Leaders unlock secrets of successful urban churchesBy Andrew Clouse For Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church USA
Understand holistic witness in their context;
Have sound stewardship practices and knowledge (financial, practical, church management);
Have a plan for leadership development;
Work at undoing racism; and
Develop strong partnerships.
Guyton said this list will form the heart of the strategy that the denomination puts together. It was influenced by MC USA’s seven priorities and its Purposeful Plan — guiding documents approved by delegates at the Pittsburgh convention.
(The seven churchwide priorities are Christian formation, Christian community, holistic Christian witness, stewardship, leadership development, undoing racism and advancing intercultural transformation, and church-to-church relationships.)
Leonard Dow, pastor at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in Philadelphia, said the forums provide a rare opportunity for leaders in urban centers to come together to share stories and strategies.
“To be able to sit and talk with these pastors, for me, that was as edifying as anything else,” he said. “I had no idea what was going on there in Chicago in the network of Hispanic churches. I think, ‘Wow! The church needs to hear these stories.’ ”
Those leading the consultations have also started a Google group called Mennonite Urban Ministry Worker to post news and to continue the conversations beyond the consultations.
The denomination’s work in supporting urban ministries has come from the realization that much of the church’s growth has been in urban centers, Guyton said. Urban congregations tend to be tuned in to the pressing needs around them, such as poverty, immigration and social justice concerns.
Dow said the list of best practices will aid fledgling churches in urban centers, as well as suburban and rural churches that are trying to respond to the needs in their communities.
“When I started pastoring 12 years ago, I wasn’t aware of any best practices out there as it related to congregational development, and specifically how the Anabaptist flavor plays into an urban environment,” he said.
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