As I write, it’s Christmas time (or, really, Advent). And it just so happens that the word I most need to remember now is the next on our list – “Simple”.

Basics. Essentials. Elementary principles. Core practices. Bottom line. These ideas address our need to make sense out of complexity and gain direction for

action. Our need to get simple. “Simple” is one of the most difficult words to use in lay ministry. Yet perhaps it’s the most powerful. If we can quickly summarize complex ideas and structures into a few key memorable words, we can harness power that produces results. Our world is so complicated, our church too, that people are easily distracted. How can we as leaders tune out the distractions, the complexities, the “stuff ” of our world and focus on what really matters? How can we get simple?

One of my favorite church leadership books is called “Simple Church”, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. It’s also one of the most popular and helpful for lay leaders who have taken the LLD classes (Lay Leadership Development). The authors first point out how “simple is in”. They give several examples of our need to simplify and how the marketplace is responding with products that make things easier. They point out that Jesus taught in a way that summarized and simplified complex ideas -- remember the Great Commandment and the parables?

Then they turn to the church. A “simple church” is defined as “a congregation designed around a straight-forward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.” Process. Move people. Spiritual growth. That looks simple. But implementing it is tough – and essential.

If we are to be part of a renewed church, leading congregations toward greater fruitfulness in the mission, we’ve got to get simple. We’ve got to focus upon developing, implementing, and refining an intentional process to help people grow spiritually in their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Connecting them through worship, classes, service projects, etc. First-time visitors and long-time members. Children, college students, parents, and seniors. Everyone inside and outside the church – SO THAT in following Jesus they may be transformed and thus transform their world.

An effective, fruitful lay leader embraces “simple”. Getting rid of unnecessary, out-dated programs to focus upon the core process of making disciples (our mission). Continuing to emphasize processes of spiritual growth for every life stage in making new disciples and better disciples of Jesus Christ. Focus.

How simple is your congregation? How simple is your personal witness? Let’s see if we can get more simple in all that we do, letting God take care of all the complex “stuff ” that can distract and hinder us. With a new year approaching, it’s a great time to make a fresh start.

THANKS again for your leadership – may God bless you with a simple, merry Christmas!

Brian Hammons, Lay Leader Mo. Conference of the UMC