Take a leap with extension society

Having served in local churches for over 33 years I have discovered a few common realities. It doesn’t matter the location, size, vitality, or circumstance of a congregation, these few realities always seem to be present. One of these is related to the moment a new concept, program, ministry, or idea surfaces and gains momentum. Inevitably someone will say, “But we don’t have the people or the money to do it.” Churches, almost any church, seems to operate out of a position of scarcity – we don’t have enough.
I think this is an issue of faith and an issue of protectionism.

This is a faith issue because we seem unable to trust that if the idea, ministry, program, etc. is God’s desire for our church the people and resources will be found. We restrict the Holy Spirit from setting hearts, minds and spirits aflame with passion and inspiration because we doubt we can do this new thing even if God is challenging us to do it. I know many of you are saying, “But how do we know if it is God?” There is no hard and fast way to know, but if someone has a passion, if the new thing is about caring for others, advocating for others, serving others, creating space for others, and if more than one person feels it to be a direction that would be worthy of effort and resources then often that means it is of God. The only way you can know for sure is to do it.
This resistance is an issue of protectionism because many times when we discuss something new we fear losing support for what is already happening. More times than not we want to protect what we have been doing because it is an honored tradition, it is how we have always done things, or we don’t want to have something that once was a passion fall by the wayside. Often the new thing will call into question something that is already happening or will challenge the assumptions that undergird what has been the driving force for what is going on. Ben Franklin said, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” We value what we already have and we think this new thing might not pan out, so we hold tight to what we know.
We have become risk adverse in the church. We don’t want to try something, invest resources in doing something, and then have it fail. Somehow, we think that if failure happens we have wasted those resources, that we have misunderstood God’s call, that we have lost credibility with others.

However, we all know that innovation means taking risks. We all know that we learn best from our mistakes. Thomas Edison tried 1000 different filaments for his light bulb before finding the one that worked. We all also know that what has always worked in the past is no longer working, assumptions that proved true at one time are no longer true.
We are at a moment of historic change in our churches, nation and world. Paradigms are shifting. And the ONLY way to come out the other side is to try new things. To think differently. To set aside your assumptions and take a risk.

So back to the common reality I started with and the statement that has rung out throughout the years and churches, “We don’t have the people or the money to do it.” There is a group within the Cascadia District that could help with at least part of this, the money part: the Cascadia District Church Extension Society.
Most of us think of the Extension Society as a place to go for help funding some kind of capital repair or replacement need, especially one that needs funds right away. It makes low or no cost loans or grants available to churches for things like furnaces, dishwashers, roof repairs, etc. But the Cascadia District Church Extension Society also make grants available to local churches for new ministries that reach new people, innovative programs and projects that are beyond the local church’s budget or that need additional funding to make them happen. You can find out more at www.umoi.org/cascadiaextension or by contacting Lee Hunefeld, president of the Cascadia District Church Extension Society at lelandh@mac.com
Stop being scared. Stop being frozen by being risk adverse. Stop believing that you must operate out of a mode of scarcity. Instead embrace the possible, dream the dream, listen to the Spirit and take a chance, a risk, reach out for some help and make a leap and see what might be.

Tim Overton-Harris
The Rev. Tim Overton-Harris is the Cascadia District Superintendent, supporting 47 congregations and two Hispanic ministries.