How to talk with your congregation about the way forward for United Methodism

Have you been pondering how to initiate conversations about the way forward for United Methodism in your congregation?

As you know, I wrote Unafraid and Unashamed in the hopes of providing churches with a resource to guide these conversations in an honest, constructive and faith-filled manner. In my last blog, I provided suggestions for creating a timeline for these conversations. In this post, I want to share how to structure these conversations based on the time and setting available to you.

If you have 4-8 weeks available for your study, I recommend downloading the free leader’s guide and teaching one or two chapters per week as dictated by your schedule. The leader’s guide is a great tool written by Rev. Glenna Manning, an ordained United Methodist Deacon who combines an insightful theological perspective with keen insights into teaching theory gained from decades working in the public-school system.

But what if you don’t have enough time to follow the leader’s guide through each chapter?

Let’s say you have only 3 sessions to teach the class and there is no way you can work through all the material in that time. I have already taught several three session classes myself on the book and here’s my recommendation.

Week 1 – Focus on chapters 1&2. These chapters provide a history of the debate with United Methodism around LGBTQ inclusion and charitable respectful articulations of the traditionalist, centrist, and progressive viewpoints.

Week 2 – Focus on chapter 5. This chapter looks at all the other challenges the United Methodist church must face to minister effectively in a rapidly changing culture outside of LGBTQ inclusion. It concludes by inviting participants to reflect honestly on whether the denomination can face these challenges within its current structure and to consider how their local church can best reach out to its changing community.

Week 3 – Focus on chapters 7&8. These chapters help participants calmly and faithfully consider what to do if they feel differently from their local church or denomination about LGBTQ inclusion and the importance of working with Christians of various perspective on the issues we all agree on.

Okay, now let’s consider what to do if you do not have the luxury of multiple sessions. What if you only have one 50-minute session? Can you still discuss these complex issues in less than an hour? Yes, you can. Here’s how:

Minutes 0-5 – Discuss the “About This Guide” section and pray the “Opening Prayer” from page 2 of the leader’s guide. This will help establish an honest and respectful atmosphere for your session.

Minutes 5-20 – Focus on chapter 1 and the history of the debate within the UMC. Without knowing the history, it is very hard to make sense of the present and very easy to become disillusioned.

Minutes 20-35 – Focus on chapter 2 and understanding the different viewpoints within United Methodism. Without understanding why sincere Christians might see things different, it is hard to engage in constructive conversations about the future of the church.

Minutes 35-45 – Focus on chapters 7&8. Spend just a few minutes discussing 2 questions with the class: 1) What should you do when your opinion is in the minority within your faith community?  2) Where can Christians of different perspectives on LGBTQ inclusion work together to bless the world and spread the Gospel?

Minutes 45-50 – Q & A.
Be prepared for participants to ask you to provide more classes. I have received this request at every presentation I have made about this topic. Your church members know this is a big deal and they want to be ready to face it with honest informed perspectives.

What to do if you have another class format not covered in this post? Email me at wil@marketsquarebooks.com. I’m always happy to brainstorm with you about the right set up for your context.

By the way, if you have been waiting to order copies of Unafraid and Unashamed for your church this may be the best week to do it. Throughout this Cyber Monday week, my publisher is offering discounts of 30% on all orders of 5 or more books using the coupon code CMBULK on purchases made through marketsquarebooks.com. Individual copies can be purchased at a 20% discount using the code CMW2017.

Blessings to you and your church,

Wil Cantrell

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