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Innovations in Ministry: Models for the 21st Century [Secure eReader]
eBook by Lyle E. Schaller

eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Asserting that the good news greatly exceeds the bad news, Innovations in Ministry celebrates what's working in American Protestantism. Lyle E. Schaller identifies the new, emerging models for ministry, with heavy emphasis on paradigm shifts toward laity driven ministries, which include: (1) market-driven "niched" ministry to reach diverse populations; (2) ownership and initiative in ministry; and (3) regional definitions of church. The purpose of this book is found in chapter 5: A new partnership that redefines the role of denominations, raises expectations of the laity, and implements the Key Church Strategy (described in chapters 6 and 7). Another strategy similar to the Key Church model is found in chapter 8, where multi-site campuses are investigated. Takes seriously the shift from small, local churches toward large, seven-day-a-week regional churches; presents several dynamic, effective, and successful models of ministry that are emerging within contemporary Protestant churches; contributes a voice of hope to ministers who perceive their churches as threatened or even dying; provides concrete examples of how effective ministry is actually taking place in the contemporary church; and illuminates the "Key Church Strategy" and provides support for those engaged in (or considering) a multi-site basis for ministry.

eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House/Abingdon Press, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2003


A persuasive argument can be made that the first three decades of the nineteenth century stand out as the most exciting era in the history of American Protestantism. The leaders of that day enjoyed the opportunity of pioneering an unprecedented variety of innovations. That era saw the Methodists and Baptists begin to emerge as the two largest Protestant religious bodies on the North American continent. The Plan of Union of 1801 between the Presbyterians and Congregationalists marked the beginning of a new form of interdenominational cooperation. An increasing proportion of the ministers came out of the working classes. The Second Great Awakening, revivalism, the invention of religious camp meetings, the Haystack Prayer meeting, and the challenge of foreign missions also mark that era. The first theological seminaries were born. A range of new nondenominational agencies was founded, such as the American Bible Society (1816), The American Sunday School Union (1824), the American Peace Society (1828), and the American Tract Society (1825). The ecclesiastical climate was supportive of new ventures in ministry. Tradition, social status, and wealth no longer were as influential as they had been in the eighteenth century.

Perhaps the third most exciting era in American Protestantism was in the quarter century following the Civil War, when tens of thousands of new congregations, both black and white, were founded, the missionary movement reached its zenith, the Sunday school movement fostered a new era of interchurch cooperation, the central role of the laity was finally affirmed, the western frontier challenged the mavericks to try out new forms of ministry, and new denominations were born.

From this observer's perspective, the second most exciting era in the history of American Protestantism is the last quarter of the twentieth century. One reason for that assessment is the contemporary openness to new forms of ministry, the birth of a new expression of the faith through music, a more sophisticated use of television to communicate the gospel, and the emergence of new forms of interchurch cooperation based on the initiative of pastors and/or congregations.

While some may deplore the "consumerism" of this era, the generations born after 1955 are forcing the churches to be more sensitive to the religious needs of people. As the churches respond, new forms of ministry are being created. Another result is that new records in total church attendance in American Protestantism are being set year after year. To be more precise, the number of people worshiping in Protestant churches on the typical weekend in 1993 was larger than the total in 1953 or 1973 or 1983.

It is true that tens of thousands of small neighborhood churches, both urban and rural, are dying. The widespread ownership of the private automobile, that network of excellent paved streets and highways, the erosion of traditional institutional loyalties, the demand for choices, and the shift to a nongeographical base for meeting and making new friends are five of the threats that have undermined the small geographical parish. However, those are also five of the forces behind the emergence of thousands of large, vital, high quality, seven-day-a-week regional churches.

Many will contend that the most influential factor behind the health, vigor, and vitality of contemporary American Protestantism is the recognition that the laity can be trusted to do ministry. That is a central theme of this book.

Another reason for the health and vitality of contemporary American Protestantism has been the growing capability of the churches to respond to the recent sharp increase in the diversity within American society. The middle third of the twentieth century was marked by a high degree of homogeneity in our culture. "One size fits all" was a slogan that worked reasonably and effectively. It was expressed in denominational hymnals, in the design of Sunday school materials, in the curriculum for seminary students, in the format for Sunday morning worship, in radio and later the three major television networks, in general-circulation denominational magazines, in the design of vacation Bible schools, in youth ministries, in strategies for evangelism and missions, and in the polity of the denomination.

Back in the 1930s, general-circulation magazines, such as Life, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post, prospered with this assumption that America was one large homogeneous audience.

Today the experts in marketing describe this country as a sea of diversity. That is reflected in the specialization of magazines, in the carving out of a distinctive niche by radio stations, and on the shelves of the supermarket. It also is reflected in the living arrangements of Americans, in their marital status, in the affirmation of their distinctive ethnic heritages, in the agendas of the dual-income households, in the concerns of the single-parent family, and in the way people dress. We have become a highly diverse culture.

The capability of many, but not all Protestant congregations to respond creatively and effectively to this diversity is one reason why this can be identified as the second most exciting era in the history of American Protestantism. The introduction of drama and a new era in music have revolutionized worship. Television has transformed preaching. The expansion of the teaching ministry from Sunday school to a seven-day-a-week schedule has resulted in record numbers of adults engaged in continuing serious and in-depth Bible study. A new generation of teenagers has transformed youth ministries. The accumulation of unprecedented quantities of wealth in the pockets of self-identified "middle-class Americans" has sharply changed our approach to church finances. The continuing deterioration of large public school systems has created a new set of reasons for parents to enroll their children in Christian schools. The redefinition of the role of denominations, congregations, the clergy, and the laity have radically changed how we do outreach, missions, and evangelism.

This new series of books, Ministry for the Third Millennium, is designed to speak to leaders who (a) accept the fact that next year will not be a carbon copy of 1955; (b) are open to looking at new models for ministry and outreach; (c) agree the automobile is here to stay; (d) recognize that television has replaced religion as the single most influential force in shaping American culture, although it is not necessary to applaud that change; (e) believe that the worshiping community continues to be the number-one institutional expression of Christ's church; and (f) affirm that the needs and wants of people are at least as important as ecclesiastical traditions in formulating a strategy for ministry and outreach.

While a couple of overlapping areas of congregational life are discussed, the primary focus of this volume is on encouraging congregations to use off-campus ministries as part of a larger strategy for reaching new waves of immigrants to these shores and new generations of American-born residents.

The primary purpose of this book is to lift up several models of ministry that impress this observer as promising approaches for the beginning of the third millennium since the birth of Christ.

The contemporary concern about full disclosure requires a statement about this observer's bias, or what I would describe as an earned opinion. After thirty-three years of working with congregations, pastors, volunteer leaders, specialized staff, and members from more than six dozen religious traditions plus scores of independent churches, I am convinced that congregational life in American Protestantism is healthier, stronger, and sounder than ever before in my lifetime. The vitality, relevance, and sensitivity of ministry in most of today's Protestant congregations is impressive!

Such a positive diagnosis cannot be offered about the state of every congregation. It also is true that American Catholicism is facing unprecedented problems. Likewise, several Protestant denominational systems are overdue for reform, and some will survive only if they are reformed.

That bias explains the reason behind the inclusion of the first chapter. The good news greatly exceeds the bad news about the current state of American Protestantism!

The second chapter elaborates on that same point. While it is true that several of the mainstream denominations have cut back sharply on launching new ministries, the vacuum created by those cutbacks is being filled by others. God lifts up the initiating leaders required for a continuing expansion of Christ's church.

The third chapter introduces a theme that is central to one of the challenges to today's churches. This is the value of clearly, precisely, and accurately identifying that segment of the total population that a specific ministry is designed to reach. This theme deserves a separate chapter because it is central to every model of ministry described here.

Few readers will argue that preachers should continue to use horses for their transportation today. A new era has brought new tools for carrying the gospel to people. One is the automobile. A second is television. One of the most effective means of undermining the ministry of any Christian organization is to seek to perpetuate yesterday. The fourth chapter describes a half dozen changes that truly are paradigm shifts. Anyone seeking to implement many of the new models described here must understand the radical nature of these changes.

The fifth chapter is not only the longest section of this book, it is the heart of it. This introduces a field-tested and proven model of multiplying ministries that may be the most promising model in today's marketplace of ecclesiastical ideas. It calls for a new partnership that redefines the role of denominations, raises the expectations projected of the laity, and calls for a reappraisal of congregational priorities. When J.V. Thomas challenged me to look into the Key Church Strategy in Texas, he aroused my curiosity. One result was that I met dozens of committed, creative, and effective pioneers in new expressions of ministry. Most important, I discovered that the Key Church Strategy works. Another result is this book.

Practical implementations of the Key Church Strategy are described in the sixth and seventh chapters.

Overlapping that strategy is the recognition by an increasing number of congregations that their call to faithfulness requires more than one meeting place. That option is described in the eighth chapter.

For some readers, the only controversial issue in this book is the use of the Christian day school as the heart of two different models. We are now in what some identify as the fourth era or generation of Christian day schools in the United States. Most of the objections to the immigrant schools and to the segregationist academies of yesteryear do not apply to the contemporary models that are described in the ninth chapter.

My pragmatic nature and my Depression ethic cause me to be sympathetic to the cries of those who worry about paying the bills. Here again we see new models for the twenty-first century, and a few of those are discussed in the last chapter.

Finally, I am indebted to a greater degree to a larger number of people than for any previous book. I am grateful for their comments, cooperation, courtesy, ideas, insights, openness, patience, questions, reflections, suggestions, and wisdom. An incomplete list includes Tim Ahlen, Bob Bull, Steve Conger, Stan Copeland, Karen Curtis, Richard Dunagin, Lanny Elmore, Dick Flynn, Joe Hall, Les Hoffmann, C. B. King, Harvey Kneisel, Rick Linamen, J. Mark Martin, Barbara Oden, Mike Piazza, Don Poest, Randy Pope, Mike Rasmussen, Ray Schwartz, Michael Scrogin, Lon Snyder, Bob Tschannen-Moran, JV Thomas, Benny Vaughan, Rick Warren, Woodie Webb, and Craig Wilson. Naming them does not carry with it the implication that they should share the blame for any misstatements of fact, stupid interpretations, or ridiculous conclusions that may be found in this book. All it means is that I am indebted to them, and I am grateful.

This book is dedicated to four individuals who are pioneering new eras in ministry for the third millennium of Christ's church.

Copyright © 1994 by Abingdon Press

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