|Craig Stinson, left, passes a microphone to Pastor Max Rudd of Lost Creek UMC, who is ready to share the rural church’s progress.
By Holly McCray
A leadership experiment launched this year, with 13 Oklahoma churches as willing test subjects.
In first steps, members of each church took an online survey. On March 2, church teams met at Moore-First UMC to interpret the data and plan specific next steps to "Multiply Your Impact" -- both title and goal of this experiment.
National consultant Christie Latona asserted, "You want to multiply." Don’t be satisfied with mere addition, she told the teams.
"Lean into your strengths. Start with ministries that already have rabbit-like energy. Rabbits know something about multiplication!"
Latona identified the parable of the sower as "Jesus’ story of multiplication." Some seed fell on good earth and produced a harvest beyond the wildest dreams.
"That’s what we’re here to do!" she declared.
Churches identified as already achieving some success in reaching new people were invited to participate in the pilot, and 13 volunteered, said Craig Stinson, Conference director of Congregational Development. "Multiply Your Impact" parallels the Conference Strategic Plan to reach more people, more diverse people, and younger people. (In 2005, Latona helped Conference leaders design that Plan.)
This pilot uses Readiness 360, a self-discovery tool to help a church measure the readiness of its leaders and members to be even more effective. Latona called it "a spiritual MRI," adapting a medical term.
Research results for each church were sorted into four areas: spiritual intensity, missional alignment, dynamic relationships, and cultural openness. During the meeting in Moore, each group made a plan to boost that church’s impact in its highest-scoring area, using the data and implementing along two timelines, 90 days out and also 12 to 18 months.
Each team also reported to the full group that day, a form of accountability.
"Strength-based development is a much more God-honoring process," one participant said, compared to a church focusing first on problem areas. Latona concurred.
"The point is to mobilize your congregation to keep going forward," she said.
Children’s ministry is strong at Frederick-First UMC, so that team plans to be more intentional in reaching out to parents of participating youngsters. Lost Creek UMC scored high in cultural openness and will expand ministries in that area. The team from Guymon-Victory Memorial Church will open a prayer room and initiate more prayer vigils. OKC-Church of the Servant will offer a personal spiritual gifts inventory, then host a "gifts fair" on ways to utilize those talents for God.
Several teams, including Ardmore-First and Ada-First, will organize small groups to study "Catch Fire in 50 Days," the book referenced for "Multiply Your Impact." Small groups at Stillwater-First will study Max Lucado’s "Grace," and members will purposefully invite new people to sign up and attend with them.
Pentecost Sunday also figured in the 90-day plans for several churches.
Rev. Stinson said these churches will be examples for others. A much larger "Multiply Your Impact" event is envisioned for 2014 in Oklahoma.
The other pilot churches are: Durant-First, Elk City, Lawton-Centenary, Checotah-First, Edmond-Acts 2, and Moore-First.