Mission-Centric Ministry and Tithing

Published on: December 14, 2016

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There is a lot of confusion regarding exactly what a “mission-centric” ministry really is and even more regarding the process of transitioning from the minister-centric (Pastor/Flock Model) to a purpose-focused ministry practice. I use the word “practice” to emphasize that it is our way of doing ministry that determines our centrism—not what we say, but what we do and how our organization is structured. Also, how mission-centric ministry is funded is quite different from the Pastor/Flock model of ministry.

“The having of a mission statement does not make your ministry mission-centric. Embodying or being your mission that leads to the doing of your purpose is the arena of mission-centric ministry.”

 

Minister-Centric

Most ministries have a mission statement that is typically created in conjunction with a congregational process of discerning and formulating a ministry’s values, purpose, vision and strategic plan. In the minister-centric paradigm of ministry, tithing is centered upon the principle: give to the source of your spiritual nourishment. This sets up ministry leaders to monitor whether or not people feel spiritually fed—because it impacts the ministry’s income.

As leaders, in this ministry practice we are easily triggered by the church’s not enough. It is natural for us to wonder if people are happy and feeling that the ministry is meeting their needs. While there is nothing inherently amiss with this concern, it perpetuates the myth that the source of one’s abundance or well-being is outside of him or herself. When funding is linked to tithing practices that externalize Source, people’s sense of not enough eclipses their capacity to know that everything they have is their abundance. This is an unintended consequence of the minister-centric dynamic.

In addition, since the minister-centric paradigm of ministry is most fundamentally linked to the Sunday service as being both payday and the primary focus for impacting people’s lives, this ministry practice competes with the growing trend where on Sunday worship is not the only game in town. Just check out the soccer fields and your nearby Home Depot parking lot on Sunday mornings. With 9 out of 10 ministries in decline, mission-centric ministry is being seen as a more sustainable ministry practice, in part because it is funded differently than through the principle of tithing to where you are spiritually fed.

 

Mission-Centric

Transitioning from minister to mission-centric ministry is a “whole system” (all quadrants) process that takes 3–5 years to bring forth. It is the doing or practice of your mission that leads to creating community and organizational coherence, and creates the tipping points necessary to transform your church culture (the identity of the ministry). It also entails the reconfiguring of organization structures, practices and systems for “mission delivery” beyond the Sunday worship experience.

Simply put, in the mission-centric model of ministry, the entire community embodies the fulfilled state that the mission statement describes. People’s experience of the mission becomes the ministry’s identity in the mission-centric model rather than the role of the minister being the glue that holds everything together. In addition, the entire organization becomes structured for purpose of “mission fulfillment.” In other words, the mission is fulfilled via multiple avenues far beyond the Sunday gathering.

 

What’s Our Mission Statement?

Since Jane [Rev Dr Jane Simmons] and I assumed spiritual leadership of Unity Spiritual Center, Spokane, Wash., nineteen months ago, we discovered that, while the ministry had a mission statement and had been in the practice of repeating it on Sundays in the past, no one, not even the Board, could tell us what the mission was when we arrived or how it was demonstrated. (A mission and strategic plan fading into obscurity is a common phenomenon in the minister-centric model of ministry.) This was actually a blessing for us as we were hired to transition the organization to a mission-centric practice.

Soon after, we introduced a “practice” mission statement, explaining that before we could craft a new mission, we had to initially experience what it means to be on purpose. We need to first experience what happens when there is coherence surrounding who we are and what we do as a spiritual community, which is very different than just identifying values and goals. It becomes our way of “praying without ceasing” so to speak, and a method of “walking our talk.”

Our practice mission is Transforming Lives. It’s that simple and powerful. No one needed it explained. What’s more, since over 200 people in our community have been through the Q Process™ over 90% of our congregation has experienced a profound and personal transformation. They are embodying our mission. There is no gap between what we practice and what is our shared experience. Our entire community now uses a common practice to both experience and demonstrate our purpose: transforming lives.

Now, it is not Jane’s and my intention to “tell” the congregation what its mission is, but rather help them have the felt sense of what it means to be on purpose as a community and in their individual lives. And so, we are now aligning our organizational structures to support transforming lives.

 

Supporting Structures

If “transforming lives” is the mission, then how is that best accomplished? While the worship service is often inspiring, uplifting and engaging, it is rare that the Sunday experience alone transforms lives, birthing a greater reality among individual congregants. We can add classes to the effort, but unless a specific curriculum is linked to growing emotional and spiritual maturity, it might not be transformational.

What about small group ministry like a Fall Faith program? Now you are getting warm. Studies have shown that transformation happens most profoundly in small group ministry. Yet, in New Thought, small group ministry is typically a “bolt on” program rather than the centrism of the organization.

 

SpiritGroups

For us at Unity Spiritual Center, the SpiritGroups small group ministry program developed by Mendhi Audlin, LUT, is accelerating our transition to an entirely mission-based organization. Why SpiritGroups? Because it is a coherent year-round program for mission fulfillment when the mission of the ministry is linked to transforming lives.

I did a keynote talk at the 2016 Small Group Leadership Summit held at Unity Village, Mo., prior to our national convention last June [2016]. In the video I speak to how SpiritGroups can drive the transition to mission-centric ministry and answer more detailed questions about funding.

A lot more can be said about transitioning to mission-centric ministry. For instance, the role of the minister and board change in this new paradigm of ministry. The minister transitions from being ostensibly the “parental figure” of the family system to being in the role of “spiritual or life coach.” The board’s role moves from managing to modeling and from leading to developing other leaders.

Integral to the entire long-term process is the integration of the ministry’s shadow material and the emotional and spiritual maturity of the entire community. Absent of the resilience and capacity to manage change and overcome the collective “sense of not enough,” the transition to mission-centric ministry is unsustainable.

Finally, the context for tithing in a mission-centric ministry is to make a difference—to tithe as source, not to the source of one’s spiritual nourishment. Rather than focusing on supporting the ministry, we invite people to tithe as Source to the mission, transforming lives. In a mission-centric ministry practice, people give to make a difference, and this difference (the context from which they tithe) makes all the difference in how the ministry is financially sustained.

Gary Simmons
Rev Dr Gary Simmons is co-minister with wife Rev Dr Jane Simmons of Unity Spiritual Center Spokane, WA. He cofounded The Q Effect LLC and co-created The Q Process™. He facilitated transition consulting and church growth processes. He authored The I of the Storm and The Soul’s Conspiracy.

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  • Barry Vennard

    Transforming lives is and has been the mission of Unity ministries throughout the history of Unity. It has attracted people who are drawn to the promise of having their lives transformed through the application of Unity spiritual principles and practices. That has been the case whether or not the church was minister centric, community centric to this kind of mission centric. The mission of transforming lives speaks to the individual’s ego based desires to have more self esteem, health, peace of mind, dream fulfillment, prosperity, satisfying relationships, security,etc. If and when that does’t materialize in a way that is satisfactory to the Unity congregant, that dissatisfaction shows up as disillusionment with Unity teachings or, more often, dissatisfaction with the Unity ministry and its leadership. Because its focus speaks to the self centered desires of the individual it seldom calls forth their true, universal Christ nature. It often stimulates ego charged conflict and competition for power, influence and control in the ministry. That’s usually an expression of the individuals (or groups of individuals) desire to bring about a change in the ministry that they hope will more adequately support the greater satisfaction of their ego centered wants and desires for health, prosperity, relationships, peace of mind, dream fulfillment, self esteem/worthiness, etc. And, that is not the same thing as Visions Inspired, Mission Focused ministry that calls forth the divine potential in individuals to make intentional, conscious contributions for the large scaled transformation of human nature. That, large scale transformation of human nature was, I believe, Jesus intention.

  • johnqlistener

    Excellent, Gary. I love how “Transforming Lives” speaks succinctly and powerfully to our need to both have a better life ourselves, and also to make a difference on the planet by contributing to others at the transformational level. The transformation of humankind is the only way we’re going to make this planet work, and you’re right in the heart of the matter.

    I send props to you Gary for taking your theories and testing them yourself in your own church and then making the difference you’re making by sharing them with us. I like so much your realism that you can’t just say you’re “mission centric” and then it happens, but there is work to do by the individual congregant. Great stuff. Thanks.

  • Marty Newman

    I agree with Barry. I have had spouses of congregants call Unity “religion lite” because it can seem so self involved and navel gazing. Anyone who has fully engaged in honestly looking within for the source of our own discomfort knows that is not so. I have believed this was essential before we could work to transform the lives of others through a movement that would have real impact. I no longer think so. I actually it can and may be best if it is simultaneous – or almost as building of these kinds of skills and understanding tends to move in a step fashion. The feedback from our “work in the movement” is certainly information for our own spiritual and emotional maturity. I honestly believe that world wide transformation is what brings forth the passion that is necessary for the work, and I am beginning to wonder whether we have enough time anymore to do it “one person at a time” if this planet is to survive.

  • Jane Simmons

    Thank you for your perspective, Barry. It would be helpful, I think, to clarify what we mean by transformation in our mission-centric ministry. Rather than being about self-centered personal dream fulfillment, it is about developing emotional and spiritual maturity in such a way that we grow into the deeper fulfillment of our divine potential. With the shadow work we do, it has the effect of moving beyond navel gazing into taking responsibility for what we are expressing in the world. And showing up to be the change we seek. Blessings to you on the path! Jane Simmons