Three districts prepare churches for conflict, stewardship


By Stan Waldon
Dyersburg District Superintendent

 The Dyersburg, Paris and Paducah Districts have been addressing the concerns of the Small Membership Church.
Recently, the three districts came together at Martin, TN’s First United Methodist Church to spend a day talking about two important concerns in ministry today: Leading Amid Conflict Within the Church and Stewardship in the Small Membership Church. Sixty laity and pastors were present.
This was the third such gathering of the three districts that addressed the concerns of the Small Membership Church.
The first two gatherings were led by Dr. Lewis Parks of Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C.
This third gathering was led by the Rev. Tom Laney from the Turner Center at Vanderbilt University and the Rev. Betsy Heavner from the General Board of Discipleship.
The morning session dealing with conflict in the church was led by the Rev. Laney. He reminded us that conflict is not limited to a particular size church. Conflict has to be dealt with at some time in all churches. How pastors and laity prepare themselves to work through concerns and issues that confront the church is extremely important.
Rev. Laney reminded the group that we seem to be living in a culture that is quick to respond to differences. We see it daily on television in all areas of life–politics, religion, education, work place– the list continues. We often see individuals respond with argument and anger. Laney showed us ways to work through conflicts that are alternatives to arguments. He used the scriptures (Acts 15:1-21) to demonstrate how one can “move from Antioch to Jerusalem” in resolving conflict in the church.
One must recognize:
1. Where one is in the conflict.
2. Understand the emotional intensity of the conflict.
3. The need for a planned process.
4. Ground Rules for interaction are needed.
5. A facilitator or referee is needed.
The three districts enjoyed Radical Hospitality during the lunch and fellowship prepared by Mrs. Phyllis Pritchett, a member of Martin First, and several others from the congregation.
Rev. Heavner presented a basic overview of stewardship principals that are necessary for one to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
She emphasized the reclaiming of Stewardship as a mark of Discipleship. She began by reminding the group that Stewardship involves more than just money. She encouraged us to understand what our first love really is. How much do we love God? How do we develop an “attitude of gratitude” in the church? She encouraged us to check our language in relation to how we speak about stewardship. Do we have a language of scarcity, emphasizing what we don’t have or do we have a language of abundance, demonstrating the abundance with which God has blessed us.
We were encouraged to take 10 minutes each day to reflect upon that for which we are grateful.
She also reminded us that the music of the church can help express our gratitude to God for all He makes possible.
One lay person said, “This was helpful to hear an overall perspective to stewardship in the church.”
It’s always great to see laity and clergy coming together to better understand the role of being a disciple for Jesus Christ in order to be better able to help in the transformation of the world.
Both Rev. Laney and Rev. Heavner reminded us that leadership must be “lived out”. An individual from one of the churches reminded the group that “one can not just talk the talk but one must also walk the walk”.