“We’ve never done it that way before.” “You need to go through the proper channels for that.” “We have a process and you need to respect the process.” “That’s an interesting idea. It might not work because . . . .”
Have you heard those phrases before at church? I know I have. I may have even said a few of them. These are just a few ways that churches say “no.” This approach of doing church – this culture of No – is stalling the church from vital growth, according to Bishop Robert Schnase.
Robert Schnase serves as Bishop of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church. Much of his writing has focused on ordained ministry. But it was Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations that made Bishop Schanse a “church-hold” name. His newest book, Just Say Yes! Unleashing People for Ministry, continues in the spirit of Five Practices in changing the attitudes and culture of churches.
Have you heard the joke about how many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is, “They have to form a committee first.” In some churches, committees are where creative ideas for ministry go to die. As churches move from being inner focused to being outer focused, the traditional role of committees is no longer conducive to fulfill the mission of the church. New people to church, especially young people, who come with creative ideas for new ministry initiatives tend to finally give up after the rounds of committee meetings to get one idea approved. By the time the initiative is approved, the need has already been addressed.
For those whose passion for the church has waned due to being told “No,” more than once. Or for those leaders who recognize that “NO” is leading the church more than “YES,” Schanse’s book is for you. He points out key concepts that can change the culture of a church. And no, changing the worship service times is not one of them.
Change starts when church leaders (clergy included) change their attitudes (a similar idea expressed by Thom Rainer). Another change is correcting the assumption that ideas come from the center. In other words, some of the best ideas for ministry come from the margins. Those who are not in the middle of church leadership. Those who are not on the Church Council. Those who are not on the staff.
Churches who have shifted their attitudes and their assumptions grow. And that is the other point of this book. Schnase examines the systems and causes of declining churches, while providing practical ways leaders can rethink practices to become a growing church. As Schnase states:
[Growing churches] have figured out how to foster creativity, nurture the call of God among their people, value innovation, and take initiative. They have learned to adapt and learn and respond and grow. They have become unstuck.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this book is the notion of vocation. While Bishop Schnase does not necessary frame it as such, this is what he is addressing when he speaks of call and spiritual gifts. Church leaders need to create open spaces for people to hear and respond to God’s call on their lives. In this way, church leadership extends from the center to the margins. Additional, there is a strong emphasis on providing training and teaching for church members on spiritual gifts. Schnase reinforces the concept that learning what our spiritual gifts are open us to hear God’s call in our lives.
This book is an easy read, perfect for church staff members or church leadership to use as small group material. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions. It is an excellent resource for churches that are stuck and are unsure how to move forward. Schnase provides a direction to move toward.
Just Say Yes! is available from Abingdon Press.