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DOG-YEARS!

DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES AND TASKS OF THE YOUNG

METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH:

A TOOLKIT FOR CHURCH PLANTERS

____________________

A Final DMin Project

Presented to the Faculty of

Union Theological Seminary and

Presbyterian School of Christian Education

Richmond, VA

____________________

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree

Doctor of Ministry

____________________

by

Stephanie A. Burns

May 1, 2009
In his or her life,

Each person can take one of two attitudes:

to build or to plant.

Builders may take years over their tasks,

but one day they will finish what they are doing.

Then they will stop, hemmed in by their own walls.

Life becomes meaningless

once the building is finished.

Those who plant suffer the storms

and the seasons and rarely rest.

Unlike a building, a garden never stops growing.

And by its constant demands

on the gardener’s attentions,

it makes of the gardener’s life a great adventure.

from Brida by Paulo Coelho


DEDICATION

This project is dedicated to all MCC church planters past, present and future,

who have the courage to see that what is not yet, and to Metropolitan

Community Church of Fredericksburg – our journey had many peaks and

valleys but I remain thankful that we made the journey together.

And to my loving beagles Peaches and Tess, who taught me more about “Dog-

years” and acts of compassion and devotion than any mere human ever could.

You are both missed.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

i. Acknowledgements ........................................................................................ i

I. Introduction .....................................................................................................1

II. Developmental Theory...................................................................................6

III. Research Methodology .................................................................................18

IV. MCC History and Context ..........................................................................31

V. Getting to Know You ....................................................................................38

VI. The Bigger Picture .........................................................................................55

VII. Taking Responsibility – Accountability and Commitment ....................67

VIII. Moving into the Future/Revising Expectations ........................................75

IX. Conclusions ....................................................................................................88

X. Evaluation ......................................................................................................91

XI. Epilogue-After the Church Plant ................................................................96

XII. Appendix A – Questionnaires and Interview Protocols .......................101

XIII. Appendix B - Key Terms ............................................................................122

XIV. Appendix C – Tools for the Road .............................................................126

XV. Bibliography ................................................................................................141


TABLE OF CHARTS

I. MCC Church Plant Worship Styles – Initial Worship Style -


Chart 5.1 .........................................................................................................45

II. MCC Church Plant Worship Styles – Today’s Worship Style –


Chart 5.2 .........................................................................................................46

III. 2007 Church Planting Survivability and Health Study – Initial Worship
Style – Chart 5.3 ............................................................................................46

IV. Average Worship Attendance Rates - Chart 8.1 .......................................85

V. Funding from Outside Local Church Plant Sources - Chart 8.2.............86

VI. Church Plant Income - Chart 8.3.................................................................86


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

No project is ever done by an individual alone. This project is no

different. I first want to thank my wonderful partner of the past 16 years, Tracey

Kennedy, for her patience, wisdom and supreme editing skills. Without her

continued love and support, none of my work in ministry would be possible.

This project would not have been possible without the willingness of the

study congregations to participate and take the time to contribute. I thank

Peninsula MCC, Imago Dei MCC, Journey MCC, Harbor MCC,

achurch4me?MCC and the wonderfully dedicated and talented pastors of these

churches, the Revs. Terri Echelberger, Karla Fleshman, Chris Dowd, Kevin

Downer and Pat Farnan. And especially I am grateful for the members and

friends of MCC Fredericksburg who not only participated in this study but also

allowed me the privilege of serving as church planter and founding pastor.

I would like to thank all of the individuals who took time to complete

surveys and information collection sheets, including the members of the Board of

Elders, Board of Administration, Senior Staff, and former and current church

i
planters for answering the important question regarding the “success” of church

plants. And a special thank you to Leah Slone from fellowship headquarters for

compiling the denominational statistics.

I am grateful for the students and faculty of Union PSCE who offered

praise and encouragement as well as challenged me to think deeper and stretch

broader. I especially thank by faculty advisor, Dr. Jane Vann and faculty reader,

Dr. Susan Fox for their honesty, suggestions and encouragement throughout the

long process of idea through completion.

Finally, I would like to thank my accountability partners, Rev. Elder

Arlene Ackerman and the Revs. Kharma Amos and Robb Almy who each in their

own way made this final project possible.

ii
1

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

“Dog-Years! Developmental Stages and Tasks of the Young Metropolitan

Community Church: A Toolkit for Church Planters,” is a project designed to

explore whether new Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) move through

specific developmental stages and tasks over the course of the first five years of

establishment and if so, how. The project also seeks to offer tools for church

planters to lead congregations more effectively in these important first years.

The inspiration of “Dog-Years!” is drawn from the understanding that one

calendar year is equivalent to seven years in the life of a dog. I believe the same

holds true for new churches. The first year in the life of a new church may be

equivalent to five to ten years in an established church. Therefore, leadership

(specifically the church planter) must be prepared for rapid progression through

developmental stages unlike what will happen the older a church gets. Just as a

newborn cannot even crawl and a two year old can run, a new church has the

potential to grow quickly from a group of strangers to a faith community and


2

will experience challenges related to maturing of the community and the rapid

and constant nature of change.

Within the context of this project, Erik H. Erikson’s theory on

developmental stages will be used as an organizing but not defining framework.

This project seeks to identify the predictable patterns and challenges experienced

by a study group of six Metropolitan Community Churches through interviews,

examination of documents, demographic data, and surveys. Other theories are

also introduced, such as Robert Kegan’s human development theory and

Christian Schwarz’ natural church development theory, in order to provide

theoretical detail and enhance Erikson’s stage theory.

Two understandings of church, including Metropolitan Community

Church are at the foundation of this project: 1) the organic nature of church, and

2) the call to a theology of radical inclusion. I have a fundamental understanding

of the church being first and foremost an “organic” creation of God and as such a

church planter’s primary task is not as much to “choose” a model of church (i.e.

purpose driven, social justice, missional, or progressive) but to assist the church

in discovering who it is and how to actualize its fullest potential. Neil Cole

writes, “Let the Church be alive, organic, in the flesh. Let the Church be birthed
3

in places where it is most needed. Let the Church be fruitful and multiply and

fill the earth as Jesus intended.” 1

The understanding of organic church gives rise to the language of church

planting: we “plant” new churches, we “cultivate” leaders, and we scatter

“seeds” for subsequent generations. As I think of church planting

methodologies, I often think of the creation story. God had a distinct plan, in six

days, God created the earth. On the seventh day God rested. And on day eight,

the world took on a life of its own. Our current church planting methodologies

do a good job at laying out steps to the launch of a new church, but often fall

short at addressing the issues and needs that emerge following the beginning of

public worship, when the church begins to take on a life of its own.

The MCC tradition also calls us to a theology of radical inclusion or what

Alan Kreider calls scandalous inclusivity which is fundamental to our

understanding of the sacraments, of church, and of community. Kreider

describes the early church by stating, “They gathered at night, bringing together

for their ritual meals a socially scandalous inclusivity of the populace. 2” This

1 Cole, Neil. Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass,
2005), xxviii.
2 Kreider, Alan. The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock

Publishers, 2007), 30.


4

description of the early church also resonates with me in relation to MCC’s

understanding of the church and sacraments. As a denomination, we still

struggle with what this radical inclusion looks like and acts like, but it is still an

ideal we strive for. Our new church plants often embrace quickly the meaning of

the full open table of God, but in the early years still have to work out what full,

radical inclusion means beyond the communion table. This understanding of the

organic church and radical inclusion is manifest from the very beginning of a

new church. How these understandings evolve over the first few years of a new

MCC is what this project hopes to examine. In spite of the increased attention to

church planting methodologies and processes over the last decade, a church,

especially a new church is still at its root an organic community that grows and

develops as a result of a variety of factors some which may be able to be

scientifically measured or at least assessed analytically while others are far more

subjective. But as a living organism there are some basic patterns and rhythms of

a new Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) that have been observed by the

MCC church planting team that merit further and deeper exploration.
5

Every new MCC has a story to tell, a story that begins with the call of a

community and a church planter to go forth and “do a new thing.” Through

effective methodology I attempted to flesh out these stories, look for

commonalities, and to offer pro-active measures to strengthen future churches

based on the experience of the past. MCC needs its churches to continue to reach

those who are in need and on the margins. If this project can help even one

church become stronger, healthier and more vital, for me it is well worth it.
6

CHAPTER TWO

DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY

In order to explore what happens in a new MCC in the first five to seven

years of its life, this project will use Erik Erikson’s developmental theory as a

framework for two specific reasons. First, Erikson’s theory is highly accessible

for people who may or may not have had courses in psychology. Secondly,

while it is true that Erikson’s theory is limited in its application because of its

focus on the individual over and above group or community, it is precisely

Erikson’s understanding of how an individual is shaped in relation to the

environment that is particularly useful in examining issues of self-esteem and

faith development for GLBT persons.

Erikson’s developmental theory can be summarized with two major

themes: 1) the world gets bigger as we go along and 2) failure is cumulative. 3 It

is his further hypothesis that each stage builds on the successes and unresolved

issues of the previous stages. The developing person therefore, is the complex

3 Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 52.
7

combination of their innate being and the interactions of the successes and

failures at each stage.

Erikson’s first developmental stage is that of “Trust vs. Mistrust” in which

the major emphasis is learning to trust and to establish a basic confidence about

the state of the environment and the future. If unsuccessful, a deep-seated sense

of mistrust can influence how a person views the world. 4 The basic strength of

this stage is drive and hope. In human development, this stage can cover from

birth to eighteen months.

Erikson’s next developmental stage is “Autonomy vs. Shame” which

covers early childhood (eighteen months to three years). The major emphasis of

this stage is to learn skills for ourselves. Children learn to walk, talk and feed

themselves and develop self-esteem and autonomy. This is also a stage of

vulnerability in which failure to achieve these skills can lead to shame and

doubt. 5

The next stage is “Initiative vs. Guilt” which covers ages three through

five years. During this stage, children develop a tendency to copy the actions of

adults and take on self initiative and experimenting with the beginning of

4
Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 57-58.
5
Ibid., 67-69.
8

understanding how the world works and asking the wonderful question,

“Why?” The basic strength is a growing sense of purpose. During this stage if

an individual becomes frustrated over natural desires and goals, a person can

experience guilt. 6

“Industry vs. Inferiority” is a highly social stage and is marked by a

developing sense of industry. This stage covers the school age years of six

through twelve. Strengths of this time include devotion and fidelity. Difficulties

in competence and self-esteem can result from unresolved feelings of inadequacy

and inferiority. 7

The final stage of Erikson’s theory that will be included in this project is

that of “Identity vs. Role Confusion.” This stage is associated with adolescence

(ages twelve through eighteen) and marks a transition from development being

merely a response to environment and expands to include more personal

initiative in the response to environment. This stage involves the seeking an

individual identity, struggling with social interactions and grappling with moral

issues. The task is to discover and construct one’s identity beyond the family of

6
Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 78-80.
7
Ibid., 87-90.
9

origin. Unsuccessful navigation of this stage can result in withdrawing from

responsibilities and role confusion. 8

While this project does not research church developmental stages beyond

“adolescence,” the stages of: “Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation” (young

adulthood), “Generativity vs. Self Absorption or Stagnation” (middle

adulthood), and “Integrity vs. Despair” (late adulthood) would definitely merit

further research as they apply to older more established churches.

In addition, this project draws on Robert Kegan’s human development

theory and Christian Schwarz’ theory on natural church development in order to

further augment Erikson’s developmental stage theory. Whereas Erikson

focuses solely on the individual within themselves, Kegan factors in the

importance of the interaction between the individual and external factors,

influences and environments.

For example, Kegan believes that Erikson missed a stage between

“industry” and “identity.” Citing that the identity stage, with its orientation to

self alone (a time of ‘who am I?’, time, achievement, ideology and self certainty)

captures a part of the late adolescent/early adulthood phase of development, but

8
Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 94-96.
10

does not address the period of connection, inclusion and mutuality which comes

between the more independence-oriented periods of latency and identity

formation. 9

This interaction of the internal and the external leads to the individual’s

effort to make sense of experience, to seek an understanding of the meaning of

life. According to Kegan, meaning-making is a lifelong activity which begins in

infancy and continues through a series of stages encompassing childhood,

adolescence, and adulthood. 10 Kegan focuses on the internal experience of

growth and transition, its costs as well as successes. Kegan suggests that central

meaning-making activity is the continuing activity of drawing and redrawing the

distinction between self and other. Utilizing Piaget’s development theories,

Kegan asserts that each meaning-making stage is a new solution to a lifetime

tension between the desire to be connected and included in contrast with the

desire to be independent and autonomous.

From the beginning of life, Kegan asserts that “thinking” begins with the

discovery of the moving of hands and receiving the stimulus of sound and sight.

From the beginning, a newborn is shaped and formed in reaction to and by

9 Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1982) 87.
10 Ibid., 76.
11

experiencing the realities of the world beyond their own selves. Kegan refers to

the different levels of subject-object relation throughout the lifespan: 11

Stage 0: Incorporative – Sense of self not developed yet, rather emerges

from the knowledge that there are things in the world that are not self.

Stage 1: Impulsive – Sense of self is defined by impulses which coordinate

reflexes, and external people and things are understood as the means (reflex) to

satisfy those impulses (hungry, sleepy). Self is nothing more than a set of needs.

Stage 2: Imperial – Self is now aware of needs and begins to consciously

manipulate having needs met. Impulses are ordered by needs, wishes, and

interests.

Stage 3: Interpersonal – Self begins to understand that there are actually

other people beyond themselves whose needs need to be factored in. The self’s

needs are ordered by interpersonal relationships.

Stage 4: Institutional – Self begins to be identified with institutionalized,

community or cultural values. Social maturity evolves to understand the need

and value for laws and ethical codes that govern everyone’s behavior.

Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. (Cambridge, MA:
11

Harvard University Press, 1982) 86-87.


12

Stage 5: Interindividual – Self begins to recognize and accept a diversity

in the ways a person may view and act in the world and still be acting in

accordance to a coherent value system, even if different.

During growth and loss of the impulsive self, the person experiences

transformation in order to emerge from the deep rootedness in impulses and

perceptions. The young individual moves toward a new self sufficiency and

discovers the other sufficiency of the world (reality orientation). 12

During growth and loss of the imperial self, the child strives to be correct

and accept rules and roles. The adolescent develops the interpersonal balance

among peers. Strong support is required for the process of evolution from the

embeddedness of the imperial stage. Eventually, the young individual accepts

the new balance and the person enters the institutional balance of the ideological

adulthood. Key to Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory is an

understanding that every event, crisis or problem can be understood as a

movement towards growth.

Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. (Cambridge, MA:
12

Harvard University Press, 1982) 119.


13

Christian Schwarz’ theory of natural church development begins with the

belief that churches have a God-given potential within to grow, what he calls

“biotic potential.” He articulates that church growth can be better understood by

looking at the lessons of growth found in nature, because the church is a living

organism. 13 Schwarz’ “Biotic Paradigm” of natural church development

contrasts with what he terms, the “Technocratic Paradigm” which overestimates

the significance of institutions, programs, and methods, and the “Spiritualistic

Paradigm,” which underestimates the significance of institutions, programs, and

methods. 14

Schwarz identifies eight distinctive quality characteristics which are more

developed in growing churches than in those experiencing zero or negative

growth. The following is a summary of his eight principles, which for Schwarz,

characterizes, universally, all growing churches: 15

1) Empowering Leadership – Leaders of healthy, growing

congregations concentrate their energy on the empowerment of others for

ministry. In this, they purpose to help others attain the spiritual potential God

Schwarz, Christian A. Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy
13

Churches (Carol Stream, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 1996) 8-9.


14
Ibid., 14.
15
Ibid., 11.
14

has for them. These pastors, church, and lay leaders equip, support, motivate,

and mentor individual members, enabling them to be all God wants them to be.

Schwarz notes that pastors of growing churches are not only those who purpose

to equip and release others into ministry but are those who regularly seek

counsel from people outside their own congregations.

2) Gift-Oriented Ministry - The role of church leadership is to assist its

members in the identification of their gifts and to integrate them into appropriate

ministries. Of all the variables extracted from this part of his study, Schwarz sees

that the most effective churches are those who provide lay-training for their staff,

helping them to minister within the realm of their own giftedness.

3) Passionate Spirituality – Healthy churches are passionate about

their relationship with God. They believe and value living committed lives and

practicing their faith with joy and enthusiasm. Passionate spirituality comes

from everyone discovering their place within the larger body. Interestingly,

Schwarz confirms the notion that individuals walking in spiritual passion also

demonstrate great enthusiasm for their particular congregations. He also notes

that congregants from healthy, growing churches experience prayer as an

inspiring experience.
15

4) Functional Structures – False paradigms, which consciously or

unconsciously influence many churches, must be understood. Traditionalism

stands as a polar opposite to functional church structures. While only one in ten

qualitatively above-average churches struggles with traditionalism, every other

declining church of lower quality is plagued by it. But “Functional Structures”

goes beyond this, asking leaders to consider whether their leadership style is

demeaning, whether church services are conducted at inconvenient times, or

whether church programming is really reaching its intended audience. In

essence, the needs of the gathered community dictate decision and structure as

opposed to the structure dictating decisions.

5) Inspiring Worship Services – Members of growing churches

describe the worship services at their churches as an ‘inspiring experience’.

When worship inspires, it draws people to the services all by itself. Schwarz

warns churches, however, against seeking to reproduce a particular worship

model at a growing congregation with the hope that it will cause growth in your

own church. Inspiring worship is not limited to any one type of “style” and

churches that seek to copy another successful church’s style will not achieve
16

inspiring worship, unless the service is truly reflective of the core community’s

excitement of worship.

6) Holistic Small Groups - Schwarz states, “If we were to identify any

one principle as the most important, then without doubt it would be the

multiplication of small groups. They must be holistic small groups which go

beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life.” 16

The vision to see these small groups reproduce, characterizes the healthiest of

churches surveyed. The great majority of growing churches also indicated that it

was more important for members to be involved in a small group than attend

church.

7) Need Oriented Outreach – While fulfilling the Great Commission is

the responsibility of all believers, Peter Wagner estimates that no more than ten

percent of all Christians have the gift of evangelism. 17 Churches with the highest

growth rates, according to Schwarz, appear to have a clear understanding of

which members of their church have the gift of outreach into the community.

8) Loving Relationships – Growing churches possess, on average, a

measurably higher capacity to express love through word and deed, than

16 Schwarz, Christian A. Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy
Churches (Carol Stream, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 1996) 11.
17 Wagner, C. Peter. Church Planting for a Greater Harvest (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990) 10.
17

stagnant, declining ones. They practice hospitality as people of faith and

regularly invite people from inside and outside of the church into their homes.

Today people are hungering to see Christ’s love in action, not simply talked

about. Schwarz’s research also demonstrates a very strong link between

churches characterized by a ‘light-heartedness’ where there is laugher and joy,

with churches that are growing.

Schwarz asserts that no church that wishes to grow can ignore any of

these eight characteristics. For a seed to grow, the soil composition must be

conducive to such growth. Each of these characteristics has a positive

relationship to both quantitative and qualitative growth. Schwarz believes when

these eight principles are applied, the church will inherently generate growth.

These theories form the background in which the collected data from the

sample congregations will be assessed. Erikson’s theory will serve as the basis

for the organization of the project and Kegan’s and Schwarz’ theories will

broaden the theoretical scope and foundation of the project.


18

CHAPTER THREE

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

For the purposes of this project, I identified seven congregations to invite

to be part of the study. All of these churches are in their first seven years of

worship and their founding pastor is either still present or has left within the

past year. Of these seven, six agreed to participate in this study. These included:

achurch4me MCC (Chicago, IL); Harbor MCC (Galveston, TX); Imago Dei MCC

(Media, PA); Journey MCC (Birmingham, England); MCC Fredericksburg

(Fredericksburg, VA); and Peninsula MCC (San Mateo, CA)18.

achurch4me?MCC (Chicago, IL)

achurch4me?MCC began the church planting process in 2006 with regular

public worship beginning in 2007. Located in Chicago, IL, this church plant was

a targeted church start in a city where previous MCC church starts have not been

sustainable beyond a few years. In spring of 2007, the church began organizing a

18This is a small research group, but represents the total number of MCCs in formation that meet
the parameters of this project.
19

series of four Interfaith Worship Services to take place at the new LGBT

Community Center, each Sunday morning in June. The average worship

attendance was 35 in their first year and 50 in their second year.

achurch4me?MCC doubled in membership between years one and two, growing

from 25 to 31. The median age of the congregation is between 35 and 40 and is

defined as being fairly diverse from a socio-economic perspective with many

working class parents, social workers, a few high income earners and several

members on disability/SSI.

The dominant religious backgrounds of those who attend regularly are

Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Baptist and MCC. The church began

with an intended blended traditional and contemporary worship style, with the

plan to evolve worship from what was familiar to something more innovative.

Currently, the church defines its worship style as postmodern or emerging.

Today, achurch4me is a growing movement offering community, spiritual

growth, and small group activities.


20

Harbor MCC (Galveston, TX)

Harbor MCC defines itself as, “a growing, Progressive Christian

Congregation full of God’s love and spirit.” 19 Harbor MCC began the church

planting process in 2004 with a church planter who worked on the church plant

for one year. Following his departure, the church called its founding pastor who

led the church in the final formation stages prior to the beginning of regular

public worship in 2006. The average worship attendance during the first three

years has gone from 12 to 20 and in 2008, declined to 12. Membership grew from

26 its first year to 32 its second and then declined to 23 its third year. A pivotal

event in this church came from the impact of hurricane Ike in 2008, which left the

congregation homeless, as well as uprooting many of the members. The

congregation is still working to recover from the impact of the hurricane on the

entire Galveston, TX community.

The dominant religious backgrounds of those who attend regularly are

Roman Catholic and Baptist. The church began with an intentional blended

traditional and contemporary worship style and today is experimenting with

different styles, with no particular style being dominant.

19 Harbor MCC, http://www.harbormcc.org/page1.php (accessed April 17, 2008).


21

Imago Dei MCC (Media, PA)

Imago Dei MCC’s website welcomes all by stating, “We are a Church

passionate about God, the Bible, and the call to live our lives with purpose and

passion. We celebrate diversity and independent thought as each person works

out their spiritual journey within the context of community.” 20

Located in the suburbs on Philadelphia, PA, Imago Dei MCC began the

church planting process in 2000 with regular public worship beginning in 2001.

Worship attendance peaked between 2003-2005 in the mid-forties, then began to

decline and had an average worship attendance of 31 in 2008. The median age

has shifted from 27 when the church first started to 45 today. The median

income is currently $28,000 (US) per year.

The dominant religious backgrounds of those who attend regularly are

Roman Catholic, various mainline protestant, and no previous church

experience. The church began with a blended traditional and contemporary

worship style and has shifted to postmodern or emerging today.

20 Imago Dei MCC, http://www.imagodeimcc.org/about/ (accessed April 17, 2008).


22

Journey MCC (Birmingham, England)

Located in Birmingham, England, Journey MCC was started in a

community that had a MCC close three years earlier. Journey MCC was formed

with the underlying question, “Like God, don’t like church?” From their

website, Journey states that it “is made up of many different people, our only

goal is to create a space where we are able to explore, discuss, worship, listen and

serve our community.” 21 The church meets in a converted railway arch

underneath one of the main stations in Birmingham. There is a strong emphasis

placed on small group activities, environmentalism, and fair trade issues.

Journey MCC began the church planting process in 2004 with regular

public worship beginning in 2005. Average attendance has increased steadily

from 12 people per Sunday in its first year to over 30 in worship in 2008.

Likewise, membership has grown from 12 its first year, to 40 in 2008.

The dominant religious backgrounds of those who attend regularly are

Roman Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and free church. The church began with

a postmodern or emerging worship style which has evolved to a more defined

contemporary worship style today.

21 Journey MCC, http://www.journeymcc.com/ (accessed April 17, 2008).


23

MCC Fredericksburg (Fredericksburg, VA)

“Whoever you are, no matter how long it's been since you've been to

church, you have a home with us.” 22 Located 60 miles south of Washington, DC,

MCC Fredericksburg began the church planting process in 2002 with regular

public worship beginning in 2003. Worship attendance grew from 32 its first

year and peaked at 42 in its second year. Since its second year, worship

attendance has been on the decline, with a significant decrease to 18 after the

departure of the founding pastor. The church is primarily working class with a

median education level of 1 year of college or less. Less than 50 percent of the

congregation has access to affordable, adequate health insurance and care. Even

prior to the recent economic downturn, the unemployment rate among

congregants was a consistent 15 percent.

The dominant religious backgrounds of those who attend regularly are

Roman Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, and Seventh Day Adventist. The church

began with a blended traditional and contemporary worship style which has

evolved to a fellowship, relational, small group style of worship today.

22 MCC Fredericksburg, http://www.mccfburg.org/page15.html (accessed April 17, 2008).


24

Peninsula MCC (San Mateo, CA)

“Peninsula MCC (originally known as That New Church) began

worshipping together on Easter Sunday of 2005. With an average attendance of

45 and growing, we are a friendly and diverse congregation made up primarily

of LGBT and queer people. (We are about 10% straight.)” 23 Peninsula MCC

began the church planting process in 2004 with regular public worship beginning

in 2005. Worship attendance grew from 30 its first year to 40 in 2008. During

that same time period, membership grew from 30 to 48. The median age of the

congregation is 40, with the median economic class being middle class.

The dominant religious backgrounds of those who attend regularly are

Roman Catholic, main line Protestant, Buddhist, and those without previous

religious experience. Peninsula MCC began with a worship style that was

blended traditional and contemporary and that has remained the worship style

of the community.

Data collection from these churches included attendance and membership

figures over the life of the new church, pre-launch and post-launch demographic

23 Peninsula MCC, http://www.peninsulamcc.org/aboutus.html (accessed April 17, 2008).


25

data, giving patterns, and church budgets. Documents were collected from both

the denomination (MCC Strategic Plan, and the MCC Church Planting Initiative

Overview) and from the local study congregations. From the local churches,

documents included denominational annual reports, annual budgets, annual

pastor’s reports, Board of Directors’ meeting minutes, congregational meeting

agendas and minutes, local church bylaws and standard operating procedures, 24

as well as copies of the original feasibility studies. Local churches were also

asked to complete an information gathering sheet that included pertinent facts

and dates about the development of the church such as launch date, membership

numbers by year, and a brief timeline of the history of the congregation

including any significant events (both internal and external) that shaped the life

of the community. In addition to information gathered from both the local

churches and the denomination, I draw on community demographic information

and information contained in the “Church Plant Survivability and Health Study

2007” by Ed Stetzer and Phillip Connor of the Center for Missional Research,

North American Mission Board.

24Most new MCCs used standardized bylaws and standard operating procedures provided by
the Fellowship; however some contextual and cultural variations can result in minor changes.
26

The Church Survivability and Health Study was conducted in September

2006 jointly by the Church Planting Group and the Center for Missional Research

of the North American Mission Board. The purpose of the study was to gain

insight into the state of church plant survivability in the United States as well as

identify factors that contribute to the growth and health of church plants. A total

of thirteen different denominations participated, all of which self-identify as

evangelical. This sample of 2,266 church plants represents one of the largest

church plant-specific ecumenical research studies in the United States in the past

ten years.

While from a theological perspective, the Church Planting Survivability

and Health Study is limited to a narrow part of the diverse spectrum of

theological understandings that comprise Metropolitan Community Churches,

there is merit in comparing the findings with those of the MCCs which

participated in this study. It was the Church Planting Survivability and Health

Study questionnaire that was used as a foundation to develop the MCC Church

Planter’s Pastor survey.

The information from inside the church, the denomination, and beyond

allows for some base-line comparisons and initial explorations into whether or
27

not any obvious patterns emerge. This baseline data is important in some initial

comparisons, but is limited in its ability to tell “the rest of the story” of the

various mitigating factors and contextual issues that can impact the life of a

church. Qualitative data gathering methods augmented the document-focused

quantitative material. This allowed for greater exploration of the organic nature

of church and allowed for the stories that describe developmental transitions to

emerge. These stories could include experiences with conflict, leadership

selection and development, worship style emergence, and core value emergence.

I also designed three surveys. The first was a simple survey sent to 31

people, including: all members of MCC’s Board of Elders, Board of

Administration, senior denominational staff, current church planters and former

churches planters. This survey asked the question, “How do you define success

within a MCC Church Plant? Please elaborate.” For this survey (see Appendix

A, pgs. 87-88), the response rate was over 54 percent (17 respondents of 31

surveys).

The second survey was designed for church planters (see Appendix A,

pgs. 89-101) and was a combination information gathering about the history and

context of the church plant and a written interview. The information gathering
28

portion was adapted from the 2007 Church Survivability and Health Study in

order to make some comparisons. The survey response rate was 100 percent.

The final survey was developed for attendees and participants in the six

local study congregations (see Appendix A, pgs. 102-104). This method of data

collection gave me access to a variety of different categories of people within the

church communities (church planters, launch team members, others) and

allowed me to look again for correlations in perspectives based on the

individuals’ role within the system, as well as allow for the emergence of

potential patterns. Of the total 45 respondents, 3 were excluded as they self-

identified being from congregations other than the six study congregations. Of

the remaining 42 responses: 18 were from achurchforme?MCC (42 percent), 9

were from Peninsula MCC (21 percent), 7 were from Journey MCC (16percent), 4

were from Imago Dei MCC (9 percent), 3 were from MCC Fredericksburg (7

percent) and 1 was from Harbor MCC (2 percent).

Over 66 percent of the survey respondents identified as being part of the

initial launch team or beginning within the first year of public worship. Forty

percent identified as being leaders in the church and another 26 percent

identified as being active participants in the community.


29

Data from all sources was analyzed and correlated according to the

established theoretical framework in order to describe both a pattern of new

church development and its variations. Interpretation includes an explanation of

factors not anticipated and unexpected results, as well as a discussion of any

contradictions that emerged and possible explanations (if any). The

interpretation also includes explanations of key findings, an examination of

context and contributing factors, and raises questions and makes

recommendations for further research. 25

As MCC continues to wrestle with identifying the most effective

methodologies and approaches to MCC church planting, there are many areas

that warrant research and study that will fall outside the scope of this study.

This study is focused solely on the beginning years of our church plants, and

does not examine patterns or stages of our older, established churches. Nor does

it seek correlations between life cycle events or older churches and their relation

to events in the first few years.

While finding a means to ascertain causality of life cycle events in our

church planting process would have definitive benefits, this, too, falls outside the

Cahalan, Kathleen A. Projects That Matter: Successful Planing & Evaluation for Religious
25

Organizations, 72.
30

scope of this project. This study confines itself to noting similarities and

differences in the life-cycle of new church plants and in making correlations

between those life cycle stages and other human development theories.

This project researches current, active MCC church plants, but does not

research church plants that have closed or never made it to the post-launch

phase. While important research is needed of both, for the purpose of this

project, only current churches will be included so as not to add too many base-

line variables for consideration during assessment. Additionally, due to the

distance between proposed study church plants (North America and England)

all data collection was done remotely by telephone, internet surveys, mail

surveys and other information collection methods.


31

CHAPTER FOUR

MCC HISTORY AND CONTEXT

In 1968, a year before New York's Stonewall Riots, a series of events


in Southern California resulted in the birth of the world's first
church group with a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians,
bisexual, and transgender persons. Those events included a failed
relationship, an attempted suicide, a reconnection with God, an
unexpected prophecy, and the birth of a dream. Together they led
to MCC's first worship service: a gathering of 12 people in Rev.
Troy Perry's living room in Huntington Park, California on October
6, 1968… 26

And thus began the movement that became Metropolitan Community Church.

In the forty years since its founding, MCC systems and structures continue to

evolve and refine in a search to find the best way to move this new

denominational movement forward and continues to re-define mission, vision

and core values in a changing context.

In the early years of the movement it was believed that MCC would serve

merely as a placeholder, until mainline denominations “got it” and welcomed

the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people into their folds. This was the

Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), Board of Elders (2005),


26

MCC Strategic Plan, p. 3, http://www.mccchurch.net (accessed June 10, 2008).


32

prevailing wisdom of the young denomination until September 1972 when the

newly ordained Rev. Jim Sandmire spoke at the third annual General

Conference. In his speech, Rev. Sandmire articulated a new vision, a greater

vision, and one could argue God’s new vision for Metropolitan Community

Churches.

Rev. Jim Sandmire began to speak, “Dissolution of MCC under any


circumstance would be a terrible tragedy, particularly if God has
truly called us to be an authentic voice of our time! I believe we are
the new establishment church,” Jim said with an increased note of
optimism, temporarily allaying any apprehension. “I believe we
are a new expression of the Gospel. I believe God has called us to
be a guide for other churches which need to be shown the way
toward a rediscovery of Jesus’ love.” 27

Some have said that while MCC became a denomination in 1968-69, MCC

became a movement in 1972, with a greater vision that was more than just

fighting for a place for GLBT folks at the larger Christian table. The vision

became about going to the edge, to the margins and giving a voice to those who

were and are being silenced, of truly embodying Christ’s queer church. In the

past thirty-five years, MCC has at times done this well and at other times

27Perry, Troy D. with Thomas L.P. Swicegood. Don't Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Reverend Troy
Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches (New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1992), 51.
33

struggled with how to best live out this vision. For example, MCCs role as a first

responder during the AIDS years in the 80s and early 90s in North America was

critical even as we lost a generation of leadership. More recently, MCC has

struggled to keep the changing face of AIDS at the forefront of our ministry

priorities as it moved away from being the “gay disease”.

As MCC celebrates its fortieth year of ministry, it still finds itself

struggling – as a denomination and as a movement -- over the overall identity,

beliefs, purpose, and vision that continue to link us together. MCC also finds

itself struggling with significant resource limitations and continually seeks to be

the best steward of increasingly finite resources. It is in this atmosphere that the

current MCC church planting initiative finds itself.

The current church planting initiative has developed over the past ten

years with a small core group of people who have built and nurtured it during

that time. Through development of contextual educational methodologies

drawing on church planting resources currently used in many other successful

church planting movements, MCC has established some basic protocols. While

many church leaders find these protocols appropriate and helpful, some remain

skeptical. The tension that currently exists is (from my perspective) twofold: 1) a


34

resistance to church planting methodologies that come from more evangelical

resources (even if contextualized) and 2) a desire to see thriving congregations as

evidenced by greater attendance, giving, and vital ministries than has been

demonstrated thus far with the current church planting practices.

The 2005 Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

(UFMCC) Strategic Plan, sponsored by the Board of Elders, was an articulation of

our current reality, as well as the challenges and opportunities the denomination

faces moving into the future. The MCC Direction Statement states,

MCC has staked its claim. As one of the world’s emerging


churches, we are proclaiming a spirituality that is liberating and
sufficiently profound to address the issues of our chaotic and
complicated world. We live out our belief that in the margins we
are blessed and we are offering multiple ways for people to access
our message of liberation and inclusion. Through church planting,
church revitalization, alliances, the internet, and our work in acts of
compassion and justice, we will expand our reach substantially
over the next few years. MCC will become a name known to an
increasing number of people as a place where all are welcomed
and our service to those who are excluded is a primary focus of our
ministry. We will be leaders in the world about the union of
spirituality and sexuality by articulating our message and
spreading it effectively. 28

28Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), Board of Elders (2005),


MCC Strategic Plan, p. 8, http://www.mccchurch.net (accessed June 10, 2008). (Bold and italics in
original publication).
35

Church planting is identified as a key part of our ability to do 21st century

mission. At the same time, the document acknowledges that church planting

and church revitalization often compete for limited resources. 29 Additionally, the

Strategic Plan spells out that a key for successful church planting within the

MCC movement around the world will require specifically trained leaders,

pastors, and adequate start up funding.

Given these challenges, what is the measure of success of an MCC church

plant? In a recent survey, 31 MCC church planters, former church planters,

Senior Denominational Staff, members of the Board of Administration, and

members of the Board of Elders were asked “How do you define success within a

MCC church plant? Please elaborate.” The responses were remarkably

consistent. MCC’s moderator, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson wrote, “[Success is] a

community is established with strong MCC values, a well-trained leadership

core, that is financially sustainable and has a credible witness in the wider

community to the inclusive love of God. That this community is able to renew

itself, welcome newcomers and new leaders, and has a balance between inward

and outward focus.”

Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), Board of Elders (2005),


29

MCC Strategic Plan, p. 11, http://www.mccchurch.net (accessed June 10, 2008).


36

More than 75 percent of respondents articulated in some fashion that a

successful MCC would have the following components: 1) clear vision and

mission, 2) founded on MCC values, 3) healthy, viable leadership, and

4) relevant ministry both inside the church and to the broader community. Only

two respondents attached an actual number of active participants. One

respondent included a specific financial ability to compensate the pastor on a full

time basis, and one respondent placed a timeline of three years for the

determination of “success” to be made.

Based on these survey results, it can be inferred that people throughout

the MCC structure, from church planters to members of the Board of Elders,

share a strong understanding of some of the core foundations that are key to

building healthy, viable MCC churches. Of MCC, writes one former MCC

church planter,

As a global movement, success cannot be defined by numbers,


worship style, theology, etc. Success is defined by making disciples
(faith development) and growing apostles (leadership
development) to co-create with God a community that invites
others to join (hospitality) in vibrant celebration (worship) inspired
to deepen their commitment (stewardship) toward God's vision of
bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth (mission and service).
37

The definition of success will be revisited in the Conclusions

chapter of this project in light of the research findings regarding

developmental stages of young MCCs. This project will now begin to

explore the existence of developmental stages in our young MCC’s, their

connections to established developmental theories, and the critical tasks

associated with them.


38

CHAPTER FIVE

GETTING TO KNOW YOU (STAGE ONE)

Christianity is a faith embodied in a living community based on living in

community with one another. From its beginning in 1968, Metropolitan

Community Churches has embraced the importance of being in relationship with

one another as a foundational part of our understanding of our Christian faith.

MCC church planting methodology recommends that prior to a church

beginning regular public worship, the community first spends time building the

relational aspects of the new community. This time is referred to as building a

Launch Team. It is during this critical stage of development that several key

issues begin to shape and form the community -- issues that will have a long

term impact on the new church for years to come. These issues, which all have to

do with the initial formation of identity, include: 1) relationship establishment,

2) developing an understanding of hospitality and the theology of welcome, and

3) the early seeds of conflict are sown and how disagreements are handled will

dictate how conflict is managed in subsequent stages.


39

I. RELATIONSHIP ESTABLISHMENT

In a new MCC community, the establishment of relationships is perhaps

the most important task the young church faces. It is during this “getting to

know you” stage, that individuals begin to make a commitment not only to the

idea of the new church, but to forge relationships with one another that will be

foundational for years to come. Issues regarding trust, boundaries and

autonomy emerge early on.

Erikson’s first two developmental stages of “Trust vs. Mistrust” and

“Autonomy vs. Shame” can be strongly connected to the building of new

relationships within the launch team. Erikson asserts basic trust is “the attitude

that develops towards oneself and the world derived from the experiences of the

first year of life.” 30 In Kegan’s theory of development, this time can be

characterized as moving from Incorporative and Impulsive into the Imperial.

Schwarz’s eighth principal of Loving Relationships can also be connected to this

beginning stage of the young church.

During this time of development, new MCCs devote time to a blend of

activities and events with both internal and external focuses. All of the MCCs in

30 Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 57.
40

this study reported a blend of activities including (but not limited to): children’s

special events, prayer groups and special worship services, community volunteer

activities, justice work, outreach Bible studies, bar nights, Pride Festivals and

Open House events. Of these community volunteer activities, justice work and

Pride festival participation were most prevalent with all six churches reporting at

least two of three activities during the first year of development. With all of

these events, the primary objective was not the actual task itself, but creating

opportunities for relationships to form and grow, as well as beginning to form

the communal identity of the new church.

II. HOSPITALITY AND THE THEOLOGY OF WELCOME

As the Launch Team continues to develop and initial relationships are

established, the overall identity of the church begins to form. Within the

Metropolitan Community Church tradition, the understanding of the open

communion table serves as the cornerstone of the majority worship services. The

incorporation of the practice of celebrating an open table -- that is, open to all

regardless of baptismal status or religious background -- is routinely introduced

early on in the formation stage, well before the start of regular worship. This
41

emphasis can have a profound impact on members of the community. One

church member recalled taking her 12 year-old son to a Roman Catholic

wedding. He had only ever been part of MCC and became upset when his

mother explained to him that he would not be able to receive communion at the

wedding. He demanded, “Why? Communion is supposed to be for everyone!”

While the understanding of hospitality and open table becomes more entrenched

later on in development, its roots develop from the very beginning of the church

plant process. The significance of communion at this point can be correlated

with Erikson’s “Trust vs. Mistrust” stage in that it is often the place where new

MCC members begin to trust the church again or for the very first time.

For the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered (GLBT) communities,

the relevance and impact of experience, culture and tradition is central to the

identity of a new congregation. The church cultures and tradition from which

members come as they join an MCC influence the culture of the new

congregation and require careful attention. Many people who come to a new

church come carrying a certain amount of baggage from their former religious

experiences.
42

Within the MCC tradition, it is not uncommon for even a small church’s

membership to run the full gamut of spiritual practices. Of the six MCCs

included in this study, the self-reported dominant religious backgrounds of the

initial launch teams included (in alphabetical order): American Baptist, Atheist,

Buddhist, Church of the Brethren, Church of England, Evangelical, Greek

Orthodox, Lutheran, Metropolitan Community Churches, Presbyterian, Roman

Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Church of Christ. An ongoing strain in

the new community is the tension between those who seek to replicate the

practices of their pasts and those who reject wholesale any practice that is too

similar to a previous experience. One church planter reported the story of

planning the initial worship service and the decision whether or not to stand for

the Gospel reading prompted intense debate as to whether “you had to or not.”

Many stated emphatically that you had to, whereas others, upon hearing the

phrase “had to” became equally insistent that they not stand during the reading

of the Gospel.

Erikson’s theory of “Trust vs. Mistrust” is relevant to the dynamic of

previous religious baggage. Erikson writes, “In adults the impairment of basic

trust is expressed in a basic mistrust. It characterizes individuals who withdraw


43

into themselves in particular ways when at odds with themselves and with

others.” 31 Many people new to MCC are inherently distrustful of the church.

One pastor said, “We don’t get a second chance, because we are already the

second chance church.” Within new churches this often manifests itself in

distrust of the pastor’s role and authority. One church planter recalled the

challenge of being compared to every person’s favorite pastor and at the same

time, being contrasted with the pastor responsible for them leaving the church.

They reflected, “Early on it was like navigating a minefield. I could say a phrase

or suggest a worship element that some would enthusiastically embrace while

others would bite my head off for suggesting something too familiar.” Moving

the congregation through this phase requires helping individuals to let go of the

past and embrace a new present that is be both familiar and different.

Because of the issues that arise from previous religious backgrounds, an

early task of a new MCC community is to distinguish how the new MCC is in

fact different from congregant’s previous traditions and at the same time, lift up

the difference between familiar practices (worship styles, church polity, Bible

studies, etc.) as they are done within the new church versus the attitudes and

31 Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 58.
44

belief systems of previous churches. This is particularly significant in addressing

backgrounds that are more conservative in theology and practice regarding

homosexuality and the church, as well as the understanding of the priesthood of all

believers. One church planter reflected, “Too many people who came early on

were looking for the same church they had before – except they got to hold their

partner’s hand. Getting folks used to discussions of sexuality and its integration

with spirituality in church as well as having lay people do things that many

expected only priests to do, was difficult.”

While the new community is not yet worshiping regularly, this is a time

for the church to begin to articulate and experiment with the style or “flavor” of

worship. However, the important task is not so much to identify the church’s

worship style as it is to open the community’s understanding to the wide array

of worship practices that can lead the community into authentic worship

experience. In fact, of the churches in this study, all but one of the MCCs

changed its style of worship from the beginning of the church plant to what is

being practiced today (see charts 5.1, 5.2, 5.3). Five of the six churches began

with a self-defined “blended” worship style and observed that over time, the

worship style evolved to something more specific and reflective of the


45

community’s shared understanding of authentic worship. The following charts

show the worship styles of the MCCs in this study at the beginning of the plant

process and today and the initial worship style from the 2007 Church

Survivability and Health Study for comparison. Based on the six churches in this

study, new MCC’s appear to be more likely to begin with a “blended” worship

style than other churches. Two of the dominant factors that influence this trend

are 1) the varying religious backgrounds of the congregants that make up MCC

churches and 2) MCC’s congregational and ecumenical polity that allows for

local churches to establish their own unique worship identity.

MCC Church Plant Worship Styles

Initial Worship Style (Chart 5.1)

Traditional

Contemporary

Postmodern/Emerging

Seeker

Blended
Traditional/Contemporary
Fellowship/Relational

No Identified Style
46

Today’s Worship Style (Chart 5.2)

Traditional

Contemporary

Postmodern/Emerging

Seeker

Blended
Traditional/Contemporary
Fellowship/Relational

No Identified Style

Initial Worship Style (Chart 5.3)

2007 Church Planting Survivability and Health Study

Traditional

Contemporary

Postmodern/Emerging

Seeker

Blended
Traditional/Contemporary
Fellowship/Relational

No Identified Style
47

III. SEEDS OF CONFLICT

This formative stage of development can be viewed as a honeymoon

stage. It is not unusual to find members of the church becoming highly

enmeshed in one another’s lives very quickly. How the new community

establishes healthy relationship standards and articulates how members of this

community will live in authentic relationship with one another, will serve as the

roadmap for how the community will deal with both interpersonal and

communal challenges in years to come. As the church plant grows and develops,

there are some specific common sources of conflict that can be traced back to this

early stage in the life of the community. David Lott’s book, Conflict

Management in Congregations, lays out nine common sources of church

conflict. 32 From my research, there were three sources that consistently occurred

within the first three to four years of a new church: disagreements about values

and beliefs, hurried decision making and implementation, and poor relationship

skills.

32 David B. Lott, Editor. Conflict Managment in Congregations. (The Alban Institute, 2001) 45-50.
48

Disagreements About Values and Beliefs

Two-thirds of the MCCs in this study reported a significant church-wide

conflict within three years of public worship. And even in the two churches that

did not report significant conflict, many participants in the congregational

survey reported a general discomfort with conflict in the church and a desire to

avoid it. When significant conflict does occur, the timing appears to coincide

with when the community begins to distinguish between what they had

envisioned the church would be and what the church has become in reality. But

how the church deals with this transition is dependent on the groundwork that

begins in this stage. Instilling an ethos that values relationship above issues or

being right is paramount.

Disagreement over values and beliefs begins with the varying explicit and

implicit expectations that the members of the launch team bring with them.

Congregants can disagree about what the church is and what it ought to be.

Disagreements over values and beliefs most often manifests itself once the

church begins to establish its vision, mission and priorities (which may or may

not coincide with the establishment of vision and mission statements) and moves

away from the primary goal of starting the new church, to establishing the
49

identity of the new church. Churches in this study found that the most effective

way to proactively address this conflict was to do intentional work around

identity clarification before asking the congregation to develop its own unique

mission and vision that is reflective of its own identity. Following the

development of the vision and mission, specific, strategic goals can be

implemented throughout all ministry areas to reflect the overall mission of the

church. 33

Hurried Decision Making and Implementation

Rapid decision-making in the beginning stages of a new church is often

necessary, however, if done haphazardly and erratically, the new congregation

can inaccurately assume that it has the necessary buy-in and complete feedback

from those who will be affected by a decision. Key to avoiding conflict in this

area is to slow down decision making to allow those with a vested interest to

participate in the dialogue. 34 Additionally, making decision as transparent as

possible will give the greater congregation a sense of how and why decisions

were made. A common occurrence of this type of conflict arises in new churches

33
David B. Lott, Editor. Conflict Managment in Congregations. (The Alban Institute, 2001) 45-46.
34
Ibid., 49-50.
50

when the decision is made to move worship locations. Even though the need

may appear obvious to many in leadership, it is important to remember that

people get attached to location, time, and structure very quickly in a new

community. One church planter commented, “even though we were busting at

the doors, we took six months to allow the congregation to be fully part of the

decision to move and change worship times. When other conflicts emerged later,

this decision was not challenged because we had taken the time to do it with

everyone involved.” While Schwarz’s principals of empowering leadership and

functional structures can be connected to the issues around decision making,

more significant is the principal of loving relationships. By placing the

relationships of the community as a key component to decision making, a new

church is more inclined to hear many different perspectives and appreciate

different points of view.

Poor Relationship Skills

The way people deal with conflict is itself a constant source of conflict in

churches. In new communities where relationships are just beginning there is a

tendency to avoid conflict entirely because of the mistaken belief that conflict is
51

“evil” and therefore should not exist in our churches. Members and leaders may

also avoid conflict or tensions because it reminds them of previous conflict

situations. Thus, people may deny that conflict even exists until it becomes

destructive. Another way that people deal with conflict is commonly known as

“triangling.” Instead of using the biblical principal of direct-dealing (Matthew

18: 15-22), meaning that you go to the person with whom you are experiencing

difficulty, a third party is brought into the conflict. For example, as happened in

one of our study congregations, a member of the church choir had a

disagreement with the choir director, and rather than going to the choir director,

the member brought the third person, who brought it to the attention of the

church board, which then felt compelled to act. This situation, which might have

been dealt with directly by the two original parties, instead escalated

unnecessarily and ended up involving over half of the church before it was

resolved. This is another example of the stages of Erikson, Kegan and Schwarz

which all emphasize the importance of interpersonal relationships.

Solutions to this source of conflict include: teaching about healthy

relationship dynamics, use of a community relationship covenant, teaching of the

biblical concept of direct dealing and the establishment of a conflict resolution


52

team. Conflict resolution teams can help reinforce the need for individuals to

deal directly with the person with whom they are having difficulty. If that fails

to bring resolution, then trained mediators in the church can help facilitate

resolution between the affected parties. 35 One church planter said, “we did not

begin with a conflict resolution team. But after the first year, it became evident

that we needed a structure to help work out disagreements without dragging the

whole church into it. Since implementation, church wide conflict has

diminished.” Erikson’s “Industry vs. Inferiority” stage connects to the success of

conflict resolution teams. When an individual feels they have no voice, they can

be made to feel insignificant or if they do not count. A conflict resolution team is

designed to listen to both parties and help each work toward resolution. Half of

the churches studied indicated working intentionally from the beginning to

address the ways the community could work through challenges in healthy

ways. Writes one church planter, “it has taken three intentional years of

retraining…which has contributed to decline [of conflict] since now it is ‘save

your drama for your mama’ - let's talk direct and in healthy ways.” Common

35
David B. Lott, Editor. Conflict Managment in Congregations. (The Alban Institute, 2001) 51-52.
53

tools include: community covenants, conflict resolution teams, bible studies,

sermon series and working toward reasonable expectations.

Using Kegan’s Interpersonal and Institutional stages as a framework, new

churches at this stage grow from being a collection of individuals to a

community of people with a shared identity. One member commented,

I believe some of the early people we had come to us were looking


for the old church that use to be there. Some of these liked what
they found in its place while others did not and left. We also lost
some when we began to grow and your voice/ideas tended to be
lessened because there are more of you which some people couldn't
make the transition to. A natural part of growing something I
believe.

The church planters included in this study reported that this stage was

perhaps the most challenging of the entire church plant experience. One church

planter writes,

[Perhaps the greatest challenge was] dealing with the profound


level of brokenness in people who lived a very reactive, wounded,
angry life rather than one of reflection, healing, and a happy life.
Very low trust amongst folks; and finally recognizing and naming
that folks were living more of an Exodus narrative than an Acts 2
narrative - we live up to the story we live under; and if we keep
telling ourselves the same bad story over and over again - we get
stuck. This church had lots of stuck people, and many of the stuck
people left us in angry ways because they resist getting UN-stuck -
54

their departure affected those who stayed, which meant another


layer of healing work to do...

But as the church continues to mature, and relationships deepen, the community

begins to establish an organic identity. This communal identity will become the

foundation of the relationships of the new church. The transition from the initial

getting to know you stage to the stage of focusing on the bigger picture is critical

for the long term development of the new community.


55

CHAPTER SIX

THE BIGGER PICTURE (STAGE TWO)

As the young community moves from the initial relationship building

stage to focusing on the bigger picture, it moves into deeper conversation and

relationship. These are conversations around the subjects of 1) the integration of

sexuality and spirituality, and 2) spiritual formation and faith development. This

may be a separate and distinct stage from the first stage or may merely be a

second phase of the “getting to know” phase that is needed to in order transition

to the “taking responsibility” stage. During this stage, the church is still getting

to know one another and incorporating new people into the community, but it

has made a shift to looking at the church as a whole rather than a collection of

individuals. One church planter wrote, “It was when we went from a group of

people that wanted to start a church to a faith community with shared values

and beliefs.” This stage is an important piece of the deepening of relationships in

a new community.
56

Erikson’s stage of “Initiative vs. Shame” provides a helpful framework for

analyzing the development of the community, with its emphasis on autonomy

and self awareness. Erikson writes, “in order to develop autonomy, a firmly

developed and convincingly continued stage of early trust is necessary.”36 On

the subject of shame, he writes, “Shame supposes that one is completely exposed

and conscious of being looked at – in a word, self-conscious.” 37 At this point, the

identity of the individual is based on what a person can do. Shame and doubt

stem from the insecurity of what one can do in contrast with those around you.

In addition, this particular stage is highly dependent on an individual’s

development and their individual past, but equally linked to the communal

experience. While developing trust is an individual pursuit in the beginning, at

this stage, development of trust becomes a communal effort. Several of the

churches in the study described the evolution of decision making as it related to

this stage. Wrote one member, “at first, when we tried to make decisions it was

based on what I wanted. Overtime, decision making became about the needs of

the whole church, not just one person’s wants.”

36 Erikson, Erik H. Identity and the Life Cycle (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994) 71.
37
Ibid.
57

It is the success or failure of this communal trust establishment that will

dictate the future development of the community. Kegan’s Interpersonal stage,

in which the individual’s relationship with others is key, provides a better

theoretical foundation for this stage in part because of Kegan’s continuing

emphasis on the importance of the external. Churches in this study all reported

the important shift that happened when the church began to recognize the

church as a whole, as an entity, and began to move beyond individual needs and

taking others needs into consideration.

I. INTEGRATION OF SEXUALITY AND SPIRITUALITY

Metropolitan Community Churches believes that one’s sexuality and

spirituality are deeply interwoven and interdependent on one another. Human

sexuality and spirituality are both part of one’s core identity and shapes the

decisions we make and how we choose to conduct our lives. MCC’s vision

statement proclaims, “We are a movement that faithfully proclaims God’s

inclusive love for all people and proudly bears witness to the holy integration of

spirituality and sexuality.” 38 MCC believes both are so intrinsic to human

38 Metropolitan Community Churches, http://www.mccchurch.net (accessed March 20, 2009).


58

identity that they inform and shape each other. When spirituality and sexuality

are kept separate, spiritual and sexual maladies often result. Sexuality cannot be

merely reduced to an act of gratification that the divine has nothing to do with.

Sexuality is the embodiment of our total selves.

Virginia Mollenkott writes, “In its broadest and deepest meaning, our

sexuality is our embodied spirit, that aspect of ourselves that experiences a need

for intimate communion with other people and with God.” 39 This intimate

communion is not limited to those in the majority. Because of MCC’s

understanding of the importance of the healthy integration of spirituality and

sexuality as part of our ongoing spiritual formation, these conversations must

begin early on in the development of the new church community. For those

individuals with no previous MCC experience, this may well be the first time

that they have discussed issues of sexuality, sexual relationship ethics, and

sexual identity within a church context. Many newcomers mistakenly presume

that MCC is simply the “gay” church that welcomes all GLBT people, but

beyond that the church will mirror their previous church backgrounds. Both

Erikson’s stages of “Trust vs. Mistrust” and “Identity vs. Role Confusion” are

39 Mollenkott, Virginia. Godding: Human Responsibility and the Bible. (Crossroad, 1989) 79.
59

relevant at this stage. The issue of trust continues to be a dominant factor in the

development of the new church throughout the first several years. With regard

to the clarification of identity, MCC’s unique mission field requires that that the

subject of sexuality and its relationship with spirituality be addressed early on in

the church’s formation. This time during which members of the church grapple

with the church’s embrace of positive sexuality is a core piece of the church’s

overall identity.

MCC church planters report that the creation of a community that is open

to discussions about the intersections of spirituality and sexuality is particularly

challenging. Only after building trust within the community and trust for

teachings that are different from what has been learned before, can the

community fully begin to embrace this new understanding of Christianity. One

church in the study recalled a debate within the church as to whether to host a

forum on homosexuality and the Bible and invite a conservative fundamentalist

to serve on the panel to offer “both perspectives.” After much discussion the

church decided that while such a discussion has some merit, they as a church

that believed in the full inclusion of GLBT people, did not need to offer a counter

belief at their event. This was a time when the church was they were coming to
60

trust their own beliefs and no longer needed validation or approval from

outsiders.

At this stage, the church planter will often begin to experience some

resistance among some members of the community. Because of the often high

degree of “baggage” brought from previous religious experiences (see chapter 5),

many people report that this particular stage is challenging and at times

discomforting. Writes one congregant, “I felt like I didn't fit…I developed my

understanding of the bible completely outside this MCC church. Spiritually, I

felt stuck in a rut. I did not agree with the teachings of this church.” This is the

time when “Trust vs. Mistrust” is most challenged. Many will mistrust the new

church because it is unfamiliar and different from what they have always been

taught.

Many members of MCC report a journey from brokenness to wholeness

which often takes years as they reconcile previous church teachings with a new

understanding of God’s love and inclusion. While this journey can take years for

individuals, it is critical for the new church community to establish an

atmosphere that values and encourages the journey from brokenness to

wholeness from early in the new community’s life. One church planter wrote, “I
61

was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who came very broken. In the

first two years, working with people to let go of their identity as wounded,

discarded people and help them to embrace themselves as children of God

consumed all of my time.” Without intentional work around embracing

wholeness, the mistrust issues will continue to undermine the new community,

influencing how people integrate fully with the community.

II. SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND FAITH DEVELOPMENT

Schwarz asserts that spiritual development of a faith community is key

and “is not the way the spirituality is expressed, but the fact that faith is actually

lived out with commitment, fire and enthusiasm.” 40 From the beginning, new

MCC church plants must assert themselves as different from other gay

community organizations. The new community is not just a “social club for

Jesus” but a full faith community, challenging its members and encouraging

transformation of individuals and the community through their relationship

with God.

40Schwarz, Christian A. The ABC's of Natural Church Development. (ChurchSmart Resources, 2001)
12.
62

Intentional Faith Development

Intentional faith development is achieved through a diverse array of

formation and Christian education ministries and Bible studies geared for the

entire community, including covenant disciple groups, adult and children’s

Christian education, community service projects, prayer groups and targeted

Bible studies. 41 One church in the study implemented the Disciple Bible Study

program and had over 35 percent of the adult members complete the first year of

the program during its first offering. One member wrote, “We are on our second

time of doing Disciple 1. That has been our most successful spiritual experience

yet. We have done several small groups and will continue to do so.”

In the early stages of the new community, it is essential that the offerings

be strategically targeted to the needs of the new community. If a large number of

people come from a background which emphasized the “literal interpretation” of

scripture, offering Bible studies that include tools for the individual to discover

different dimensions of scripture is helpful. If a significant number of people are

working 12-Step programs, introducing accountability or covenant discipleship

groups could be appropriate. Regardless of the specific types of spiritual

41 Schnase, Robert. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. (Abingdon Press, 2007) 68.
63

formation offerings, it is imperative that a healthy ministry program be

developed early on.

Abundant Generosity

Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Extravagant


Generosity…They encourage their church members to grow in the
grace of giving as an essential practice of Christian discipleship,
and as a congregation they practice generosity by their
extraordinary support for missions, connectional ministries, and
organizations that change people’s lives. They thrive with the joy
of abundance rather than starve with the fear of scarcity. They give
joyously, generously, and consistently in ways that enrich the souls
of members and strengthen the ministries of the church. 42

As the new community moves toward the next stage, an important

component to personal and communal spiritual formation is the growing

understanding of holistic stewardship as part of our ongoing spiritual

relationship with God and with one another. This process can take a long time

and needs to be started early on in the life of the church. On the subject of

stewardship, one church planter wrote, “It is a slow process, many folk are not

used to attending church and we have to educate folk. Also because we are using

42
Schnase, Robert. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. (Abingdon Press, 2007) 108.
64

a community center many have a false notion that we do not rent or have

expenses.”

The greatest challenge appears to be moving people from equating

stewardship with the need to pay bills for the church, to an understanding of

stewardship as a spiritual practice moving toward having a heart of abundant

generosity. Of the congregants surveyed, more than 60 percent stated that they

really didn’t know what stewardship was beyond the point of the worship

service when they were asked to give of their time, talent and treasure.

However, other respondents articulated a deeper understanding, as one

respondent wrote, “Most members seem to have a very real sense of ownership

and responsibility for our church. We share our gifts of resources, gifts, talents,

and labor as best we can. Our budget is mission based and that seems to help a

great deal.” With regard to the development of a culture of stewardship,

Erikson’s stage of “Initiative vs. Guilt” is applicable. Some members will begin

by replicating what they last did when they were in church, for example, placing

a dollar in the plate (which often their parents had given them). Others will seek

to be more “adult” in their financial commitment and may even commit to begin

tithing. The tension between these two opposite positions, can be correlated with
65

Erikson’s theory of the individual grappling with social interactions and moral

issues as they become more integrated and invested in the church community.

Sometimes the challenge is helping the church to recognize when it is

acting in abundant generosity. One church planter reported how frustrating it

was to see their congregation, which was comprised of mostly working poor, fail

to recognize how much they did give. One weekend, a tree fell on a member’s

house and the next day the entire church turned out to remove the tree and

repair the roof. Even those who were not physically-abled turned out and

prepared lunch for the group. Later, as the church was working through an

exercise to help identify core values, many members balked at the notion that

church placed a high value on stewardship because, “we don’t give enough.”

Of the churches in this study, all reported both the importance and

success of development of spiritual formation and Christian education

ministries. Writes one pastor, “this is our most successful area - so many more

folks are buying and reading Bibles, evolving in their faith development,

engaging in spiritual growth and practice.” And another pastor highlights how
66

spiritual formation has been directly connected to their evolving sense of

identity.

Spiritual and theological development has been very good. When I


first arrived to begin the work, they had said they were looking for
a progressive pastor. They thought that meant someone who would
play contemporary music in worship! Since then, we have done
much work on what it means to call ourselves progressive and they
have a much deeper understanding of MCC.

With a strong spiritual foundation and also with a commitment to moving

from brokenness to wholeness, the new community will have the required

foundation to be able to move on to the important stage of building

accountability and commitment in the community. The deepening

understanding of what it means to be a faith community that occurs at this stage

and is an essential building block for the future of the community.


67

CHAPTER SEVEN

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY – ACCOUNTABILITY AND COMMITMENT

(STAGE THREE)

At this stage, which generally begins shortly before the beginning of

regular public worship and continues through at least the second anniversary,

the new community begins to shift from being primarily focused on issues

specific to the individual to grappling with corporate identity issues. The new

community begins to develop a structure that is reflective of the individuals that

have comprised its early development and begins to take on more responsibility

for the function of the new church. This may or may not match the “official”

structure that has been developed. For instance, this is frequently the point in

the church’s life in which matriarchs and patriarchs begin to emerge as the

organic leadership of the community, regardless of other appointed leadership

bodies that may be in place. Even if the church avoids the emergence of

matriarchs and patriarchs, key influencers will begin to play an important part in

the decision making process.


68

From a theoretical standpoint, using Erikson’s framework, at this stage the

new community deals with certain issues that fit in with the “Initiative vs. Guilt”

stage in that it is moving toward becoming a more “formal” organization and is

trying out different models of church organization. This seems to mirror

Erikson’s theory of the individual taking on increased self-initiative and

experimentation. Given that a fundamental question asked during this stage is

“why?” the new church is also asking a lot of “whys” such as, “why do we do it

this way?” or “why are we organized like this?” or “why not like this?” As the

community continues through this stage, it begins to adopt some of the same

traits as Erikson’s “Industry vs. Inferiority” stage as the structure gains

acceptance and the community begins to shift toward a greater balance of

outward-looking and inward-supporting.

Drawing on Kegan’s theory, this stage appears to be related to the

beginning of the “Institutional” stage, in which there is an overall maturing of

the community and the beginning of acceptance of some standardized

community values. This happens prior to the actual articulation of vision,

mission and core values. And in looking at Schwarz’ Natural Church

Development theory, it is at this stage that leadership development and adoption


69

of functional structures becomes a primary task in the development of the new

community.

This is a stage in which the church moves from an “idea” to a reality.

Building on the foundations from previous stages, intentional leadership

development is key. In addition, continuing spiritual development and the

emphasis on healthy, holistic stewardship are essential tasks during this stage of

development.

I. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

Schwarz describes church leadership development as one of the most

important tasks of a thriving church. Pastors and established leaders work to

“equip, support, motivate and mentor individuals to become all that God wants

them to be.” 43 As the church moves through this stage, the church planter has

the primary responsibility of both cultivating leadership, and undoing

previously held leadership models. One church planter reflected:

We began with a combination of folk who had never been


permitted to be in leadership and individuals who had spent time
in highly dysfunctional predecessor MCCs. It has taken a great deal

43Schwarz, Christian A. The ABC's of Natural Church Development. (ChurchSmart Resources, 2001)
10.
70

of effort to develop the skills of the new leaders and help MCC-folk
rethink ministry. Most of the training has been in areas of mission-
based, team-ministry and healthy communications.

Priesthood of All Believers

Many MCC church planters report the need to spend a great deal of

time teaching and cultivating an understanding of what a priesthood of all

believers means and how it functions within a church community. While

this teaching starts from the very beginning of the church plant, it is often

only after worship services have begun, that members begin to

understand how the new church functions differently from churches of

the past. For people who come from more hierarchical church traditions,

the first time they experience lay leaders carrying out different parts of a

worship service can be unsettling. Whether it be serving communion or

leading community prayers, it is very often this moment when the

understanding of priesthood of all believers comes clearly into focus,

resonates and (with some work) sticks. One member commented, “it

wasn’t until I was asked to serve communion, when I got what ‘every

member a minister’ meant. At first it was uncomfortable. I felt like the

pastor wasn’t doing [their] job.” Erikson’s stage of “Initiative vs. Guilt” is
71

particularly relevant as this new understanding of priesthood of all believers

begins to take hold. The church is beginning to realize how the church

will work and will begin to ask “why” about many things. It is essential

for church planters at this stage to avoid being pushed into old church

paradigms in order to alleviate temporary discomfort of some members.

Pastoral Leadership

Strong, healthy pastoral leadership is the driving force behind positive

leadership development in the community. One member recalled, “[The pastor

made sure that] folks were welcomed/encouraged to get involved as they are

moved/called/gifted; we learned together.” This is a critical period in the life of

the church; when how the pastor identifies their own leadership approach will

dramatically influence how leadership evolves within the community.

Neither Erikson nor Kegan’s theories immediately lent themselves to the

area of leadership development within the church context. Both theories were

too individually focused to be applicable to the community context. Schwarz

emphasizes the importance of empowering leadership, but does not address

leadership development in a comprehensive manner or pastoral leadership


72

specifically. Theorist Edwin Friedman writes in his book Generation to

Generation, “The key to successful leadership, with success understood not only

as moving people toward a goal, but also in terms of the survival of the family

(and its leader), has more to do with the leader’s capacity for self-definition than

with the ability to motivate others.” 44 How the pastor leads, is the strongest

teaching mechanism in the church. If the church planter leads in an

authoritarian style, many lay leaders will adopt similar styles – conversely, if the

church planter is indecisive, the congregation runs the risk of feeling lost and

without direction, and eventually, someone will fill the gap, whether or not they

have the best interests of the congregation at heart. One church in the study

reported that at one point, the pastor’s leadership began to be questioned and

“almost overnight” two strong members seemed to take over the church. After

that, no decision was ever made again without the implicit endorsement of these

members. The church planter must project a confidence in their leadership role

in order to guide the congregation through all of the challenges that are in front

of the congregation.

44
Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. (The
Guilford Press, 1985) 221.
73

Decision Making

At this stage in the life of the new church, there are many critical decisions

to be made, such as: Where will we worship? What time? What will it look like?

How will we afford it? As each of these decisions is made, how the church

decides is as important as what the church decides. One church planter recalled,

In our first two years, we grew quite rapidly. In an effort to keep


ahead of the curve, we made some decisions quite quickly, and
while I still believe they were the right decisions for the community
at the time, the hurriedness in which we made them, did not allow
time for the whole community to develop a sense of buy-in. As a
result, the Board of Directors and I developed some poor decision
making habits, which ultimately contributed to a severe conflict by
the end of our second year.

Of the congregants surveyed, understandings of how important decisions

are made varied. Some, like this congregant, understood the developing process

of decision making within the congregation, “In the beginning, decisions were

made first by the Pastor-designate in consultation with a small, informal, group.

Next decisions were made by the collective, guided by the Pastor. Now strategic

decisions are made by a small formal group, with the involvement of the wider

body.” However, over 50 percent of respondents reported a decision making

process centered on the pastor, even years into the church plant. As one
74

respondent wrote, “the pastor has an idea, which they hint at heavily.” Erikson’s

stage of “Industry vs. Inferiority” can be connected with the evolution of

decisions making. An individual who is empowered to participate in decision

making will be more connected with the institution. However, those that feel

disconnected from decision making will ultimately feel disconnected from the

institution. This can often bring up old, unresolved issues related to former

church experiences and feelings of low self-esteem.

While all of the churches in this study approached leadership

development differently, all recognized the significance of this phase and how it

has dictated the ongoing growth and development of the community. As the

church moves forward, the development of existing leaders and the integration

of new leaders is an essential ongoing task, in order for the community to move

from merely surviving to thriving.


75

CHAPTER EIGHT

MOVING INTO THE FUTURE/REVISING EXPECTATIONS (STAGE FOUR)

The church has now moved through a series of overlapping stages. The

original launch team worked on building solid relationships and over time the

church has grown from a collection of individuals into a group with some shared

expectations and the beginnings of a shared identity. As the church moves

beyond its second anniversary into years three through five, challenges come in

the form of articulating identity, establishment of an authentic vision and

mission, and revising expectations.

Both Erikson’s developmental stages of “Industry vs. Inferiority” and

“Identity vs. Role Confusion” are relevant to this stage of development of the

new church. As the new community’s identity becomes more solidified, so does

the intensity of the congregants loyalty and devotion to their new community

and the members of the church begin taking on more responsibility not just for

activities but also in the decision making process. Likewise, Kegan’s stages of

“Institutional” and “Interindividual” can be connected to this stage. At this


76

stage, the church has reached a certain level of maturity which allows communal

goal to supersede any one individual’s desires and accepts on a certain level the

diversity within the community. The main focus of the young church now is a

shift of the priority from starting the church to other stated or unstated priorities.

The church grapples with identity issues as well as deals with disappointments

in what the church has yet to accomplish. The church is seeking to articulate

who it has become, as opposed to who it hoped to be.

This is the point in the life of the church when it makes a subconscious

choice of whether to be outward focused in mission and vision, or if it will be

more focused on the needs of its own membership. Many factors play into this

including the overall health of the congregation and whether members perceive

it as a “thriving” or “surviving” congregation. For many congregations, this is a

stage that will be repeated over and over again for years, if not decades.

I. ARTICULATING IDENTITY

At the beginning of the church plant process, the church planter and then

the launch team have been asked to articulate the kind of church they felt God

was calling them to build. At some point in the process, the organic identity of
77

the church needs to be examined, and the church needs to be able to articulate

who it has become.

One of the indicators of identity within the church community is worship.

Vital, vibrant worship is one of the indicators of a thriving community. No one

style is superior to another. Schwarz and others caution churches from seeking

to replicate styles of worship from other churches for the sole purpose of

generating “growth in numbers” – such efforts almost always fail. Thriving

churches practicing vital worship celebrate a worship style that resonates deeply

within the community and offers the people gathered an opportunity to have an

authentic encounter with the holy. Schnase writes,

Passionate Worship is not restricted to any particular style; it can be


highly formal, with robes, acolytes, stained glass, organ music,
orchestral accompaniment, and hardwood pews with hymnals on
the rack in front. Or Passionate Worship can take place in an
auditorium, gym, or storefront, with casually dressed leaders,
images on screens, folding chairs, the supportive beat of a praise
team. Authentic, engaging, life-changing worship derives from the
experience of God’s presence, the desire of worshippers for God’s
word, and the changed heart people deliberately seek when they
encounter Christ in the presence of other Christians. Worship
leaves people challenged, sustained, and led by the Spirit of God,
and it changes how they view themselves and their neighbors. An
hour of Passionate Worship changes all of the other hours of the
week. 45

45 Schnase, Robert. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. (Abingdon Press, 2007) 39.
78

As the church grows more experienced and comfortable with the art and

logistics of worship, different strengths and challenges will emerge that require

the church to adapt. Some churches are able to cultivate strong liturgists, while

others might have a strong children and youth presence in worship. Some

churches discover a deep pool of musicians and develop strong music ministries.

One survey respondent wrote regarding the development of worship, that a

critical turning point in the congregation was, “[the] appointment of music

ministry leads - cemented a direction and encouraged some while perhaps

disconcerting others.” This example illustrates the type identity development

Erikson refers to in the developmental stage of “Identity vs. Role Confusion.”

The church has made a decision that was a clear choice of both their current

preferred style of music, but also made a choice that was going to continue to

inform the development of the music program for years to come. By selecting a

music minister, it solidified a certain style and therefore a specific direction and

“flavor” of worship. Within worship development, at this stage the church is

constructing its own unique identity beyond the experiences that the individual

members had previously known.


79

Of the six study congregations, all but one changed their worship style

from the original. Of the churches that began as a defined “blended worship” all

but one shifted to a more specific worship style. These changes are reflective of

the congregations growing awareness of who they are as a community and how

they worship together.

II. ESTABLISHMENT OF AUTHENTIC VISION AND MISSION

At this stage, the church has shifted from its primary goal of simply

starting the church, to working toward other communal goals. In the

beginning, the vision of the church is simply the church itself. As the community

grows and matures, and as an identity is established, so too will an authentic

vision and mission be established. Authentic vision translates into the true

purpose of the church. More than a pithy expression, an authentic vision

captures both who the church is, who it wants to be, and why it is important.

Vision translates into purpose. Andy Stanley writes,

Vision carries with it a sense of conviction. Anyone with a vision


will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is
something that should be done. This is something that must
happen. It is this element that catapults men and women out of the
80

realm of passive concern and into action. It is the moral element


that gives a vision a sense of urgency. 46

Likewise, authentic mission is the action plan of how the vision will be enacted

and lived out within community. Authentic mission describes the who, the how

and the what of the vision. The continuing challenge is to find the balance -

utilizing finite resources and energy – between projects and ministries focused

on the gathered church community, and those efforts that reach outside the

congregation. When done well, the church experiences outward focused

ministries as spiritually nurturing. When pushed too hard, members can view

such ministry efforts as taxing and more like an obligation. The church planters

in the study reported mixed success. One wrote, “ [it has been] hit and miss - we

do lots of one-time projects, but nothing sustainable or repeated in any area, with

different leadership all the time - the over-committed, under-confident suburban

syndrome combined with a very closeted congregation are two factors that

hamper our efforts.” Another commented, “We do not use the word ‘outreach.’

It is inconsistent with our vision of ‘church’ and presupposes an in vs. out group.

We are founded upon the principle that we are the community of

46
Stanley, Andy. Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision. (Multnomah
Publishers, 1999) 17.
81

communities…We are actively engaged in mission and ministry with our

community, city and world - no Outreach.” In both examples, identity

clarification, as Erikson’s stage asserts, is the driving factor. In the first example,

the church is still searching for its specific identity and is still working through

who they are. In the second example, the church has a strong understanding of

who they are and how they wish to interact with the greater community.

Over 30 percent of the respondents to the congregational survey rated

outreach or mission beyond their own walls as an important and highly visible

part of life within the community. All of the respondents indicated a sense that

mission was important, and many indicated their deep desire for the community

to do more than it is able to at present. Of the churches in the study, the ones

that introduced outward focused activities early on in the life of the church

(special offerings, food drives, service projects etc.) found greater success in

building a culture that was outward looking instead of internally focused.

Schnase writes, “Mission initiatives change churches. Even when a small

percentage of the membership immerses themselves in significant mission and

service, the texture of church life changes, and the language of service and
82

outreach begins to form conversations and priorities.” 47 While the commitment

and establishment of authentic vision and mission takes years to develop in a

young church, it is imperative that the seeds be planted early on.

III. REVISING EXPECTATIONS

At some point, individuals will start to come to terms with the fact that

the church is not turning out how they had envisioned it. For some, this will be

good news as the church becomes something beyond what they had previously

imagined. For many others, there will be a certain amount of disappointment

and even anger. The excitement of beginning the new church has now waned

into some of the more mundane and routine activities of running the church

week in and week out.

Between years two through five, the church will experience people

leaving the church for a variety of stated reasons. In actuality, many will leave

simply because it is not the right church for them. By the end of year two, the

study congregations reported that less than 80 percent of their original launch

team members were still active. By the end of year five, the churches reported

47 Schnase, Robert. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. (Abingdon Press, 2007) 83.
83

less than 40 percent of their original launch team members were still active. One

respondent wrote simply that they were surprised to discover “that I really

didn't like this church.” Others articulated the challenge of moving away from

thinking that their church would be the perfect church for everyone. This

dynamic does not indicate a failure of the church, instead it is a demonstration of

both Erikson’s “Identity vs. Role Confusion” stage as well as Kegan’s

“Institutional” stage in which the church is clarifying its identity and purpose.

This is a time when, as one church planter put it, “people self select out.” As the

church’s identity becomes more defined, some will realize that this is no longer

the church for them. As the church becomes more institutionalized, the values

not only become apparent, but there is also a communal “buy-in” which often

results in some seeking alternant communities. In addition, there are some that

enjoy being part of a “new community” with all of its excitement and challenges.

Once the church starts to become more institutionalized, the appeal and

excitement for some dissipates and they may leave if they are unable to find a

way to connect in to a new part of the church’s life.


84

The Numbers Game

One of the greatest challenges a young, small church has is not to get

overly fixated on attendance and membership numbers. As pastors, we are often

the biggest culprits, bragging to colleagues about a particular attendance spurt,

or feeling the pressure that we are not growing in the percentages that we want.

Pastors are not alone in this. More than 25 percent of congregational survey

respondents, when asked to articulate their top three hopes for their church

listed “growth in numbers.”

At the foundation of Schwarz’s Natural Church Development theory is

the understanding that God grows churches in God’s time. While we can work

to create healthy communities, with vital worship and risk-taking mission, when

a church grows in numbers is outside of our control. The churches that

experience the greatest success in growth report that the growth happened, only

after they stopped trying to grow in numbers and focused their energy and

efforts on growing as a community.

Of the six MCCs included in this study, four experienced a decline or

significant plateau trend of worship attendance by year four. Four out of the five

churches that provided complete information, reported a declining income trend


85

beginning between years 3 and 5. This tends to correlate with when the church is

transitioning its identity from being a “new church” or “church plant” to one of

being an established church. In the following charts (see charts 8.1, 8.2, 8.3) ,

attendance and income figures from the Church Survivability and Health Study

are compared with the statistics of the six MCCs’ included in this study.

Average Worship Attendance Rates (Chart 8.1)

90
80
70 MCC A
60 MCC B
50 MCC C
40 MCC D
30 MCC E
20
MCC F
10
CSHS
0
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7
86

Funding from Outside Local Church Plant Sources (Chart 8.2)

(Sponsoring Churches, Denominational/Regional Grants, Individuals)

$35,000
$30,000
$25,000 Pre-Worship Year 1

$20,000 Pre-Worship Year 2


$15,000 Year 1
$10,000 Year 2
$5,000 Year 3
$-
Year 4

Church Plant Income (Chart 8.3)

140000
120000
100000 MCC A
80000
MCC B
60000
40000 MCC C
20000 MCC D
0 MCC E
MCC F
CSHS
87

Perhaps the greatest challenge a new church faces is the shift from the

identity as a church plant to that of an established church. In order to make the

transition successfully, the church must pay attention to each of the critical tasks

and stages of development from the very beginning in order to have the

necessary tools and structure to move into its new identity.


88

CHAPTER NINE

CONCLUSIONS

As the church enters and passes its fifth year, it transitions from being

identified as a “church plant” or a “new church” into being an established

church, with its own histories and traditions. Returning to the “Dog-Years”

analogy, it has matured through its puppy years, gone through house training,

its chewing phase, has learned to sit (and probably learned to beg) and been

socialized. This rapid developmental growth can be at times, overwhelming, but

it is a necessary part of growing up.

While the church continues to evolve and go through new stages, it is

important to remember that none of these initial stages is ever actually complete

– they will continue to repeat themselves throughout the life of the church,

especially as new people enter into the community. In addition, none of these

stages function exclusively; stages will overlap, and sometimes stages will be

skipped all together. Church leadership should be aware of what stages are in

play instead of trying to move the church through certain stages in order to
89

“advance” to another stage. With each stage comes both opportunities and

challenges that can help the church continue to grow into a healthy, thriving,

“successful” community.

Returning to the question that was posed at the beginning of this project,

“What is the definition of success?” Rev. Elder Darlene Garner responded,

“Success is the creation of a vibrant, growing, empowered community of faith

that is actively involved in effective relevant ministry to its own members and to

the broader community.” With this measurement of success, all of our church

plants have the opportunity to be successful. While attendance and giving

statistics are important information, they are most often causal statistics - an

indicator of other issues going on in the life of the church. Communities which

experience fractured conflict or have no clear sense of direction will often

experience decline in numbers and giving. Conversely, vibrant worship, active

outward-focused mission, and empowered leadership can lead to increased

giving and attendance because people want to be part of this community is and

what it is doing.

The UFMCC is currently undergoing a time of transition in its approach to

church planting. At the end of 2008, the founding chairperson of the Church
90

Planting Initiative and Church Planting Education Team stepped down and the

leadership of both these areas were passed to our Moderator, Rev. Elder Nancy

Wilson. This represents a significant shift in how church planting will be

managed from this point forward. In a recent letter to all MCC Clergy, Rev.

Elder Nancy Wilson wrote:

I also ask you to pray for those who are planting churches, and
contemplating planting churches. There is not a small city in the
US, in North America that cannot sustain a healthy, vital
Metropolitan Community Church. And, as we know, there are
more places all over the globe that are connecting with MCC today
than we can adequately respond to or resources. The only barrier is
leadership. I know that God is preparing that leadership now for
our future growth. 48

This is an important statement that acknowledges the place for new MCCs not

only in large urban areas but also in “small cities” in North America, as well as

around the globe. It was only ten years ago when some denominational leaders

were heard to declare that “church planting in the United States was over.” This

shift of attitude gives me hope for the future of MCC church planting as we

continue to seek how to best reach the people we have been called to reach.

48 Wilson, Nancy to MCC Clergy. Bearings – Letter for all MCC Clergy. March 6, 2009.
91

CHAPTER TEN

EVALUATION

A wise friend of mine recently said, “Writing is never done – only due.”

This project is no different. “Dog-Years” was first and foremost a labor of love,

drawing from my own experiences, mistakes, challenges, and joys of being an

MCC church planter. After my own experience, I became convinced that

communities evolve through developmental stages and that young communities,

especially, have certain stages and tasks that are important to their overall

development.

To this end, I was able to sketch out a developmental process that I believe

does exist within our churches. While I knew going into the project, that causal

conclusions could never be established, I believe I was able to identify certain

correlations between the stages and the experiences of each of the research

congregations.

What I also discovered was the high degree of fluidity of the stages. They

often overlapped, repeated, and in general were “messier” than a clean


92

developmental theory would like. But this reinforces one of my stated biases

that the church is first and foremost an organic organization.

An essential finding of this study was that while the actual stages and

tasks may play out years after the beginning of the church start, almost all of the

critical areas had seeds planted in the very beginning, just as the launch team

began to gather. These first critical months have a long term impact on

leadership development, vision and mission, church identity, spiritual formation

and ability to negotiate conflict within the community.

Another key finding of the study is that MCCs do have some specific

challenges and developmental areas that are either unique or at least more

dominant than other church plants in other denominations. Contributing factors

include MCC’s own history and traditions, its primary target community, and

the varied religious backgrounds of those who attend our churches. Unique or

dominant developmental areas, as identified in this study were: integration of

sexuality and spirituality, relationship establishment and trust issues, and

developing an understanding of a priesthood of all believers.

One of my accountability partners upon reading my original prospectus

feared “I was trying to do too much.” She was right. Along the way certain
93

aspects of the project needed to be modified or removed all together. The

original vision for the project would have included a chapter examining potential

developing stages beyond the first five years and a look at Erikson, Kegan, and

Schwarz’s theories as they related to the established church beyond year five.

Specifically, I wanted to look at Erikson’s theories of “Intimacy and Solidarity vs.

Isolation”, “Generativity vs. Self Absorption or Stagnation” and “Integrity vs.

Despair.” Examining developmental stages within the established MCC church

is an important area and merits further study.

Another area I was never able to fully study was the stage in the life of the

young church in which the founding pastor leaves and the church must go

through a process a redefining itself apart from the founding pastor. This too, is

an important area for further study. Some believe that a church plant never fully

becomes an established church until it has transitioned to the next pastor.

A pleasant surprise came from the “Success” survey in how few

respondents defined success in terms of attendance and giving. The majority of

respondents articulated highly similar beliefs centering on established vision and

mission, healthy relationships, service to the greater community, and strong,


94

equipped leadership. This was a surprise because we are often guilty of boiling

down “how a church is doing” to a few statistics on a big spreadsheet.

In the end, certain research methods were more beneficial than others. All

three of the surveys yielded critical, substantive data and anecdotal information.

Local church planters provided the best information when specific questions and

requests were made, but had a harder time with more open ended requests for

information. Requests for local church documents did not yield as much

information as I had originally hoped, and much of what I received was very

similar from one church to another. This is not a surprise as many founding

church documents such as standard operating procedures and local church

bylaws have been standardized in the last eight years by the denomination. It is

interesting to note that half of the churches reported a significant loss of

documents due to a computer crash within the first two years of the start of the

church.

I believe that this project was able to accomplish its primary task and

prove its principal hypothesis that developmental stages do exist in young

MCCs. I feel this project was limited by the actual constraints of the DMin

requirements, but it forced me to be more selective in the information I chose to


95

present. Another limitation was in doing the research remotely. A more

thorough study would include on-site visits and interviews in order to observe

the interactions of the community. In the end, I feel confident that this study has

been a worthwhile exercise for all who participated and will serve as a useful

framework for future church planters in MCC.

Moving forward, I hope that this study will be reviewed by those at the

denominational level who are charged with providing guidance and direction to

our church planting initiative. Additionally, it is my hope that this can be a

useful tool for current and future church planters and launch teams as they make

critical decisions in the beginning months and years of the new church. Finally, I

hope that this will serve to inspire more research around church planting within

MCC. We have an opportunity to look deeper and make connections that will

help future church plants for decades to come.


96

CHAPTER ELEVEN

EPILOGUE – AFTER THE CHURCH PLANT

Seward’s Folly - A MCC Church Planter’s Reflection

On March 30, 1867, U.S. Secretary of State, William H. Seward, agreed to

purchase Alaska from Russia for the sum of 7.2 million dollars, a mere 2 cents

per acre. William Seward was publicly ridiculed, with the press referring to the

purchase as “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox”.

With his death in 1872, he did not live to see the critics reverse their

opinions. But with the Alaskan gold rush in the 1890’s and the discovery of oil in

the 20th century, Alaska’s strategic defense placement during the height of the

cold war, not to mention the sheer beauty of that which is truly America’s “last

frontier,” few today would say that it was a “bad deal”.

In spite of his critics, William Seward saw value in something that for too

many appeared to have none.

Nearly forty years ago, Troy Perry also looked toward a frontier and saw

value in a people that many did not see. Not only did he see a people in need,
97

but he also saw a community of people that could contribute to the body of

Christ an untapped resource, if you would. He saw value where many saw

none.

This past October we celebrated the 40th anniversary of our movement,

“Troy’s Folly”. A movement that began with one person seeing the potential

that most did not see. Our movement has been based from the beginning on the

capacity to see the unseen, to vision a future that is not yet, and to see value in

that which many would discard.

As a church planter in our movement, I would like to believe that I too

have seen the value in that which many do not. I have seen first-hand the vast

potential in a determined group of people deeply committed to the values and

mission that is the MCC movement.

In October 2007, I left my call of the past five years as founding pastor of a

local MCC. I would like to say that as I left my call that I left a large, thriving

community with over 100 in Sunday worship. A church that regularly is in the

top tier of tithing churches in our fellowship. A church that owns property that

balances utility, mission and aesthetic and liturgical beauty. A church with an

active and vital outreach in the community that regularly makes large excursions
98

to mission fields in lands far away. I would like to say that that I left a

“successful” church start in all of the ways that some would define success in our

denomination. I would like to say it, but I can’t.

What I can say is that I left a group of committed people, yearning to fully

establish their unique identity as part of the body of Christ. A group of believers

fully committed to the vision and mission that is MCC. A group of people who

would not be part of MCC if one had not been built in their community. A

group of people whose lives have been forever changed for the better by being

part of the MCC movement. A group of people, that in spite of its small size, has

already made a tangible difference in hundreds if not thousands of people’s lives

in just five years. And a community that has been enriched by having the MCC

movement present with them in times of struggle and joy.

On the occasion of my ordination, one of the officiate’s charged me to,

“Remember the value of relationship.” Remember the value of relationship in all

things, over and above task, performance and strategic plans. When the church

is built on the foundation of relationships, it can accomplish anything it sets its

mind too.
99

In the past year and a half, since leaving my church plant, I have done a

great deal of soul searching and reflection. I have replayed many tapes and

scenarios, examined and re-examined mistakes and missteps. Looking for places

where I could have led more effectively, worked harder and just done better.

And there are many instances in which I could have and wish I had.

But I also remember the joys, successes and triumphs. And at the end of

the day, I come back to that in spite of everything; we really do have a ministry

of small things. Not insignificant, but small. One-on-one, person to person, one

life at a time. From the joys of holding a newborn to the sacred trust of leading a

congregation through grief and trauma, it really is all about relationship.

Two years ago I was asked why a church in Fredericksburg, VA was more

important than a church in a small town in Texas. My answer was simple, it

wasn’t more important – but it was as important. An MCC in Fredericksburg,

VA is important because there are still too many queer folk who have not heard

and do not know the true embracing love of God. Whether it be in Eastern

Europe, Latin America or Vermont or Wyoming, there are still too many who

have not heard. There are still far too many that do not know that they have

sacred value in this life.


100

When I was a teenager, a mentor told me, “We plant the seeds and rarely

see the harvest.” I don’t know if I will ever see the full harvest from the church I

helped to start, but I know deep in my bones that it is of value, even if others

can’t fully see it.


101

APPENDIX A

QUESTIONAIRES AND INTERVIEW PROTOCOLS

I. APPROVED PROPOSAL TO THE INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD

Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education


3401 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23227

Research Participant Information and Consent Form

Title of the Study: DOG-YEARS! DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES AND TASKS OF THE


YOUNG METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH: A TOOLKIT FOR CHURCH
PLANTERS

Student Researcher: Stephanie A. Burns; (540)424-5641; revsburns@msn.com


Project Supervisor: Dr. Jane Vann; (804)278-4291; jvann@union-psce.edu

DESCRIPTION OF THE RESEARCH


Thank you for your interest in participating in this important research study. Your
participation will help not only MCC church plants today, but into the future! You are
invited to participate in a research study about new Metropolitan Community Church
(MCC) church plants. The purpose of this research is to determine what developmental
stages and tasks occur in the first five to seven years of a MCC church plant.

You have been asked to participate because you are involved with a local Metropolitan
Community Church plant and/or are in leadership on a denominational level within
MCC. This study will include people who are involved with local MCC church plants
and people who serve in denominational leadership.

The research will be conducted in one or more of the following ways: telephone
interviews, surveys and questionnaires. For those asked to participate in telephone
interviews, audio tapes will be made of your participation.

WHAT WILL MY PARTICIPATION INVOLVE?


If you decide to participate in this research you will be asked to participate in a one hour
telephone interview and/or complete a survey and/or questionnaire. You will be asked
to complete no more than one telephone interview and no more than 2
102

surveys/questionnaires. If you participate in a phone interview, it will last


approximately 1 hour. Surveys and Questionnaires will require no more than one hour
each to complete.

ARE THERE ANY RISKS TO ME?


We don't anticipate any risks to you from participation in this study. If you choose not to
participate or choose to withdraw during the process, your action will not in any way harm our
professional relationship.

ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS TO ME?


We don't expect any direct benefits to you from participation in this study other than a
sense of satisfaction because of your contribution to this important project.

HOW WILL MY CONFIDENTIALITY BE PROTECTED?


While there will probably be publications as a result of this study, your name will not be
used. In order to safeguard the anonymity of the participants, only group characteristics
will be described in published materials.

All records and information collected from the research of this study, including church
records, denominational records, individual surveys and questionnaires, and recorded
interviews will be maintained in a locked filing cabinet and a password protected hard
drive (located in locked filing cabinet) in possession of the researcher. This data will be
kept indefinitely for the purpose of additional research. Once the data is no longer
needed, it will be destroyed. In the event that the researcher becomes incapacitated,
Tracey L. Kennedy will be responsible for the destruction of all records associated with
the project.

WHOM SHOULD I CONTACT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?


You may ask any questions about the research at any time. If you have questions about
the research at any time you should contact me at (540)424-5641 or revsburns@msn.com
or my project Supervisor, Dr. Jane Vann at (804)278-4291/(800)229-2990 or jvann@union-
psce.edu .

If you are not satisfied with the response of the research team, have more questions, or
want to talk with someone about your rights as a research participant, contact Dean John
Carroll at (800229-2990 or jcarroll@union-psce.edu .

Your participation is completely voluntary. If you begin participation and change your
mind you may end your participation at any time.
103

Your signature indicates that you have read this consent form, had an opportunity to
ask any questions about your participation in this research and voluntarily consent to
participate. You will receive a copy of this form for your records.

Name of Participant (please print): ______________________________________________

_____________________________________________ ________________________
Signature of Participant Date

_________ I give permission to be quoted directly in the DMin project without using
my name (please initial).

__________ I give permission to be quoted directed in the DMin project and use my
name (members of the Board of Elders, Board of Administration and Executive Director
of MCC only) (please initial).
104

SURVEY ONE
How is Success Defined Within a MCC Church Plant?

Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education


3401 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23227

Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes to respond to this simple survey.
Your feedback will assist in an important research project regarding church
planting within Metropolitan Community Churches. Peace, Rev. Stephanie Burns,
revsburns@msn.com .

Title of the Study: DOG-YEARS! DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES AND TASKS OF THE


YOUNG METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH: A TOOLKIT FOR CHURCH
PLANTERS

Student Researcher: Stephanie A. Burns; (540)424-5641; revsburns@msn.com Project


Supervisor: Dr. Jane Vann; (804)278-4291; jvann@union-psce.edu

1. Do you agree to participate in this research?

________ Yes

________ No

2. What is your role within Metropolitan Community Churches (check all that apply)?

________ Member of the Board of Elders (current and former)

________ Member of the Board of Administration

________ Senior Denominational Staff

________ Current Church Planter

________ Former Church Planter

3. Please answer the following: How do you define success within a MCC church plant?
Please elaborate.
105

Thank you for your participation. Your sharing will help to continue to strengthen our
church planting movement within MCC.

4. I give permission to be quoted anonymously.

________ Yes

________ No

5. I give permission to be quoted using my name (Members of BOE, BOA and Senior
Denominational Staff only).

________ Yes

________ No

6. Name (for BOE, BOA, and Senior Denominational Staff only) (Optional)

______________________________________

Thank You!
106

SURVEY TWO
MCC Church Planter

Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education


3401 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23227

Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes to respond to this simple survey. Your
feedback will assist in an important research project regarding church planting within
Metropolitan Community Churches. Peace, Rev. Stephanie Burns, revsburns@msn.com .

Title of the Study: DOG-YEARS! DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES AND TASKS OF THE


YOUNG METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH: A TOOLKIT FOR CHURCH
PLANTERS

Student Researcher: Stephanie A. Burns; (540)424-5641; revsburns@msn.com Project


Supervisor: Dr. Jane Vann; (804)278-4291; jvann@union-psce.edu

MCC Church Planter Survey


Based on Questions from the Church Plant Survivability and Health Study 2007
by Ed Stetzer

1. Do you agree to participate in this research?


1
________ Yes

________ No

Section 1 – MCC Church Plant General Information

2. Name and location of Metropolitan Community Church:

3. What year did the church plant begin (pre-worship)?

4. What year did regular public worship begin?

5. What event, idea, or concept would you consider as the beginning of the church
plant?
107

Section 2 – Church Plant Statistics

6. For each year the church has been in existence, please report the average worship
attendance.

________ 1st Year


________ 2nd Year
________ 3rd Year
________ 4th Year
________ 5th Year
________ 6th Year
________ 7th Year
________ 8th Year

7. For each year the church has been in existence, please report the total number of
members of the church.

________ 1st Year


________ 2nd Year
________ 3rd Year
________ 4th Year
________ 5th Year
________ 6th Year
________ 7th Year
________ 8th Year

8. For each year the church has been in existence, please report the annual number of
new members.

________ 1st Year


________ 2nd Year
________ 3rd Year
________ 4th Year
________ 5th Year
________ 6th Year
________ 7th Year
________ 8th Year
108

Section 3 – Church Plant Context

9. What are the dominant religious and denominational traditions in the community
where the church was started?

10. What were the dominant religious and/or denominational backgrounds within the
initial launch team?

11. What were the dominant religious and/or denominational backgrounds within the
people who began attending regularly after public worship began?

12. What are the dominant religious and/or denominational backgrounds within the
people who are currently attending regularly?

13. Has there been a major shift in demographics (i.e. income, ethnicity, education, age)
in the community since the church plant began?

________ Yes

________ No

________ Unknown

14. If the answer to the previous question is yes, what major demographic shift took
place?

Section 4 – Church Plant Information

15. What facility or facilities did the church use for their weekly worship meetings
within the first year (select all that apply)?

___ School
___ Movie Theater
___ Church Building
___ Home(s)
___ Day Care
___ A Business Establishment (i.e. mall, restaurant, store front)
___ Hotel or conference center
___ Community Hall
___ Other (please specify):
109

16. What facility or facilities did the church use for their weekly activities and meetings
outside of worship within the first year (select all that apply)?

___ School
___ Movie Theater
___ Church Building
___ Home(s)
___ Day Care
___ A Business Establishment (i.e. mall, restaurant, store front)
___ Hotel or conference center
___ Community Hall
___ Other (please specify)

17. Were these facilities adequate in size and functionality for the church plant?

________ Yes

________ No

Please Comment:

18. Were these facilities in a high visibility area (i.e. along a major highway or roadway)?

________ Yes

________ No

Please Comment:

19. What other facilities did the church plant use during the first seven years of existence
(select all that apply)?

___ School
___ Movie Theater
___ Church Building
___ Home(s)
___ Day Care
110

___ A Business Establishment (i.e. mall, restaurant, store front)


___ Hotel or conference center
___ Community Hall
___ Other (please specify):

20. What were the top 3 forms of publicity used to communicate the news of a new
church in the community (select only three)?

___ Word of Mouth and/or personal relationships


___ Mailers
___ Internet Communications (websites, blogs, e-mail blasts)
___ Newspaper ads
___ Billboards and/or road signs
___ Radio or television ads
___ Door hangers
___ Telephone campaigns
___ Community Events (i.e. Festivals, Job Fairs)
___ Newspaper/Newsletter Articles
___ Other (please specify)

21. What top 3 forms of publicity were used to communicate the news of a new
church in the community, specifically targeting the GLBT community?

___ Word of Mouth and/or personal relationships


___ Mailers
___ Internet Communications (websites, blogs, e-mail blasts)
___ Newspaper ads
___ Billboards and/or road signs
___ Radio or television ads
___ Door hangers
___ Telephone campaigns
___ Community Events (i.e. Festivals, Job Fairs)
___ Newspaper/Newsletter Articles
___ GLBT Media Outlets
___ Other (please specify)
111

22. How would you best describe the worship style of the church plant when worship
first started?

___ Liturgical
___ Traditional
___ Contemporary
___ Postmodern or Emerging
___ Seeker
___ Blended traditional and contemporary
___ Fellowship (relational, small groups)
___ Gospel
___ No particular, identified style

Please comment:

23. How would you describe the worship style of the church plant today?

___ Liturgical
___ Traditional
___ Contemporary
___ Postmodern or Emerging
___ Seeker
___ Blended traditional and contemporary
___ Fellowship (relational, small groups)
___ Gospel
___ No particular, identified style

Please comment:

24. Was an identifiable church planting model or method used in planting the church?

________ Yes

________ No

25. If the answer to question #24 was yes, what method was used? In what ways was it
modified (if at all)?
112

26. Please check which of the following intentional outreach activities were
conducted by the church plant through the first year of worship (select all that apply).

___ Revival Meetings


___ Children's Special Events
___ Prayer Group/Services
___ Community Volunteer Activities (i.e. Food Banks, Soup Kitchen, Habitat for
Humanity)
___ Justice Work (i.e. Public rallies, Work for Marriage Equality, Prayer Vigils)
___ Outreach Bible Studies
___ Bar Nights
___ Block Parties
___ Open House
___ Other (please specify):

27. Please check which of the following intentional activities were conducted in
preparing and strengthening the church plant up through the first year of worship
(select all that apply).

___ A demographic analysis and assessment of the community was conducted


___ Weekly small group discipleship program (community groups, life groups)
___ Intentional weekly prayer meeting for church membership
___ New member or Inquirer's class
___ A church covenant crafted and signed by membership
___ The church plant started at least one new church plant within the first 7 years of
existence
___ Delegation of key leadership roles to volunteers
___ A proactive stewardship development plan enabling the church to be financially
self-sufficient
___ Leadership training for new church members
___ Training on the nature of church conflict and healthy relationship training
___ Establishment of a Conflict Resolution Team
___ Other (please specify):
113

Section 5 – Church Plant Support

28. Please check all of the primary sources of the church plant's funding (including the
church planter's salary) (select all that apply).

___ Church Plant Core Members


___ Denominational Grant
___ Regional Grant
___ One or multiple sponsoring churches
___ Personal financial support network created by the church planter or church
planting team
___ a single individual or non-profit foundation
___ Directly from the church planter or church planting team
___ Fundraising
___ Other (please specify):

29. For each year of the church plant's existence, please state the amount of total dollars
received from outside sources, this does not include funds given by church plant
members.

Pre-Worship 1st
Year: ___
Pre-Worship
2nd Year: ___
1st Year: ___
2nd Year: ___
3rd Year: ___
4th Year: ___
5th Year: ___
6th Year: ___
7th Year: ___
114

30. For each year of the church plant's existence, please state the amount of total dollar
received from church plant members and attendees (includes church led fundraising).

Pre-Worship 1st
Year: ___
Pre-Worship
2nd Year: ___
1st Year: ___
2nd Year: ___
3rd Year: ___
4th Year: ___
5th Year: ___
6th Year: ___
7th Year: ___
5. Church Plant Support
31. Please indicate the year in which the church became financially self-sufficient –
meaning no financial support received from outside sources (church led fundraising is
considered internal funding).

Pre-Worship 1st
Year: ___
Pre-Worship
2nd Year: ___
1st Year: ___
2nd Year: ___
3rd Year: ___
4th Year: ___
5th Year: ___
6th Year: ___
7th Year: ___
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32. Please check the forms of support the church plant and/or the church planter
received from denominational/regional/or sponsoring churches.

___ Demographics and/or research expertise


___ Church Planter mentoring, coaching, and/or supervision
___ Church Planter Peer Network
___ Training for Church Planting and/or Team
___ Other (please specify):

33. Did the church plant have a sponsoring church or churches?

________ Yes

________ No

34. If you answered yes to the previous question, please indicate the level of assistance
the church plant received by the sponsoring church or churches during the first seven
years of existence (select all that apply):

___ Provided funding


___ Loaned laypeople for a specific period of time as workers
___ The sponsoring church pastor preached occasionally at the church plant
___ Active prayer support
___ Permitted church plant to meet in the sponsoring church plant
___ Bought or rented property and/or facility for church plant to meet in
___ Provided mentorship to the church planter or church planting team
___ Provided technical support (i.e. finances, music, administrative)
___ Other (please specify):

Section 6 - Church Planter

35. At the beginning of the church plant process, how long had the church planter been
ordained?

___ Not yet ordained


___ Less than 1 year
___ 1 to 2 years
___ 3 to 5 years
___ 6 to 10 years
___ More than 10 years
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36. What is the highest level of theological education completed by church planter?

___ Bachelor
___ Master
___ Doctor of Ministry
___ PhD

37. Did the church planter receive specific training for church planting prior to
planting the church?

________ Yes

________ No

38. If the answer to the previous question is yes, what sort of training was received
(select all that apply)?

___ Church Plant Workshops


___ MCC Church Planting Institutes
___ MCC Church Planting Training Modules (on-line)
___ Other Denomination's Training programs
___ Interdenominational Church Planting Conferences/Training Programs
___ Church Planting Internship
___ Other (please specify):

39. During the first three years post worship, how many hours per week did the church
planter work on average?

___ Worked 40 hours per week or more


___ Worked 30 to 39 hours per week
___ Worked 20 to 29 hours per week
___ Worked less than 20 hours per week
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40. Beginning with pre-worship, list the number of hours per week the church planter
was compensated for.

Pre-Worship 1st Year: ___


Pre-Worship 2nd Year: ___
1st Year: ___
2nd Year: ___
3rd Year: ___
4th Year: ___
5th Year: ___
6th Year: ___
7th Year: ___

41. Did the church planter maintain a second paid position (church or secular) during
the first seven years of the church plant?

________ Yes

________ No

42. From the beginning of regular worship, did the church planter have health
insurance where the majority of the premiums were paid by the church plant, the
sponsoring church, or other church plant related funding source?

________ Yes

________ No

Please Comment:

Section 7 – Church Planter Experiences

43. Please describe the church planter's experience with lay leadership development in
the church plant.

44. Please describe the church planter's experience with conflict within the church
plant.
118

45. Please describe the church planter's experience with stewardship within the church
plant.

46. Please describe the church planter's experience with ministry development within
the church plant.

47. Please describe the church planter's experience with outreach within the church
plant.

48. Please describe the church planter's experience with spiritual and theological
development within the church plant.

49. What was the greatest challenge of the church plant experience? Please explain.

50. What was the biggest surprise of the church planting experience? Please explain.

Section 8 – End of Survey

Thank you for your participation. Your sharing will help to continue to strengthen our
church planting movement within MCC.

51. I give permission to be quoted anonymously.


8. End of Survey
________ Yes

________ No

Thank You!
119

SURVEY THREE
MCC Church Planting Congregations

Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education


3401 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23227

Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes to respond to this simple survey. Your
feedback will assist in an important research project regarding church planting within
Metropolitan Community Churches. Peace, Rev. Stephanie Burns, revsburns@msn.com .

Title of the Study: DOG-YEARS! DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES AND TASKS OF THE


YOUNG METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH: A TOOLKIT FOR CHURCH
PLANTERS

Student Researcher: Stephanie A. Burns; (540)424-5641; revsburns@msn.com Project


Supervisor: Dr. Jane Vann; (804)278-4291; jvann@union-psce.edu

Section 1 – MCC Church Plant General Information

1. Do you agree to participate in this research?


1
________ Yes

________ No

2. Name and location of Metropolitan Community Church:

Section 2 - MCC Church Plant Context

3. When did you become part of the MCC Church Plant?

___ Launch Team/Core Group (Pre-Worship)


___ Within first year of regular public worship
___ Between years two to three of regular public worship
___ Three years or more after regular public worship began
120

4. What year did you become active in the church plant?

___ 1998
___ 1999
___ 2000
___ 2001
___ 2002

5. I identify myself as…(choose answer that best applies)…

___ A leader in the church


___ Active member of the church
___ Regular participant (2 to 3 activies per month, plus worship)
___ Regular attender (2 to 3 worship services per month)
___ Occasional attender/particpant (1 time per month)
___ Infrequent attender/participant (less than once a month)

6. What was your dominant religious and/or denomination tradition prior to becoming
part of the church plant?

7. What were the dominant religious and/or denominational backgrounds within the
initial launch team?

8. What were the dominant religious and/or denominational backgrounds within the
people who began attending regularly after public worship began?

9. What are the dominant religious and/or denominational backgrounds within the
people who are currently attending regularly?

Section 3 – MCC Church Plant Community

10. Describe how the church felt when you first attended.

11. Describe how the church feels now.

12. Think about your congregation’s history – when have you seen critical “turning
points”? What was going on at those times?

13. What biblical story seems to best articulate the present reality of your MCC?
121

14. Describe how (in detail) how important decisions are made.

15. Describe how the community deals with and responds to conflict.

16. Describe your three concrete hopes for your MCC.

17. What do you value most about being part of your MCC.

Section 4 - MCC Church Plant General Experiences

18. Please describe your experience with leadership development in the church plant.

19. Please describe your experience with conflict within the church plant.

20. Please describe your experience with stewardship within the church plant.

21. Please describe your experience with ministry development within the church plant.

22. Please describe your experience with outreach within the church plant.

23. Please describe your experience with spiritual and theological development within
the church plant.

24. What was your greatest challenge of the church plant experience? Please explain.

25. What was your biggest surprise of the church planting experience? Please explain.

Section 5 – End of Survey

Thank you for your participation. Your sharing will help to continue to strengthen our
church planting movement within MCC.

26. I give permission to be quoted anonymously.


1) 8. End of Survey
________ Yes

________ No

Thank You!
122

APPENDIX B

KEY TERMS

Board of Administration (BOA) – A body appointed by the Board of Elders to

handle administrative, fiduciary and risk management oversight and strategic

planning in conjunction with the Board of Elders. Directly supervises the

Executive Director.

Board of Elders (BOE) – Elected leadership of the Metropolitan Community

Churches. The BOE is comprised of seven Regional Elders, elected by their

regions to serve six year terms, and one moderator elected by the whole General

Conference to serve a six year term. Elders may stand for re-election for

subsequent terms. Vacancies that occur mid-term are filled by Board of Elder

appointment. Is responsible for spiritual leadership, resourcing and strategic

planning in conjunction with the Board of Administration. In relation to the local

church, members of the BOE serve primarily in a resource capacity with little

adjudicatory and oversight authority.


123

Church Plant – A new church generally less than five to seven years old that still

has its founding pastor. The church may have been established in a myriad of

ways including (but not limited to) church splits, reproducing church where a

group are sent, a church planter going to a target area and gathering people. The

church plant might be directed denominationally, regionally or by a sponsoring

church.

Church Planter – A church planter is ordained clergy person in the Metropolitan

Community Churches who has been empowered to lead an approved church

plant.

Church Planting Education Team – The church planting educational team is a

denominational team which serves under the elder in charge of the MCC Church

Planting Initiative. The team is focused on developing educational programs

specific to church planting, and evaluating current training and processes.

Elder – An elder can either be ordained clergy or laity. Elder can refer to both

active elders and any person retired or no longer serving in the elder capacity

that was at one time either elected or appointed elder. Once an elder, always an

elder if the individual remains part of the MCC.


124

Feasibility Study – A study conducted in order to receive approval to proceed

with a MCC church plant in a target community. It will include demographic

information, resources and anticipated challenges and benefits to a new church

being started in a particular area.

General Conference – International gathering every three years to vote on

bylaws and conduct denominational business. All active clergy have one vote

and all local churches in good standing have one vote, plus one per every 100

members.

GLBT – Acronym standing for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual & Transgendered people.

Launch Team – A core group of people brought together in a community,

committed to starting a new Metropolitan Community Church. Generally, at

least thirty-five are needed before beginning public worship.

Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) – Also known as the Universal

Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). A Christian

Denomination with ecumenical roots founded in 1968 in Los Angeles, CA by the

Rev. Troy D. Perry with a specific outreach to GLBT people but open to all.

MCCer – A MCCer is a person who identifies himself or herself as part of MCC.


125

Pre-Launch – The process of church planting prior to the beginning of regular

public worship.

Post-Launch – The process of church planting following the beginning of regular

public worship.

Portfolio – A Method of organizing the skill sets of the Board of Elders. Each

Elder (in addition to regional or moderator responsibilities) has specific ministry

and denominational areas that they are responsible for. For example, Rev. Elder

Arlene Ackerman is the Regional Elder for Region 3 and has in her portfolio

responsibility for the church planting initiative.

Queer – Used by some as both an umbrella term for the ever expanding Gay,

Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, Affirming/Allied and Questioning (GLBTAQ)

community, and also a political, cultural or theological identity that celebrates

going to the edge, challenging the status quo, and/or rejecting normative

conventions. Queer can also be defined as the word “peculiar,” a word that I

often use interchangeably with “Queer.”

Region – Currently, MCC is organized into seven world-wide regions. Every

local church is in a region and has a regional elder to use as a resource.


126

APPENDIX C

TOOLS FOR THE ROAD

Sample Liturgy - Rite of Founding Membership

Leader 1: The road we have journeyed to get to this day has been long for some
and shorter for others, but we have arrived here had many different paths bring
us to this place. And today we begin to new step in our journey together. Today
we become a communion of faith. Today, we become a church.

Leader from Sponsoring Church: This morning I bring greetings from MCC
_______________ Sponsoring Church – _________________….

Will you pray with me,

Almighty and Loving God,


On this day prepare our hands for a new and different touch.
A touch encounter
A touch of awakening
A touch of hope
A touch of feeling
Many of us have felt held in bondage to the past. May today, we find a time and place for
rebirth.
Give us the daring to create a new beloved community in your name.
With new links of affection.
Breaking away from our old patterns of relating and seeking a new path, with you as our
guide.
In Christ’s name we pray.
Amen.

Leader 1: Today we begin a new thing. Today we leave our baggage of old and
faulty teachings behind us. Today we enter into a living covenant with one
another and with God. There is a Hebrew word, hesed, which means covenantal
127

loyalty. It is used in reference to not only the people of Israel’s commitment to


God, but also, God’s commitment to the people of Israel.

As we grow and mature as a community of faith, we will stretch and challenge


one another as we establish our own unique vision, mission and core values as a
church, we will begin to establish our own hesed.

As part of a larger fellowship of believers, we also affirm and embrace


Metropolitan Community Churches’ Vision, Mission and Core Values.

Leader from Sponsoring Church:


By becoming a member of MCC _______________, you also each become of the
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Accordingly, through the
Rite of Membership, you affirm the Core values set forth by MCC.

• We believe in a Priesthood of All Believers.


• We recognize the inherent dignity of each person.
• We are committed to expressing love for one another by showing respect to each
person.
• We are committed to excellence in ministry.
• We are passionately committed to reaching all people with the message of hope
found in the Good News.
• Our faith is persistent and enduring.
• We are committed to the work of justice and inclusivity for all people.
• We are committed to being good stewards of the many blessings we have received.
• We are committed to inviting each person to find a path to wholeness of mind,
body and spirit and a full integration of spirituality and sexuality.

Leader 1: At this time, those have prepared themselves to enter into the
covenant of Founding Membership of Metropolitan Community Church
_____________________are invited to rise as you are able.

Metropolitan Community Churches defines members as those who enter into


relationship with the local church through regular attendance, showing interest
in and loyalty to the mission, vision and values of the local church, and
identifiable financial support.
128

Please respond to the following questions -

Have you been baptized?

Do you believe in God our creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our
Sustainer?

On this day, is it your intent to enter into a living covenant with your fellow members
and as well as future members of Metropolitan Community Church ________________?

Will you promise to care about each other’s welfare, be faithful co-workers in mission and
ministry and support one another as a faith community?

At this time I would like to welcome each of you into membership of


Metropolitan Community Church of _________________.

Rite of Friend of the Church

Leader 1: At this time, those have prepared themselves to become formally


recognized Friends of the Metropolitan Community Church of ______________
are invited to rise as you are able.

Do you promise to support and affirm the ministry of MCC ___________?

Do you promise to care about the well being of the church community, and demonstrate
the support of faithful friendship?

Members of MCC _____________, do you receive these individuals and recognize them
as Friends of the Church, valued members of the community and promise to support their
spiritual journeys, even if they are different than your own?

I would like to welcome you as formally recognized Friends of MCC


______________.
129

Sample Liturgy - The Blessing of the New Faith Community


As conducted at Inaugural service of MCC Fredericksburg (VA), October 26, 2003

Celtic Blessing Spirits of Joy


MCC Richmond

A Brief History of MCC Fredericksburg Vice-Moderator, MCC Fredericksburg


Several years ago, a small, faithful group of people formed a study group in
Fredericksburg to explore the possibility of starting a new Metropolitan
Community Church. This group planted the seeds for what we celebrate today.
Their work and faithfulness has not been forgotten.

In 2002, the vision for a Metropolitan Community Church came to light again
and following much prayer and discernment, this new work – was blessed as a
joint effort between MCC Richmond and MCC Region 3 by the former Mid
Atlantic District Committee of Metropolitan Community Churches. Two days
before Christmas 2002, the first official gathering was held.

Rev. Stephanie Burns was appointed to serve as the church planter and we began
the task of coming together as a community. There are many people who have
supported the journey and helped us to this point. There are many individuals
and communities who helped to prepare the soil for this new community of
faith.

Over the past nine months – we have built our church with the idea that “God is
doing a new thing in Fredericksburg.” We have grown to a strong core of
dedicated people and now eagerly anticipate the people who God has been
preparing to bring into our community. We have prepared ourselves to not
merely survive – but thrive as we grow into the church that God is calling us to
be.

In August 2003, we received approval to begin regular worship services. Today


we celebrate the journey that has been made over the past several years and
praise the many faithful people, past and present that have worked to bring
MCC Fredericksburg to this place.
130

Litany of Blessing

MCC of Northern Virginia Vice Moderator, MCC of Northern Virginia


In October of 1968, twelve faithful people gathered at the first worship service of
Metropolitan Community Churches. We are the living legacy of those twelve
and today we honor and celebrate the continued growth and prosperity of our
community. Today we recognize our newest sister church, MCC Fredericksburg.

We gather in celebration of the joy that is ours to share the love of Christ with
you.

MCC Blue Ridge Lay Delegate, MCC Blue Ridge


Born in response to great need, MCC’s are tasked to be a voice of justice in a
world that often turns a deaf ear. Today, we offer prayers for MCC
Fredericksburg. May you be a strong, bold voice on behalf of all of God’s people
– showing the light of Christ in all that you do.

New Life MCC of Hampton Roads Board of Directors, New Life MCC of
Hampton Roads

In spite of the challenges that lie before you – never feel alone. Remember your
brothers and sisters who span the world over. We are steadfast in our love and
support for you and your ministries.

We promise you:
We will be concerned for your welfare;
We will be co-workers with you in your mission;
We will turn to you for assistance in the work Christ calls us to do together.
131

MCC Richmond Pastor, MCC Richmond (Sponsoring Church)


As water flows like the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and as we are
reminded of our baptismal waters, we pray for courage, strength and
perseverance for this new faith community as they seek to “dig their own wells”.
May the Spirit of the Living God continue to bless and renew these people of
God.

Members and Friends of MCC Fredericksburg


With great honor and joy, we enter into fellowship with the universal church on
this day. We will endeavor to walk together in all God’s ways. We will join in
the mission of the church to witness to the life, teachings, and light of Jesus
Christ in all the world, while worshipping God and striving for truth, justice, and
peace, relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us. We dedicate our
labors, our time, and our commitment to God, who calls us into community and
into discipleship and who surrounds us with Everlasting Love. This we will do,
with the help of God.

MCC Richmond Pastor, MCC Richmond


On behalf of the sponsoring church, MCC Richmond, of our fellow churches
throughout the Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, and of all of
the members of the church universal, I dedicate and bless, Metropolitan
Community Church of Fredericksburg. May God continue to bless your journey
as a faith community and may this community continue to prosper and grow
and be the light of hope to a hurting world. Amen.
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Sample Interfaith Opening Prayer for Local Pride Festival


As offered at Pride of Fredericksburg (VA), August 2004.

Holy One, Creator God, Light of Life, Great Spirit – you created us in a bright
array of color and diversity as holy people. We come together to celebrate the
gift of our sexuality. We celebrate ourselves and our friends and family
members who make up the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and affirming
communities.

We gather today with our memories of the past and our hopes for the future. We
will never forget and never give up.

We remember those who are no longer with us, those lost to AIDS, illness, hate
crimes and fear – we carry their memories with us today.

We celebrate the new generation that is already in our midst and we lift up the
hope that the great community will continue to grow more tolerant, accepting,
and celebrating of our unique gifts and contributions.

As we celebrate Pride in ________________, we join with our brothers and sisters


around the world, uniting our voices and proclaiming, “We will not keep silent
anymore!”
133

MCC Leadership Questionnaire

Please answer this questionnaire as fully and honestly as possible. This is for my
information and specific answers will not be shared, although general trends and
attitudes will help shape our time together. Thank you.

1) When did you first come to this MCC?

2) Describe how the church felt when you first attended (when).

3) Describe how the church feels now.

4) Think about your congregation’s history – when have you seen critical
“turning points”? What was going on at those times?

5) What biblical story seems to best articulate the present reality of your
MCC?

6) Name the three most important people at your MCC and why (use and
explain your own criteria).

7) Describe how (in detail) how important decisions are made.

8) Describe how the community deals with and responds to conflict.

9) Describe your three concrete hopes for your MCC.

10) What do you value most about being part of your MCC.

Please use the reverse side and/or additional sheets of paper as necessary.
134

Guide to Developing Mission Statements for Ministries


A shared, meaningful purpose is important 49.
• Builds a common sense of direction and momentum
• Ministry commitment grows as the team works together towards a common
purpose.
• A mission is a joint creation of the ministry’s collaborative efforts.
• Molding the purpose together helps the ministry participants grow relationally with
one another.

Ministry Leader: Set Aside 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours for the ministry team to work on shared
mission and purpose.

Pre-work: Give each ministry team member the Mission and Shared Purpose Worksheet to
complete ahead of time. Additionally, give each team member the current copies of the
church’s vision, mission and core values.

Agenda
1) Begin with Prayer.
2) Icebreaker
3) Have participants divide into groups of three. Provide paper and markers to each
group. Have everyone share their responses from the Mission and Shared Purpose
Worksheet. Have each group write down common themes and ideas. On a separate
sheet, write down questions or concerns about the ministry’s mission.
4) Have each group present their list of common themes.
5) Lead the group in combining ides, deleting items and identifying key thoughts until
group has draft mission statement. Have group review questions and issues
generated in small groups. Check in to see if any of these questions or issues are still
unresolved. Continuing modifying statement until the team reaches agreement on
its mission.
6) Write finalized mission and have group do a final review.
7) After the group agrees on the final, lead the group in prayer and reflect on how this
new mission statement will help guide, shape and form the ministry into the future.
8) At next gathering, allow for 15 to 30 minutes to review the mission statement and
allow for any additional feedback after time to reflect upon it.

49
Payne, Vivette. The Team-Building Workshop: A Trainer's Guide. (New York, NY: AMACOM,
2001) 268-273.
135

Mission and Shared Purpose Worksheet for Ministry’s or Small Groups

1) How would you describe the purpose of this ministry?

2) Is your statement of purpose in Question 1 this ministry’s purpose as


opposed to the broader church community? If not, how are they different
and how are they compatible with the church’s vision, mission and core
values?

3) Do you believe others on the ministry team would define the team’s
purpose the same way?

4) As you have defined the ministry’s team purpose, is it meaningful and


important? If not, what would you change to make it more meaningful to
you?
136

Called to be Reconciled
Biblical Foundations for Reconciliation Ministries

 Through Christ we are reconciled to God, who gives us the ministry of


reconciliation. Romans 5: 1-11; 2 Corinthians 5: 17-20
 Reconciliation with others in the church is a prelude to genuine worship.
Matthew 5: 23-24
 We are to grow in unity and maturity by speaking the truth in love.
Ephesians 4: 1-16
 Groups in the early church came together to talk about their differences, to
seek the Spirit’s leading as they worked together. Acts 6: 1-6; 15: 1-3
 God’s people do not seek the absence of conflict but the presence of
shalom, a peace based on justice. Amos 5: 21-24, Micah 6:6-8; Isaiah 58;
Matthew 23: 23-24;
Luke 4: 18-19
 Jesus describes a process for addressing conflict and restoring
relationships in the church. Matthew 18: 15-22

Matthew 18: 15-22


from The Message
“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell when the two of you are alone and
work it out between the two of you. If the member listens, you’ve made a friend.
If you are not listened to, take one or two others along so that the presence of
witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If the member still won’t listen,
tell the church. If the believer won’t even listen to the church, you’ll have to start
over from scratch, confront the member with the need for a change of heart and
action, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in


heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get
together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Creator in
heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of
me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Lord, how many times do I forgive a
brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try
seventy times seven.”
137

Church Conflict Resource Bibliography

Behavioral Covenants in Congregations: A Handbook for Honoring Differences by


Gilbert R. Rendle. Alban Institute, 1998. ISBN: 1566992095.

Coward's Guide to Conflict: Empowering Solutions for Those Who Would Rather
Run Than Fight by Tim Ursiny. Sourcebooks, 2003. ISBN: 1402200552.

Church Conflict: From Contention To Collaboration by Norma Cook Everist.


Abingdon Press, 2004. ISBN: 0687038014

Church Conflict: The Hidden System Behind the Fights by Charles H. Cosgrove,
Dennis D. Hatfield. Abingdon Press, 1994. ISBN: 0687081521

Conflict Management in Congregations (Harvesting the Learnings Series)


by David B. Lott (Editor). Alban Institute, 2001. ISBN: 1566992435

Discover Your Conflict Management Style by Speed B. Leas.


Alban Institute; Revised edition, 1998. ISBN: 1566991846

Hope in Conflict: Discovering Wisdom in Congregational Turmoil


by David R. Sawyer. Pilgrim Press, 2007. ISBN: 0829817581.

Managing Church Conflict by Hugh F. Halverstadt.


Westminster John Knox Press, 1992. ISBN: 0664251854.

Never Call Them Jerks by Arthur Paul Boers. Alban Institute, 1999.
ISBN: 1566992184.

The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict


by Alfred Poirier. Baker Books, 2006. ISBN: 0801065895.

The Toxic Congregation: How to Heal the Soul of Your Church


by G. Lloyd Rediger. Abingdon Press, 2007. ISBN: 0687332249.

*Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict by
Kenneth C. Haugk. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1988.
ISBN: 0806623101

*Clergy Killers by G. Lloyd Rediger. Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.


ISBN: 0664257534
*Both Antagonists in the Church and Clergy Killers do a good job at laying out the nature of conflict in the church, but
both primarily focus on the extreme situation of toxic conflict. These books should be used with caution. Not all people
who disagree with the pastor are clergy killers and not all people who are disruptive are antagonists. Sometimes they
are merely “beagles” (see “The Beagle Principle” article by Thomas Fischer).
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Sample Community Covenant

Our Vision Statement


Loved By God! Led By Christ! Empowered to Serve!

Our Core Values


~ We are a Christ Centered Church – Christ is Our Example! ~ God’s Love is Unconditional ~
~ Priesthood of All Believers, Ministering to the World ~
~ Supporting Each Other’s Spiritual Growth ~

At MCC ______________, we seek to covenant, that is, promise how we will strive to be in community
with one another. This covenant grounds us in the sacred work of building community. As we have
committed to one another to support one another’s spiritual growth, we are encouraged to remember
this commitment as we enter into discussions of the business side of our community. Business is not a
separate piece, but an integral part of our spiritual community and how we share, listen, and make
decisions is a reflection of this spiritual community and our spiritual lives.

Seeking to be faithful together, we covenant with one another to:


Treat each other respectfully so as to build trust, believing that we all desire to live as faithful disciples
of a loving God.
• We will keep our conversations and communications open for honest exchange.
• We will not ask questions or make statements in a way which will intimidate or judge others.

Listen. Listen. Listen.


• We will NOT assume the motivations or experiences of others.
• We will seek clarification if needed.

Be open to new learnings from various perspectives.

Share our concerns in a spirit of love and respect in keeping with God’s teachings.

Focus on ideas and suggestions instead of questioning people's motives, intelligence or integrity.

Speak for ourselves only, expressing our own thoughts and feelings, referring to our experiences. We
will avoid broad generalizations.

Seek to stay in community with each other though the discussion may be vigorous or full of tension.
• We will be ready to forgive and be forgiven.

Respect the decision of the majority, and if we disagree with it and wish to change it, work for that
change in ways which are consistent with these guidelines.

Include our disagreements in our prayers, not praying for the triumph of our viewpoints, but seeking
God's grace to listen attentively, to speak clearly, and to remain open to the vision God holds for us all.

Remember the value of community in all discussions and in all decisions.


139

Stewardship Resources

Generous Giving ~ Generous Living

We are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for ourselves
the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.
I Timothy 6:18-19
What is Stewardship?

Because we often talk about stewardship in the midst of conversations about


money, it can sometimes seem like “stewardship” is just a fancy and perhaps
more spiritual word for fundraising or financial management. In truth, however,
stewardship is about much more.

Stewardship begins with the acknowledgement that everything we have and


everything we are comes from God. In varying proportions, God gives us many
gifts – gifts of life, of health, of love, of relationship, of vision, of skills and
talents, of time, of passions, of financial resources – and God calls us to be good
stewards of the gifts entrusted to our care. Stewardship is a way of responding
affirmatively to that call – of joyfully celebrating our gifts and of accepting the
responsibility to manage them wisely.

Stewardship is a lifestyle or way of living that includes every aspect of our lives:
work, church, family, play … body, mind, and spirit. To be a good steward is to
live a life embodying the principles and living out of the values of our faith —
loving God and our neighbors with our whole selves, caring for one another and
for our world, doing justice, and striving for holiness. This concept of
stewardship calls us to invest our gifts and our selves widely – in our families, in
the community in which we live, and in the congregation to which we belong.
This means that it is important for us to identify the things we most value and to
take care of them in such a way that they are not only protected, but also enabled
to thrive and grow. It also means that our stewardship is not only about taking
care of the present, but also about investing in the future.
140

What is Pledging?

Pledging is how we verbalize our financial to commitment to the church.


When we pledge, we are stating that we are supporting the ministries and
mission of the church through these gifts.

The pledging concept comes as a result of how lifestyles have changed,


particularly in the past 75 years. When we lived in a more agrarian society –
income was depended on crop yields and weather cycles. Now, the majority of
people have far more regular income patterns. In short, most of us know
approximately what we will make each month. While this is not true for
everyone, many of us do live with the knowledge of how much our paycheck
will be.

Just as we are called to be good stewards with the resources we have been
given, so to is the church called to be good stewards with the resources it is
given. Pledging helps the leadership of the church make responsible fiduciary
decisions. We know what to anticipate as the church’s regular baseline giving.

Pledging also emphasizes the idea that we give to the church all year round,
even when we are not present. When we go on vacation or are called away on
business, the life of the church continues and the need for your financial support
continues. Many people will either mail in their offering or “catch-up” when
they return the following Sunday. This again helps the church by having a
regular, consistent giving pattern.

Pledging is not a bill. When life circumstances change (as they often do), you
are free to change your pledge accordingly. Please feel free to notify the
treasurer or the pastor if needed. This helps the leadership to again be good
stewards of the church’s resources and secondly (and most importantly) it helps
us stay informed as to what is going on in your life. Never feel guilty if you
need to reduce your giving to the church. Giving is ultimately between the
individual and God.
141

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