Monday, August 08, 2011

Could Your Church Support a Mission?

So, let me tell you my fantasy.

My fantasy is that we come up with a sustainable model for minister-planted Unitarian Universalist churches.

Right now, our main model is for a minister, capable of living very frugally, and with a supportive spouse, to plant churches on his or her own dime, right? Commendable, but not a sustainable model if we want to have churches popping up around the country.

Which I do.

Christian churches support “missions.” They put money, people, and resources toward sending out missionaries to areas of need. This is part of the Great Commission, they believe. The missionaries return home and give exciting reports about what they’re accomplishing, church members go on mission trips to dig wells, build schools, and meet the members of the local mission. The members are spiritually fed by this, and they make that little pocket of the world better.

Here’s my fantasy.

A UU church – probably one of the larger ones in town – decides to support a Mission. They hire a missionary, a person trained in ministry and missional church planting, and call him or her “Associate Minister.” They allocate funds so that the minister can start a church on a shoestring budget. This missionary/minister goes into a community and plants a church, a church that will do missional work, because we say that we are a religion of deeds not creeds.

The missionary/minister doesn’t go to Uganda or Honduras. This m/m goes … across town. Across town, not to a wealthy area, not to an educated area, not to any of the areas bearing demographics of “People Like Us.” Because this is Mission. The m/m goes to the area of the greatest need because – and this is key – because the sponsoring church truly believes that Unitarian Universalism has a lifesaving message and the members of the church truly believe that they are charged with realizing The Beloved Community and accepting their role in creating it.

The minister/missionary sets up a Satellite Church, returning “home” occasionally, being an associate minister. The senior minister (and other ministers, if the church has more) occasionally comes out to the Satellite Mission, preaching and lending support. Members of the Home Church go out to do things in the neighborhood of the Satellite Mission … planting flowers, helping an area school, helping. Caring.

I’ve written before about shalom, about the fullness of the word. Wholeness. Wholeness of body, mind, economics, spirit. I believe in working toward shalom – wholeness – for all. I can see a church that devotes resources to helping “the least of these” get closer to wholeness … feeding the hungry, offering tutoring, teaching English, making a neighborhood safer, extending friendship to the lonely and giving inclusive, love-based food for the spirit. And finding that in doing so, they themselves were being made more whole.

That’s my fantasy.


DairyStateDad said...

Yes. A thousand times, Yes.

In fact, I think this should become the new model that replaces "Growing our Congregation."

Earthbound Spirit said...

Actually, I think the model with proven success is the lay-led start-up congregation. Sometimes these are given seed money by established churches, and a portion of the congregation of the established church leaves to start the new one. Sometimes these are totally funded by the members of the newly-founded congregation. Of course, there's often no money for an actual minister for a number of years...

That said, I like your fantasy!

plaidshoes said...

Love that fantasy! So awesome if it came true!

Red Sphynx said...

Yaay! UU Church planting!

But at my church, right now, if I were on the board, and such a proposal came before us, what would I say?

"Hmm. Let's take two activities at which we are currently incompetent - welcoming folks outside our core demographic, and planting new churches - and combining them into one big project. Hmm."

I'd like to see my church develop those competencies separately before attempting them in tandem. I.e, have a successful outreach to the lower SES folks who live within a mile of our church. And do a successful satellite church in an unserved area where the demographics are similar to our own.

IIRR, Rev Jose Ballister attempted something like your plan in downtown Houston ~5 yr ago. Have you looked at that? Are there any lessons learned?

Andy said...

I think we need to see minister-start-ups, though, earthbound spirit. I think that is one fantastic, amazing way to show leadership. This is something I used to hash out with my former minister all the time - exactly how it would work, what form it would take, etc.

Lay-led works fine, for awhile, but I think we don't need to pick someone and "call" them associate minister. I think we need to hire an ordained UU minister to go do that start up. There are SO many UU ministers who are not working in ministry who would love to be.