On February 21 about 200 people from 53 churches came to Kirkwood UMC to hear Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase talk about Yes. He was addressing the ideas he brought forth in his latest book, Just Say Yes: Unleashing People for Ministry.
The premise is straightforward: the default positions of many churches is No. Pastors say No to congregations, congregations say No to pastors, long-term members say No to new people...the list goes on.
“Everyone has a call to ministry,” Bishop Schnase said. “We need to consider how we can best create the kind of environment that sets people free to do the ministry they are called to do.”
It’s an issue that has been on his heart since his very first appointment, when painting a room at the church was going to require scheduling as a “work day,” and someone donating landscaping improvements was met with skepticism and resistance.
A parenting support group/Bible study was encouraged to become an official UMW Circle group, but was then hit with requirements involving reporting, officer election and required participation in other UMW activities.
At the heart of No is often the underlying assumptions that it is “our” church, and “our” preferences matter most. If it is God’s church, the most important thing isn’t the preferences of people who are already there.
The best ideas for ministry often come not from the core leaders in the church, but from people who are on the edge of ministry, Bishop Schnase said. Unleashing people for ministry doesn’t just benefit those people being unleashed, but it benefits the church as a whole. As someone in a position to observe many churches, Bishop Schnase has seen this first hand.
“Leaders of growing churches say Yes to ministries that declining churches say No to,” Bishop Schnase said.
He explained the problem of “The Church of a Thousand Steps,” in which someone with an inspiration to start a ministry must run a gauntlet of numerous committees to seek approval.
“It’s often the case that many committees have the authority to say No, but none have the authority to say Yes,” Bishop Schnase said.
The reason that Bishop Schnase finds Yes versus No to be an important enough topic to warrant writing a book, preparing curriculum and making public presentations is that the old lengthy approval process systems that used to work are no longer effective in today’s culture, and churches that cling to them are likely to experience fading relevance.
“A bureaucratic approval process for ministry may be frustrating to us, but next generation has zero tolerance for it,” Bishop Schnase said. “They can easily get online and find other alternative organizations where they can make a difference. Nothing gets done when the default is No.”
For resources on how you can help your church move from a default of No to Yes, go to www.Sayyestoministry.org.
In summer 2016 we will say farewell to Bishop Schnase as he completes the maximum term of 12 years of service to the congregations of the Missouri Annual Conference. To honor his service the Missouri United Methodist Foundation and Conference leaders invite you to join with friends and supporters across the state by making a gift to the Five Practices Fund for Fruitful Congregations.
This charitable endowment fund will underwrite and sustain educational programming for Missouri United Methodists relating to those famous five practices that Bishop Schnase outlined in his influential book. Renowned thinkers, authors, speakers, books, and other media will enrich our conference gatherings and continue to build a culture of excellence and renewal. To give online and/or read more about this fund, visit www.mumf.org/give-now.