As I mentioned in a previous post, this week I completed a three-day online conference sponsored by Faith+Lead of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was an amazing and inspiring interactive learning experience with more than 150 participants, representing churches from across the U.S. and Canada. A second major theme of the conference was “A Distributed Church.” Church leaders talked about what a distributed church means and how they are innovating and experimenting with members of their communities at a time when they cannot meet physically in the same place. Most of the presenters are leaders of Lutheran and Episcopal congregations.
I know the reasons and the need for a distributed church, but I have very little experience with it. While I have taken part in several online conferences and worship services via broadcast and ZOOM technologies, to date, I have hosted only one ZOOM meeting with six participants. Here’s what I learned from the online Faithful Innovation Summit 2020 this week:
- God is inviting us to be the church distributed, that is, to try new forms of connection.
- Churches are now physically Some churches have always been culturally inaccessible to many people.
- Institutions have their place in their time. The church that our children need and want is not the church we need, nor the one our parents needed.
- We may have invested too much in our buildings. Just as we give our lives away to God, we may have to give our buildings away, too.
- Online worship is different from onsite worship, but it is not necessarily less good.
- We must preach and teach the priesthood of all believers incessantly. We are called to this priesthood by virtue of our baptism.
- We need to give people opportunities to use their gifts.
- I am a church leader even though I am not an ordained minister.
- Sometimes, we have to lead from the sides and the back.
- In any innovation, it’s best not to start with the whole church.
- If there is no energy around a project or innovation, maybe it’s not the Spirit’s project, but our own.
- From the organization of this conference, I learned a few new strategies and tools available with ZOOM conferences and meetings, for example, breakout into small groups within a large session, incorporating music and videos, and an annotation tool available to all participants.
The group of six who met a week ago on ZOOM decided to continue meeting bi-weekly to share the Scriptures of the weekend that follows the meeting. We want to reflect on what God is saying to us today before we hear the Word proclaimed on Sunday. The group has already expanded to ten people. I am in the process of inviting a second group, and have already encountered a couple challenges: no access to a computer and fear of a new technology. However, I know that I am not the first person to start up small groups online. The presenters at Faithful Innovation Summit 2020 have already offered to help.
Q. To what is God inviting you in today’s world?
Q. Where are you seeing God at work?
Q. What is your experience with a distributed church?