Today I'm headed to a first-of-its-kind conference.
It's a meeting of the pastors of the 100 largest United Methodist Churches in the United States. There are over 34,000 UMCs in our country, and Good Shepherd is one of the top 100 in terms of average Sunday attendance. I was pretty psyched (an 80s word, I know, but descriptive of how I felt) when I received the invitation.
The meeting, which is being held at the Chateau Elan near Atlanta, is the brainchild of Adam Hamilton, the senior pastor of the Church Of The Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The Church Of The Resurrection is roughly the same age as Good Shepherd but has an average weekend attendance of almost 10,000.
The purpose of the meeting is two-fold: 1) to gather pastors of similarly-sized churches together so that we might share what the corporate world calls "best practices"; and 2) to discuss ways the group can influence the United Methodist denomination as a whole.
See, the majority of the churches represented have effective ministries while serving as part of a denomination that has been largely ineffective at reaching people in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Over the last 40 years, for example, the United Methodist Church has lost about three million members -- this at a time of great population growth in the US and in an era in which non-denominational churches have exploded in popularity and influence.
The churches coming to Chateau Elan are exceptions to that trend of decline. Some of the churches -- like Church of the Resurrection, Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio and Granger Church in Indiana -- are spectacular exceptions to the trend, churches known for boldness, innovation, and passion for the Gospel.
I'm excited have some "up close" learning from people I had previously only known from a distance.
I'll keep you posted.