other sheep” are added to “this fold.” If the sheep are people, what are the folds?

8. Jesus says there will be “one fold.” What are some reasons that the unity is not always evident? What is our role? (Consider v. 12.)