Menu includes storytelling tips in breakfast class


A novel way to meet new people: hand out coins at a laundromat.

That’s one tactic among other "Tools for Increasing Your Church’s Vitality" shared by Caitlin Congdon, teaching on that topic at Annual Conference.

Stop describing The United Methodist Church as "we’re dying," said the speaker from United Methodist Communications (UMCOM) in Nashville.

"Paint a preferred picture, not doom and gloom," she told 80 people at the early-morning seminar May 29 in the Oklahoma City University student center.

"When we tell our story today, we have to tell it differently. Create a vision."

She nailed down five behaviors that identify vital congregations: spiritual pastoral leadership, lay leadership development, transcendent worship, small groups that build relationships, and service and mission both local and global.

Congdon said a pastor should connect with 25-50 people outside the church’s life each week. She suggested an accountability partner can help a pastor "be sure you take care of yourself. Be honest about your current situation."

And she noted surveys state that 72 percent of pastors read only the Bible when preparing sermons. The book "What Not To Say" is on her list of useful supplemental resources.

Her UMCOM class was based on the book "Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World," by Jorge Acevedo.

Yet Congdon cautioned against implementing "a borrowed vision" of worship. The service must be relevant to people.

"Don’t just do what outsiders tell you. Who is your community? Maybe you ARE traditional worship."

A laywoman, Congdon is a small-group leader at her home church.

"Make it more than a Bible study," she said.

Establish a covenant among a group’s participants. Set up a Facebook page where they can interact.

Always provide small-group leaders with advance training.

Start varied small groups throughout the year. To build excitement, tell stories to all the congregation about one group’s closeness and spiritual growth.

The breakfast program was hosted by the Oklahoma Conference Department of Communications and sponsored by the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation.

Joseph Harris, director of Communications, described the seminar as a pilot project, responding to delegate requests on evaluations for more educational opportunities during each Annual Conference. — Holly McCray

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UMCOM trainer Caitlin Congdon of Nashville answers a question by Sam Welch, who chairs the Conference Board of Communications.


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