CM 520 Final Exam
8 December 2013
2) How can church discipline be applied in your CE setting? What are the benefits for CE?
The setting for my church is a rural area in North Carolina. The church currently has a successful Christian school as a part of their outreach into the community, and thus a successful Christian education program. The school, which operates from Kindergarten through twelfth grade, has a student body of approximately one-hundred and fifty students. However, the by-laws of the school are written up in such a way that the school is a ministry of the church and falls under the leadership of the elders. This presents certain implications as it pertains to discipline.
The church elders are responsible for all matters related to church discipline, including the Christian academy. So, how can this administrative setup be applied practically as it pertains to discipline? The elders of the church are the supreme authority for discipline. Thus, when certain matters arise in the school that merit discipline, the elders are always consulted on the decision. The application of this discipline policy works very much like a military “chain of command”. The academy has a headmaster who is involved in the day-to-day affairs of the school. This headmaster is the most knowledgeable person about discipline issues and serves as the “first line of defense”. When an issue arises, however, that is beyond his normal scope of operations, he consults the elder board. The elder board is briefed about the problem, presented with multiple courses of actions and settle on a decision about what to do. Following this decision, the elders themselves are involved with the family affected by the incident. This is the normal formula for matters relating to discipline within our Christian education program.
How does this benefit those involved? I believe there is a very practical benefit derived from this methodology. The school, which is a ministry of the church, has direct interaction with the pastor and the elders of the church when a serious matter arises. I find this to be an extremely important variable in the equation of Christian education. If the church is to take upon itself the responsibility of Christian education, then those receiving the education must see the leadership actively at work when matters of discipline arise. These are extremely volatile times in a church, and most especially when dealing with the age group of teenagers and younger.
3) How would you go about recruiting and training and developing a leadership team for CE if you were starting out today?
In the assembling of a leadership team, recruiting and training are the first and most essential tasks of the leader. If were recruiting a leadership team, I would begin with the qualifications. Would the desire be for someone with a degree in Christian education? Would this be a screening criteria? What would be the determining factors for those comprising the team?
In the case of our church here, we have the Christian school that I mentioned. The screening criteria would certainly have to be, at a minimum, a degree from an accredited institution. The preference would certainly be for someone with this degree. The “invisible qualifications” for this position would be character references. How does this person act while under pressure? What is the history of this person in dealing with impressionable children?
In looking for these qualifications, I would make a list of bible schools and colleges with known and accredited education programs. I would make connections with them, inform them of the demographics of my area, and let them know who I am looking for. The hope in making this connection would be a lasting and consistent flow of excellent candidates for Christian education to come.
The leadership team would also need someone with great people skills. This person could come from a business background, but would more likely have a marketing background. This person would be the “face” of the program and provide all of the interaction between the community and the Christian school. Like the above criteria, one could go to colleges to find such a person to be recruited for the leadership team. However, connections could be made with other Christian schools as well in this effort, and methodology could be gleamed from them.
Now, as far as the business of training goes, this would require much more action on my part. The training would all have to be centered around the mission and vision of the Christian education program. This could be a group effort to determine the mission and vision, or it could simply be “handed” to them. In either case, the training should revolve around that. Once we know our mission and vision, then we can clearly train our leadership to execute the tasks for the accomplishment of that mission.
The task of training would likely take place over the course of one week. One week prior to the beginning of the program, the team would be assembled for training which would last approximately 40 hours. This training would consist of education in structure, responsibilities, daily tasks, and team coordination. Once this initial training is completed, there would need to be periodic “refresher” courses for the team to ensure maximum cohesion. The end result of all the recruitement and training would be efficient accomplishment of the mission and vision.
Sermon Evaluation Assignment
3 December 2013
Since April of this year, I had been teaching systematically through the book of I John. The sermon that I got evaluated on was my final sermon at my church in Toccoa, GA over the final passage in I John. I am in the middle of transitioning from Associate Pastor in Toccoa, GA to Senior Pastor in Whiteville, NC. The gentlemen evaluating me were all either current or retired bible or theology professors at Toccoa Falls College.
The message that I preached for my evaluation was a particularly difficult text. It dealt with the verses in 1 John that mentions the “sin that leads to death” and the “sin that does not lead to death”. If I were smarter, I would have strategically picked an easier text to deal with for my evaluation! However, the real world deals with many bodies of text that are difficult to interpret, but the faithful pastor must present the word faithfully, and I felt that I owed it to my congregation to finish my series on 1 John with them.
What I discovered in my preparation with the “Homiletical Bridge” was that I had a difficult time forcing everything to be concise and fit into a singular thought pattern. I understand that this is the purpose of the tool, so I did not have a problem with it. To be truthful, I rather enjoyed the work of trying to make everything fit into such a concise instrument. It really forced me to better “package” the sermon when I forced myself to go through the exercises of sermon preparation with the homiletical bridge.
I learned several interesting things as I sorted through the evaluations of those filling out the evaluation forms. I certainly tried to discover what I could gleam from these forms, since all of these men held earned doctorates and had spent their entire lives teaching students the art of sermon preparation and sermon delivery. Most of the information that I found most useful and beneficial had everything to do with vocabulary, grammar, and other speech related aspects to preaching.
For example, I found similar input on several different forms related to grammatical errors. Much of this, I reconciled, had to do with my southern upbringing. I was cited on phrases such as “would have went”, which my wife informed me was absolutely terrible use of the English language! However, in the entirety of my life, no one had ever informed that this was incorrect English. Part of the reason for these errors has to do with my preaching style, I believe. I do not read from a manuscript and I do not use notes either. I simply prepare a “power point” presentation and use the slides to cue me to the content of what I would like to say. As a result, I tend to slip into a southern vernacular that I would never use if I actually prepared a manuscript and read from it.
In the past, I have tried to prepare a manuscript and read from it. However, I have found, and received confirming critique, that I do not preach as well when I read from a manuscript. My personality lends itself to interacting with the congregation and, in my mind, I would rather have these grammatical errors than lose the interaction with the congregation that seems to be one of my stronger suits when it comes to preaching. However, being made aware of these grammatical errors is certainly going to be a big help to me moving forward in my preaching career.
The other aspect of the critiques that I found most interesting had to do with the variation in perception of my treatment of the text. There were certain evaluations that felt I treated the text unfairly and that I only dealt with the final verse of the chapter. One of the evaluations said that I dealt with the last verse exclusively and avoided what I admitted was difficult. However, there were other evaluators that gave nothing but high marks in this same category and said that they were challenged by the message. When I consider those evaluating me on this sermon, I know that some of those who felt that I did not deal with the entire text were Greek professors who, I am sure, knew much more of the particular text than I myself did. One of the evaluators approached me after the service and let me know his opinion on that subject. Again, there are times when I feel that this has more to do with personality than anything else. I informed the congregation that certain people were evaluating me for a seminary assignment, and I believe that this puts certain people in an “evaluation mindset”. As many people as there were who thought that I did not deal with the entire text, there were an equal number of those who expressed opinions that were completely the opposite. One of these professors, whom I do not know for sure if they evaluated me, informed me that it was one of the best sermons he had ever heard. How does one explain this? Again, I will seek to take away as much as I can from these critiques, but cushion it with the understanding that different personalities simply see things differently.
Overall, this exercise was extremely beneficial for me. Pastors tend to, at least in my experience, receive much positive affirmation of their sermons and as much “hard coaching”, especially from those who are experts in the field. I will keep these evaluations with me and look at them periodically to remind myself of those things that I struggle with. In all honesty, this was probably the single most beneficial exercise that I have been a part of in all my seminary experience. I am grateful that this was a part of this class, and I do believe that all students who feel the call of God on their lives to preach the gospel would benefit immensely from participation in this exercise.
3 December 2013
This project will address the implementation of small group ministry into a church with a more traditional model of ministry in place. Specifically, it will address the implementation and administration of a successful small group ministry model based upon the administrative model of a church within the same denomination located in the Atlanta, GA area. This church has experienced growth and maturity since implementing their small group ministry several years ago.
The neighboring church which is referred to is a church that had a ministry model very similar to traditional churches – a ministry model of Sunday school, Sunday morning worship services, Sunday evening worship services, and a Wednesday night prayer group. However, they decided to make a conscious shift to implementing a small group ministry. The pastor and his board went back-and-forth on the idea for a while before coming to a decision. The decision they made was to transition from being a church with small groups to becoming a church of small groups. They had a couple of small groups that were not managed or administrated by the church already meeting in the homes of various people in the congregation, and they decided to make this their “tip of the spear” in terms of the focal point of their church ministry. They decided to have small groups be the place where incorporation into the church body occurs, where discipleship occurs, where fellowship occurs, and where, ultimately, salvation occurs. This was the goal for their small group ministry at their church, and they have become extremely successful since adjusting their model.
If this model were to be implemented in our current situation, here is what would have to be accomplished. Firstly, this church was in an urban area with high concentrations of people. Neighborhoods in this area are absolutely enormous with literally hundreds of families living there. My rural setting in North Carolina has a much lower population that is spread out over larger areas of land. In this case, we should expect our timetable to be much longer than theirs. However, there are certain areas of town which tend to have more people in them than others. In this case, I would see these areas as being those where you would want to concentrate your small groups. The town is very small, so you could get a large wall map and pinpoint the locations of all the church members on the map. In doing this, it helps both the pastor and board to visualize those areas where small groups could function most efficiently. You could limit driving distance, work around family times, and stagger the meeting dates throughout the week to accommodate as many people as possible.
Most importantly, however, a decision has to be made, like the urban church, to simply put the full force of effort behind the initiative to become a church of small groups. Once this decision is made, the leadership would be the most important aspect. In our church there is only one person on staff – the pastor. Quite understandably, it would not be beneficial for the pastor to be carrying out all the functions of the church himself. You would not simply want others to manage the groups – it would, in fact, be a great necessity for the growth of the church for others to be managing the groups. So, what then, is the best way to manage these groups to minimize the chance of failure in such a concentrated effort?
The most reasonable solution, and I believe the most biblical, is to have the elders of the church run the small groups. According to the biblical qualifications of an elder as Paul puts forth in both Titus and Timothy, they are to be able to teach. This is a very basic biblical requirement for those who serve as elders in the church. In our church polity, we have an elder board, of which the pastor is the head elder. There are a board of elders in addition to the pastor whose job it is to oversee the spiritual growth, development, and welfare of the flock. Additionally, these elders already meet once per month to discuss spiritual matters. These meetings would provide the perfect opportunity to discuss matters related to the various small groups. The administration could even be set up so that each elder writes a report on their small group each month, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each group. Administrating the groups in such a way ensures not only direct oversight by a church elder, but also oversight of the elder by the elder board, which is the ultimate authority in the local church. In addition to this administrative benefit received from this structure, the church also receives a great number of spiritual benefits as well.
As in the case of the urban church, small groups become the form by which the functions of discipleship, fellowship, integration, and salvation take place. This should also be the goal of the small group ministry in our own church. It is not uncommon for a visitor to walk through the doors of the church and be completely lost as to where to go or who to talk to. In the case of our church, when you walk through the front doors you are greeted by the “Berlin Wall”, as I refer to it. There is a long, tall cinderblock wall which one must circumnavigate around in order to get to any classes or the sanctuary. The degree to which one feels welcomed to the church by a big cinderblock wall is likely not very much. However, if visitors are welcomed into the homes of congregants, who are spiritually led and fed by a capable elder of the church, the atmosphere is extremely welcoming. The likelihood of this visitor having a positive first impression of the church is exponentially greater in this case than if they are greeted by the cinderblock “Berlin Wall”.
Doing this would also accomplish the purposes of fellowship and discipleship, both of which are key components of the ministry of the local church as described in Acts 2:42-47. With integration accomplished, they then receive spiritual care under the tutelage of a church elder where they immediately are taught the Word and have some degree of accountability with this small group of which they are an important part. Once integration and discipleship take place, fellowship is really a natural outflow and outcome of these two key variables. If the visitor feels welcomed and integrated into the church, and they are fed by a capable elder and developed into a mature Christian, then the group will naturally provide fellowship with one another. So then, how do these small groups become integrated with the church body at large? Is there a way to have “cross-pollination” between groups so as to keep the church from becoming a collection of isolated groups?
If the church becomes a church of small groups – in other words, a church whose primary ministry is small groups – then Sunday morning provides a great time for the small groups to share testimonies and introduce new families to the church body. Due to the administrative structure of elder leadership, there will be effective communication between small groups as well. The church could have, as a regular part of its Sunday school offerings, or as a separate Wednesday night class, a “new members” class where all of these new families meet one another, meet the pastor, and receive an education on the particular doctrine, structure, and ministry of the church. When they decide to become members, the pastor and the small group of which they became a part of the church would publicly welcome them into church membership. Public baptisms, child dedications, and other important aspects of church ministry would take place at a later date as to the discretion of the family’s elder who is overseeing their spiritual development in the small group setting.
With this structure in place and running successfully, integration, discipleship, fellowship, and membership would become a very seamless process which could greatly enhance the reach of the church into the local community far beyond what is currently taking place. As the ministry expands, the administrative structure would need to expand with it in order to ensure proper spiritual care for those in the church. However, as you develop mature Christians, both quantitatively and qualitatively, this would not be such a difficult task.
NG, LR, & NCU
My collection of personal papers written over the years