What’s Up with Pastor Todd 4-25-21
The second half of Weird Church: Welcome to the 21st Century by Paul Nixon and Beth Ann Estock consists of nineteen short chapters describing different models, approaches, and forms of 21st century church that the authors have observed. As First Church and South Church consider consolidation I encourage you to read these chapters and mind your heart. Do any of these descriptions grab your interest? Do you feel energized? Do you find yourself thinking about how we could do that kind of church here in Granby? One of the keys to success in finding a sustainable future is “following the energy.”
I find very helpful the “notes of caution” scattered throughout the descriptions. In the weird church era, there are more failures than there are successes. Wise leaders learn from the mistakes of others. One small example that resonated with me: the coffee house church. Back in the aughts I was on a Church Development Committee that oversaw a church restart. The church decided to restart as a coffee shop. We found what Nixon and Estock also discovered: if people want coffee, they will go to a coffee shop, not a church disguised as a coffee shop. Our project ended up failing spectacularly. We also discovered that coffee shop church can succeed when it is supported by a larger organization. Not every creative idea results in a self-sustaining congregation. It’s helpful to be aware of diverse ministry models and the kinds of funding streams they are likely to require.
As I read through the second half of the book, I realized that I’ve had personal experience with a number of types of weird church. My encouragement is that First Church and South Church folks get out there and visit, experience, and interview people representing as many of these different types as we can. A first step in creating something new is getting a sense of what’s already out there.
For example: “The Neighborhood.” Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis is one of the more famous examples. I met the pastor, Rev. Mike Mather, when I was a church planter in Indiana. I recommend his book Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places. You can listen to a podcast of his approach to “The Neighborhood” here. Closer to home First Congregational Church of Stamford has adopted some of Rev. Mather’s strategies in their restart project. I’m glad to ask if Rev. Mather and/or the folks from FCC Stamford would be willing to chat with us.
There are at least two examples of the “Community Space” type right here in CT. Rev. Dr. Shelly Best is the founder and director of 224 Ecospace in Hartford. I’ve met with Dr. Best and toured the space. She is an amazing person from whom we could learn a lot. The second example: United Congregational Church of Bridgeport sold their historic building a number of years ago and moved into a community space in which they are developing multiple ministries and income streams. Rev. Sara Smith was very helpful with FCC Stamford and I’m sure would be glad to talk with us.
I’m aware of a number of other examples of weird churches that we could visit and talk with, but I will save those for the coming weeks.