Rethink Church Revisited

It’s not our fault.  It’s those poor, misled unchurched.

Yesterday we did something different at Annual Conference.  From 4 to 5 in the afternoon we broke apart into a variety of workshops.  I had signed up to attend the session on the United Methodist Church’s new Rethink Church marketing campaign.

I’ve blogged about this before, but feel compelled to add this.

Presented by a representative from the General Church, we were walked through the history of the Igniting Minsitries campaign begun 9 years ago, and how this “Rethink Church” effort is the “next evolution” (I think next generation) of the denominational branding and marketing effort.

The teacher/leader explained that their studies have shown that the problem is not the United Methodist Church, but the perception of those who aren’t a part of it.

I have been told the second half of the presentation was better, but I wasn’t able to stomach it, so I had left.

The United Methodist Church in the United States has been losing, on average, 200 members a day since 1968.  We cannot blame this on the unchurched.

There is much good in the 10,000 doors idea, and much promise in the video.  We cannot, however, blame those who are not a part of the church for our hemorrhaging over the past.

They say the first step is admitting there is a problem.  Let’s add this.  Admit there is a problem, and don’t blame someone else.

7 thoughts on “Rethink Church Revisited

  1. I agree Steve….I am part of the TWO missing generations from the Methodist Church. I run into a very familiar attitude around my home church when it comes to change…..they just don’t want it. We suffer from the country club mentality. I bang my head against the wall everyday on how do we change what the church has become, because truthfully, they can poor all the money they want into those commercials….that picture is not accurate on what most American UMC look like. So when people do respond and go and seek, they don’t find what we are selling…..bottom line we have to be smoking what we are selling……

  2. I appreciate you, Steve!

    Institutional change is hard. School systems struggle with it, government agencies do, political parties do, etc. Fascinating to watch, frustrating to be a part of. Seems to usually take a revolution, or a catastrophe, or an extremely charismatic leader (best case scenario: all three together?) to turn things around.

    At what point does losing 200 members a day become a catastrophe? After 40 years?

    I also still think that people such as Spong (even though he is not a Methodist) are pointing the way to the kind of revolution that will be required — which is a change in the core of the Church, not just a change in window-dressing, which is all a marketing campaign can be.

  3. I agree with what you say here. At our Annual Conference, though, our ReThink Church presentation (which was presented to the entire conference) didn’t have the same feel to it that it seems like yours did. I think this was helped because our plenary session, led by Adam Hamilton, focused a lot on what I saw as the practical, “what can my church do” side of things. He talked about building leaders in the church, what good leadership looks like, how to work on bringing people into the church by showing them action first – invite them to help “change the world” – what dynamic preaching and worship looks and feels like, etc.

  4. Part of the untold story of membership numbers is that the uniting groups were losing members before becoming the UMC. The downhill slide is longer in nature than 1968 to now.

  5. I appreciate your word here. I would add the following question: is RethinkChurch a renewal movement or an ad campaign? There are some folks who are under the impression it’s the former. (The presenter at least seems to be honestly presenting it as PR.) Not discounting the fact that renewal can come from unlikely sources, I don’t think that the problem is we’re spending too little money on ad agencies to run national campaigns. If we really were committed to rethinking church, wouldn’t we spend this money on something that had soteriological significance? Can we reduce evangelism to PR?

  6. It is easy to knock ad campaigns. However I am curious to know if this could work like a self fulfilling prophecy. If we say we are something, then one day we will be it.

    I don’t know. I am hopeful for the change, but it will take more than ads – it is going to take us.

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