It’s Time to Be Bold Again

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Let’s face it: we are anxious. Nervous, tense, uptight, some perhaps even scared, frightened, terrified. Life is not the same. We seem busier, more disconnected from each other, less safe, less secure financially, and more uncertain. The world is polarized – pro this, anti that, with very little room for compromise. Violence, intolerance, and xenophobia seem to be on the rise as well.wsquote

Even worse, a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute describes “mainline Protestants” as less optimistic, less hopeful. “Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants are markedly more pessimistic than other groups,” the report notes, “with majorities believing that America’s best days are behind us (60% and 55%, respectively).”

It all sounds so grim. Where is Jesus in all this? How did we, the Easter people, become gripped by fear, rather than inspired by hope? We appear to have hunkered down in our beautiful buildings and left the real world behind. Now the world has found us and is beating at our door. Will we answer the call? Can the church today help us build each other up in faith, love, and hope? This should be a frequent topic of conversation among Moravians.

On November 7, 2015, Moravians got together at Clemmons Moravian Church to talk about making bold choices for Christ. We heard from some pretty sharp folks, including Brother Thomas Fudge, preeminent Hus scholar and Professor of Medieval History at the University of New England in Australia. Dr. Fudge was a visiting professor during the fall of 2015 at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he taught a class about heretics and delivered the Moses Lectures. He helped us understand what it means to be a Hussite 600 years after the death of Jan Hus. Brother Craig Atwood spoke about the ways our Moravian ancestors made bold choices for Christ through the generations, from Gregory the Patriarch in 1457 to Comenius to Zinzendorf until our settlement in what is now Winston-Salem, NC. Brother Sam Gray reminded us that, in many ways, our Moravian brothers and sisters around the world are making bold choices for Christ every day, making tremendous sacrifices to live out their faith in places like Cuba, Peru, Honduras, Albania, and Nicaragua, to name a few. (Visit The Board of Cooperative Ministries YouTube channel to view these inspiring, thought-provoking presentations.)

Our history speaks for itself. The courageous witness of Jan Hus, who gave his life so that the truth would prevail, has inspired Moravians for hundreds of years. Gregory the Patriarch and the early “Unitas Fratrum” (or “Unity of the Brethren”) broke from the established state church in 1457, when it was illegal and even life-threatening to start such a radical movement. Our spiritual ancestors went back to the basics of following the way of Christ from the New Testament, believing that many in the church had lost the true spirit of Christianity. According to the Ancient Unity, the New Testament tells us clearly what is essential: faith, love, and hope.

bonhoefferBishop John Amos Comenius helped keep alive the faith of his church in its darkest hour, and provided inspiration that led to its subsequent revival as the Moravian Church during the Zinzendorf era. The renewed Moravian Church of the 18th century followed Zinzendorf’s bold assertion that “there can be no Christianity without community.” For the refugees in Herrnhut, this profound experience of Christian community developed into a passion for living each day for Christ, regardless of occupation or station, and led our brothers and sisters to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those most marginalized throughout the world.

And so the wisdom of the Scriptures and the faithful example of the Ancient Unity and the Renewed Church provide a way to understand our Christian experience today. God creates; God redeems; God blesses. And we respond in faith, in love, and in hope.

The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, Professor of Moravian Theology and Ministry at Moravian Theological Seminary and the Director of Center for Moravian Studies, spoke to the European Synod in Bad Boll, Germany, on May 24, 2016. European Moravians are feeling much the same as their North American counterparts – challenges abound at every turn. You may read Brother Craig’s complete address (and it is worth the read), but this passage stood out in particular:

I believe that in our world today, what we need is hope. And in our churches: we need hope. We need to hold on the hope that is within us. Yes, we experience conflicts in our congregations. Yes, we are facing financial difficulties. Yes, we may be facing the decline or even death of our traditional church life. But these things should not rob us of our hope and courage. Our church has died before. Our church has faced worse challenges than these. We have thrived when we have been the most radical and courageous, when we have embraced the teachings of Jesus most passionately, when we have looked into the future with courage and hope because we know that we belong to Christ and that Christ has called us to love his world with the same passion that he loves the world.

We do have much about which to be hopeful. Certainly, our rich history provides example after example of Moravians acting with boldness and courage in the face of much adversity. We know that our past can inform our future, but how do we bridge that gap between knowing and doing? How do we as the church best respond in these uncertain times to ensure that God’s grace is known far and wide through our witness and action?

Stay Tuned.

(Update 7/5/2016 – Part Two of this post is now available.)

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Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM).

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Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part One

First in a Series

This post and the ones that follow share the development of a project which I’ve been working on since June of 2015. The Board of Cooperative Ministries has sponsored and overseen this work. I didn’t think it would ever have a name, but finally we found one that rang true for those involved in this process. We now call it Living Faith.

This blog starts with my comments regarding the development of a model of church life that we believe can invigorate our congregations. You may find that some of my comments ring true for you, while others might have you objecting out loud. I hope you share both in response to this blog.

There’s nothing official in this. These are only my thoughts based on my reading of the Bible and my experience as a Moravian for a lot of years. There are three things that the Church must be doing in order to fulfill God’s call to be a Church:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling.

Living Faith Small Group Ministry

I’ve shared this idea about church life with several people, and the response sometimes follows a common theme. The response was that the Church does well–and sometimes very well–on outreach and worship, but its efforts in fostering the spiritual growth of its members are often insufficient. That’s not to say that it does nothing to help spiritual growth happen. It’s just that it doesn’t receive as much focus as worship and outreach. We tend to invest our energy and resources in worship–with its creative use of music, scripture, prayer and sermon–and in outreach through which we hope to enable others to experience Christ’s love through us. Spiritual growth is seen as a personal, individual endeavor and so is left to the devices of the individual members to achieve as they are aided in a broad sense by the activities of the Church, such as worship, and by one’s own initiative, such as daily devotions. I believe that corporate and individual worship are not enough to enable our spiritual growth. More is needed from the Church to make this happen in our lives.

Now that’s not to suggest that nothing is done to encourage spiritual growth. There are several things the Church does that appear on the surface to focus on spiritual growth, but their success in the area of spiritual growth and maturity is limited because of a variety of factors. One example is Sunday School. A lot of good comes from Sunday School—

  • In the younger classes, a foundation of Bible knowledge is laid for the children’s faith. This is invaluable! We should do more of this and find ways to include more of our children in this wonderful experience.
  • During the adolescent years, young people are led through a process of examining their beliefs and how these beliefs and their faith relate to their experience of life and the world.
  • In adulthood, a major and often unspoken priority centers on long-term relationships. If this is not obvious, try changing the membership of some of those decades-long classes.

All of these benefits are important, and they all are needed for spiritual growth to happen. They are foundation stones for this. But none of them equates to spiritual growth that is integral to the Church’s mission. Occasionally a Sunday School class fosters deep spiritual growth. However, in my experience only small steps are usually taken in this regard. There are several reasons for this that I’ll share in a future post. For now, I’ll just suggest that Sunday School does a lot of good, but spiritual growth requires additional factors that aren’t found in most Sunday School experiences. The same could be said of a lot of Bible studies that are found in many churches.

The Church does lots of things in addition to Sunday School and Bible studies. Many of these fall under the areas of outreach and worship. Many of them do good and achieve much. But most of them lack the elements that are necessary to make spiritual growth happen.

In my next post, I hope to answer the question that’s bound to be in your mind–okay, if something else is needed, what would that be?

In the meantime, you might want to think about your experiences in church, particularly about those experiences that have helped you growth spiritually.

And what does spiritual growth and maturity look like? That’s something else I’ll write about soon.

Thanks for putting up with my thoughts. I look forward to seeing yours in a response.

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

There is a Leadership Shortage . . .

There is a leadership shortage . . . will you help us fill it? MLN Logo for print use

“But I’m not a leader,” you say, “I could never get up in front of people and tell them what to do. That’s just not me.”

Consider the following questions:

  1. Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you have a calming presence in the midst of dysfunction, turmoil, or conflict?
  3. Do you find yourself asking for clarification in board or committee meetings?
  4. Do you discourage scapegoating, gossip, or bad behavior among church members?
  5. Are you persistent? When you set a goal, do you see it through to fruition?
  6. Do you consider the feelings of others when making a decision?
  7. Can you separate unhelpful emotional responses from facts?
  8. Do you try to look at things from someone else’s perspective when you encounter conflict or misunderstanding?
  9. When confronting bad behavior, are you willing to address the behavior rather than the personality?
  10. Can you put aside your personal feelings and emotions for the good of the group?
  11. Are you willing to “stay in the space” and be present with others even when things get tense and uncomfortable?
  12. Do you try to appreciate and even embrace diversity in all its forms?
  13. Do you have a good sense of who you are and what you believe? Or are you still trying actively to discover and live out your purpose?
  14. Do you believe in the people with whom you “do church?”
  15. Are you willing to do the right thing, even if it’s not the most expedient, convenient, or non-controversial thing?
  16. Do you have a good sense of where you end and others begin?
  17. Do you have ideas about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?
  18. Are you willing to hear the ideas of others about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?

Did you answer “yes” to any of them? If so, guess what? Yep, you’re already a leader. Did you answer “yes” to a few of these and “I wish!” to a few more? If so, the Moravian Leadership Network is for emerging leaders like you and already established leaders as well!

How important are leaders in the church or any organization, for that matter?

According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge“Leadership makes a significant difference in levels of engagement and commitment and is perhaps the most important asset in every organization, yet recent research points to a shortage of leaders. It is a serious global concern. The shortage, however, is not because of the lack of potential talent. The people are out there, the eagerness is out there, and the capability is out there. The shortage results from prevailing myths—myths about talent, strengths, position, self-reliance, and effort—that inhibit the vast majority of leaders from shining and organizations from realizing the full benefits of the talent they already have.”

Leadership Graphic

Moravian leaders should shine and we should be realizing the full benefits of our significant existing talent. Leaders are a lot like Christians, in that we are always becoming better ones! It’s a process, isn’t it? Though we are a small denomination, we are blessed in that we have a tremendous resource designed to help us grow into our best selves, as Christians and as leaders. The Moravian Leadership Network (MLN), a program of the Board of Cooperative Ministries, joins and strengthens leaders in the Moravian Church, Southern Province through experiential, group-oriented learning. We hope to broaden and deepen the pool of Moravian leaders, people who will dedicate themselves to accomplishing worthwhile goals with a sense of vision, excitement and common good, creating a future of greater possibilities.

Each year, a diverse group of Moravians from various congregations meets four times for meaningful face-to-face sessions. To date, 40 participants from over 20 different congregations have completed the program, which emphasizes spiritual leadership, personal development, relationship-building, conflict and change management, and Moravian history, polity/structure, and theology. Participants envision the Moravian Church’s dynamic future and make valuable connections with others who will journey alongside them.

The church of the 21st century will fulfill its mission with committed members who are grounded in their faith, understand congregational life, and join together with others to provide the leadership we need. Visit http://bit.ly/MLN2016 for more information and to apply for a future class.  The application period for the Class of 2017 begins May 1 and goes through July 2016.

We hope that you will participate in or encourage others in your faith community to participate in an upcoming MLN program.  May the God of hope and love encourage and strengthen all of us to pursue and practice a faith that will shape our leadership for the sake of God’s kingdom, here on earth as it is in heaven.

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Kouzes & Posner have a new book out soon. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader describes five things you can do to increase your leadership quotient:

  1. Believe in Yourself.  Believing in oneself is the essential first step in developing leadership competencies. The best leaders are learners, and they can’t achieve mastery until and unless they truly decide that inside them there is a person who can make and difference and learn to be a better leader than they are right now.
  2. Aspire to Excel. To become an exemplary leader, people have to determine what they care most about and why they want to lead. Leaders with values-based motivations are the most likely to excel. They also must have a clear image of the kind of leader they want to be in the future—and the legacy they want to leave for others.
  3. Challenge Yourself. Challenging oneself is critical to learning leadership. Leaders have to seek new experiences and test themselves. There will be inevitable setbacks and failures along the way that require curiosity, grit, courage, and resilience in order to persist in learning and becoming the best.
  4. Engage Support. One can’t lead alone, and one can’t learn alone.It is essential to get support and coaching on the path to achieving excellence. Whether it’s family, managers at work, or professional coaches, leaders need the advice, feedback, care, and support of others.
  5. Practice Deliberately. No one gets better at anything without continuous practice. Exemplary leaders spend more time practicing than ordinary leaders. Simply being in the role of a leader is insufficient. To achieve mastery, leaders must set improvement goals, participate in designed learning experiences, ask for feedback, and get coaching. They also put in the time every day and make learning leadership a daily habit.

 

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Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). She also directs, with a dedicated planning team, the Moravian Leadership Network program for the Southern Province.  

 

The First Step to a Healthy Board: The Board Member Notebook

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It’s that time of year, when new members join the church board. Some will meekly slide into their seats and hope to fade into the woodwork. Others proudly announce, “I’m baa-aa-ck!” as their colleagues smile politely and groan inwardly. Whether it’s uncertain newbies, grizzled veterans, or perfectly normal, committed volunteers, a well-organized board notebook can provide members with much-needed structure and information as the board organizes for another year of important ministry work.

At the very least, a comprehensive Board member notebook should contain the following:

  • A Brief History of the Church: No, we haven’t all heard the story. A short, concise history can remind us of what is inspiring and motivating about your faith community AND can reinforce people’s commitment to serve in a leadership capacity. (NOTE: if this short history isn’t on your website, it really should be.)
  • Mark Your Calendars! Provide not only a list of upcoming board meetings (be sure to include the actual dates and times even if this is a standing meeting – i.e. the third Thursday – anything you can do to remind people of attendance is helpful), but also include any programmatic and/or major events coming up in the life of the church.
  • List of Current Board Members: In an ideal world, the document should include not just contact information for each member but a little more. Including a brief bio and photo with this list could be especially helpful for new members. Be sure to include email addresses and preferred phone numbers (they may have a home phone but never answer it) for ease of communication. It is also helpful to include all pertinent contact information for the church itself: mailing and street address, website, any social media accounts, etc.
  • Board Roles and Responsibilities: This could be formatted like a job description ornotebook - org chart Frequently Asked Questions. Perhaps it summarizes information outlined in your bylaws or organizing documents. Regardless of its origin, it should succinctly describe the roles, responsibilities and expectations of the board, board members, as well as officers – vice-chair, secretary, even pastor. If such a document does not exist, perhaps a small subcommittee of the board could create something for approval by the board. Having, sharing, and discussing this information will save countless heartaches, conflicts, and misunderstandings in the future.
  • List of Board Committees and/or Ministry Teams: This should include information about the purpose or charge of each of these groups, their members, and meeting schedules. This will be especially helpful if board members are required to serve on church subcommittees as part of their board service.
  • Program and Ministry Highlights: What are the fundamental ministries and/or programs of your congregation? Who are the primary contact people? When/how do they operate? Don’t assume that everyone on the board will somehow know all of this information.
  • Any Current Strategic Planning Documents: Do you have a mission statement? A 5-year plan? Don’t include these if they are outdated or not being used.
  • Approved Budget for the Year
  • Most Recent Monthly Financial Reports: This will help a new board member understand the organization’s actual revenue and expense vs. budget. It’s helpful to go over the report format the first time a new member sees these reports. What is the difference between income and expense? What is a designated fund? Don’t assume everyone knows how to read a financial document.
  • Organizational Documents: Any by-laws, constitution, written operating procedures, and, for churches that are part of the Moravian Church, Southern Province, a copy of the Book of Order (or pages most relevant to your congregation) would be most helpful.
  • Board Meeting Minutes: Provide minutes for at least the past three or four meetings.
  • Agenda for the First Board Meeting

Other items to include:

  • Church and/or ministry brochures: any printed materials that the church distributed should be in the inside pocket of the notebook as board members should be aware that these materials exist and are available.
  • Any other current event brochures, newsletters, promotional items, etc.

An Example: The Board of Cooperative Ministries provides each new member with a notebook containing five tabs, organized as follows:

  • Tab 1: General Board Information (BCM overview, calendars, contact information, roles and responsibilities, staff information)
  • Tab 2: Meeting Agendas & Minutes
  • Tab 3: Financial Reports & Budgets
  • Tab 4: Board Action & Organization (this includes information about major past board actions as well as additional handouts board members might receive at meetings)
  • Tab 5: Subcommittee and/or Board Work Notes (this includes subcommittee information along with space for the member to include whatever additional notes or information they would like)

Of course, it’s ideal if you hold a special board orientation to go over the notebook and all of its great material. This is also a great time of year for a board retreat, which can provide some extra time for folks to concentrate on congregational needs and issues. Need some ideas about how to get going as a board in the new year? Call us at 336-722-8126 or email bcm@mcsp.org. We’re here to help! The first five congregations to reach out to us will get a free copy of the excellent book Best Practices for Effective Boards by E. LeBron Fairbanks. What are you waiting for?

rcb-Ruth Cole Burcaw is a member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. She is also the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province.