Wednesday, October 27, 2010


How To Transform Your Church...And Yourself!

Click on any image to view it in larger format.

In the photo immediately above, Rev. Dr. Don Nations, in colorful golf shirt, is the primary speaker on church transformation, a Conference-wide initiative in which Tinney Chapel UMC is an active participant. Dr. Nations has, in fact, visited Tinney Chapel.

In the top photo, Dr. Nations and NTC East District Superintendent Paul Gould pose with the PowerPoint projector for this Oct. 7 presentation at First UMC Sulphur Springs.

This post results from an assignment by Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson for the North Texas Methodist Reporter, where the illustrated article appears in this week's (Oct. 29) issue, and may be accessed online at the following link: Simply bring up the file, then scroll down to page 5-A to find this article:

You may also click on the title of this Weblog post at the top of the page to access the article in the Oct. 29 issue of the North Texas Methodist Reporter, which had to cut the original article due to space limitations.

However, for readers of this Weblog, the original article appears below in full:

NTC church transformation
initiative in second year

A good rule for any church that wants to grow, or otherwise transform itself, is to start spending 80% of its time doing the 20% of ministry in which it excels or does best.

It’s that simple, says Rev. Dr. Don Nations, head coach of DNA Coaching, who recently concluded seminars--with both pastors and laity--throughout the Conference, ending Oct. 7 in the East District at FUMC Sulphur Springs, where he and District Superintendent, Rev. Paul Gould, signaled the start of year two in this Conference-wide church transformation initiative.

“Do excellence or don’t do ministry at all,” emphasized Dr. Nations, entirely serious, while offering specific advice for pastors and laity who are passionate about growing or transforming their churches.

Laity need to spend more time inviting people to visit their churches, suggests Dr. Nations.

“The Mormons, Buddhists and Muslims do a lot of inviting, and we United Methodists do not,” explained Dr. Nations. “All three of the others are growing in membership, but United Methodist membership is declining: You do the math! As a denomination, we need to make invitations a priority if we are to see fundamental change. Ask yourself this question: If additional church invitations brought in just four new members a year, would you notice the difference?”

Most churches would definitely notice, he emphasized, since an average worship attendance of just 80 is enough to position a church in the top 20% of the nation’s 35,000 United Methodist congregations, of which fully 25,000 are town-and-country (rural) churches.

Pastors need to start spending about a third of their time—25% to 35%--with un-churched people, suggests Dr. Nations, who is fully aware that churches must first empower their pastors to make sure this happens. He says it’s up to the pastors to figure out how to become involved in activities and organizations that ensure contact with people who do not already have church homes.

“In some areas, that might mean teaching a class at the community college,” he explained. “Or, it might mean joining the local chamber of commerce, working on a farm for a limited period, tagging along with a member of the congregation who is into sales or delivers products to customers. It might even mean, now and then, just knocking on doors in cold-call mode. Whatever it takes: Get connected!

“And the laity should remember that they have to empower their pastors to spend this kind of time with the un-churched, and this usually means that they—the laity—will have to take up the slack by doing more, or possibly most, of some things they normally consider the pastor’s job: Hospital and home visits, for instance. Otherwise, it won’t work.

“If this seems an excessive amount of time for pastors of transformative churches to spend with the un-churched, consider this point,” asked Dr. Nations: “For those pastors who are planting new church starts, we recommend spending 50%--fully half of their time—with the un-churched.”

Here, Dr. Nations cited a personal example from his own days in local church ministry, when his congregation told him they needed him primarily for three things: leadership, vision and Sunday morning worship, while the laity expected to take care of everything else.

“I did not do hospital visits, and I attended very few committee meetings,” he recalled. “Remember that we all need to spend 80% of our time doing the 20% of ministry that we do best.”

During his two-hour PowerPoint seminar, laced with wit, wisdom and lightning response to a wide variety of audience interaction, comments and questions, Dr. Nations showed just eight slides, all dealing with worship, which guided the direction for this evening’s discussion.

Slide 1, “Designing Great Worship,” suggested crafting an environment in which people can better connect with Jesus. Here, Dr. Nations reminded the audience that they can visit his website,, at any time to find a number of resources that can be downloaded free. “Log in to the client website, browse and use what works for you,” he added.

Slide 2, “Designing Worship Is Art,” suggested giving shape to a context or medium that expresses something profound, referring to interaction of the divine and the human. “During worship, most people want to experience the presence of the living God, or at least have some introspection of God in their lives.” Here, Dr. Nations asked how many in the audience were present at the Last Supper, suggesting that each time we take Holy Communion, we participate in that long-ago event. “Communion should always capture the imagination and be something really special.”

Slide 3, “Designing Worship Is Science,” meaning that worship involves lighting, sound system, pews, doors, traffic flow, heat, air conditioning—all of which need to work well to foster a dynamic worship experience. “If they don’t work, they need to be fixed!”

Slide 4, “Designing Worship Is About Us,” reminds us that worship is about the church’s history, beliefs, traditions, definitions, likes and dislikes, preferences and worship space. “For many churches, a traditional service is what they are used to, and a contemporary service is something different.”

Slide 5, “Designing Worship Should Also Be About Others,” reminds us that visitors have their own likes and dislikes and definite ideas of what works for them. “So, designing worship needs to include a willingness to try new things in order to reach new people.”

Slide 6, “Good Worship Is Defined by: content and design, not style; the amount of hope offered; life changes not life length; and, sincerity, not the type of seating,” is a way of emphasizing that we United Methodists have the best story of all the ages, and it starts today, not in the Sweet Bye And Bye. “But, we are not doing a good job of telling that story.”

Slide 7, “Great Worship Includes: the four aspects of reconciliation—people to God, people to others, people to themselves and, people to Creation,” meaning that we, as Christians who are commanded to love each other, should be the world’s best relationship experts, but we aren’t. “United Methodists are behind the curve in technology,” said Dr. Nations, who noted that his children only know screens and computers: Virtual reality IS reality for them, and to them, we seem old and out of it.”

Slide 8, “Good Worship Touches All Types,” referring to something called the Theory Of Multiple Intelligences (linguistics or words, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical),” challenging churches to appeal to all of these personality types at some point in worship or ministry. “Some people must touch someone to get anything out of the service: That’s why we have a time for greeting.”

TO CONTACT Rev. Dr. Don Nations by e-mail:

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