So, if you feel called to ministry, but not in a traditional fashion, this post is for you. It’s also for you, if you are sick of the current ministry choices and want something else.
Given the recent election, I’ve been thinking a lot about maps. There’s the map of the country painted in red and blue. There’s a map of Florida, where the recount is taking place in some counties, at least as of this writing. And, then, there’s a map of UCC ministry, that I’ve never seen and only imagined.
It’s this last map that I want to talk to you about.
It’s a map of the places where churches used to be.
I know this map well, because I drive through parts of it everyday where I live here in New England. There was a time when each town had a Congregational Church. Each town had one, because, history tells us, they needed to have one to be an official town. No town. No church. But, not anymore.
Every Thursday, I drive by such a church that stopped being a church years ago. I’ve heard snatches of the history over the years. You know the story; attendance shrank, money dwindled, and a nasty fight. Now, the building’s still there, the suppers still go on, but the worship congregation is long gone.
Call these the empty spots on the map. (Apparently, 111 spots between 2012 and 2015.)
(Of course, in all honestly, many of these “empty spaces” are not devoid of churches. They are just places where the historically established church is missing.)
My point is that these are places where there is opportunity for some new leadership.
I believe the UCC needs to admit that many of its small local churches will not come back and will continue to close. Sure, there will always be some thriving small local churches, but these will be the outliers. It’s now time to invest resources more clearly in telling new church stories.
Here’s your how to.
A New Founding Myth
Telling a new ministry story means discerning what God is calling you to do.
I propose you embrace that idea of story and storytelling fully. Look at the stories: the novels, the news items, the tv shows, the youtube videos that make your soul sing and really explore them. Be inspired.
Then, be delighted to discover some very smart people have already thought about how to tell new stories.
First: Then. Pop on over to DIY MFA and download her mini course.
(Read more about where she’s coming from in this Forbes piece.)
Use her outline for finding good content, thinking about community, and developing your skills to begin thinking about how you might start to tell a new founding story.
(Because, every human endeavor has a founding myth.)
Second: decide on the type of story you want to tell. Remember, we’re in the missing pieces of the map, so to speak. Look for the s
Need some inspiration? Look at this great list of how-to-write books and decide what story you might want to tell.
Here are some examples of ministries you might tell.
- Historical Fiction: Small rural community. Get to know the history of your area. Decide what might fit, by determining what used to fit. Look around at the former glory and then tell a story that incorporates that history into the story you’re telling. Ministry means retelling and exploring a community identity.
- Horror: Not the most obvious choice, certainly, but consider the ghosts we have in our society. Ghosts being code for anything that should be dead, but keeps going. Racism. Sexism. Historical terriblenesses. Ministry means ghostbusting.
- Memoir: Nursing home. Make the community you found be about making spiritual sense of a well-lived and confusing time. Think of all the great opportunities to engage in real adult education. Ministry means meaning making.
Third: begin to tell the story. Either in your current context or to people you know. Seek the resonances. And, then meet to talk over some coffee with like-minded folks. And, rinse and repeat.
My point: too often ministers, and people of faith, look for answers in the same old places. I think this blog is about expanding the resources you have to do the work you need to do. There are many, many resources for perspective authors. (Nanowrimo, anyone?) This takes some imagination, but I believe the time has come for ministry leaders to be inspired to tell new stories. I urge you to use them to consider how to start telling a very old story – a baby, a savior, a God – in a new way.
Thanks for reading.
Rev. Jeremiah Rood lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Amanda, and two small black cats. He has experience working in local congregations but most recently has turned his attention to building an active online ministry at www.revjeremiahrood.com. Rev. Jeremiah’s ministry also includes spending a year in a detox working with struggling addicts and alcoholics. His time is now split between writing a book exploring these issues and working in a local public library.