Muddling through

April 26, 2011

Leading a church that isn’t a “church,” doesn’t meet regularly, and
has a loose version of itself is all rather tricky. It’s also a lot of
fun. I’m four weeks into my position at Mission Developer with The Project F-M,
and I’m discovering new joys and challenges each day. I won’t overshare
or bore you with mundane details (like the three hours it took me to
put together that damn office chair), but I am developing a series of
working theories about the Project and young adult ministry in

All these hypotheses are very preliminary, but the little time I’ve
had to tackle the Project’s next steps so far has led me to think on
these things. So, in the spirit of openness, I invite you to think on
these things as well. And, of course, please let’s think together in the

Hypothesis One: Some new faith communities have natural starts; others have more chaotic births.
As I’ve spoken with other people who have started new
missional/emergent/whatever communities, many stories are of communities
that have developed quite naturally. “I almost came onto such-and-such a
community by accident. Friends kept telling me to lead an informal
prayer service, so when I had the time, I did, and it just took off from

Or, mission developers were called with very specific tasks in mind:
start a bible study, transition into a church, buy a building, go from
there. Neither of these starts are simple or without many challenges
along the way, but there’s a natural flow, a building of interest and
energy and a clear movement from A to B.

On the other hand, other starts are more chaotic. Values and vision
and energy don’t mesh as easily, and larger challenges keep cropping up.
Talking through these challenges can be really helpful for all, but if
they’re not addressed head-on they fester and positive growth is

Hypothesis two:
paraphrasing from a conversation partner, “Most 20/30 somethings I know
(myself included) would never want to ‘go to church,’ but they all are
happy, even eager, to discuss faith and spirituality.”

Another side of this statement has to do with our
traditional notion of what church is, and the young adult stereotype
that church is boring, out-of-touch, and irrelevant. Without arguing
that point one way or another, I’m totally willing to grant that the
impulse to talk about faith, and to be in an accepting community of
faith-seekers, is stronger (and more powerful) than an invitation to “go
to church.”

Hypothesis three: smaller might be better.
Words like “community,” “friendship,” and
“relationships” keep coming up in my discussions. Fargo-Moorhead boasts
some very large Lutheran congregations — some totally great ones. Their
size is usually a huge asset, but I find myself considering the benefits
of small groups and small gatherings for now. As much as I can, I’m
trying not to jump to a working image of gatherings that measure success
by their size.

Hypothesis four:
The elephant in the Project F-M room is how to speak of Jesus Christ
without being off-putting, how to claim a distinct Christian identity
without coming across as too in-your-face or close-minded.

I’ve read many places that Gen X and Y is said to belong to a community
first before they believe (whereas, in the past, people first believed a
certain theological framework and then sought to belong to a church
that espoused a similar belief). The question becomes, though, how to
move from belonging to believing with a group of people who are of a
questioning/seeking faith to being with.

Originally posted at A Wee Blether.


small groups

I wish we could talk about your kind of mission, your kind of small group ministry.
My concern is those who suffer from the post-traumatic stress (disorder?).
I think we need 5,000 support groups for those who suffer from that condition. Most local church groups, but also military chaplain discussion groups, VA hospital groups - that sort of thing.
Robert Collie