This week I’ve finished reviewing the final proofs of all the new resources supporting the Five Practices that will be available through Cokesbury on August 1. This has been prepared in response to the overwhelming requests that Cokesbury (and I) have received for more helpful resources to assist congregations in learning and practicing Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, etc. The overall plan is called Focus on the Five Practices: A Congregational Initiative. The initiative offers the materials, plans and ideas for a congregation to plan an intense five week emphasis on the Five Practices in order to imbed the language deeply into congregational culture. During the five weeks, the pastor preaches a sermon series, the worship leaders plan music and liturgy in support of the themes, every household uses a daily prayer and devotional booklet (Cultivating Fruitfulness) that develops the themes, and five planning groups do more in-depth study and planning for congregational change. There is also a church-wide Work Day that takes the church out into the community, and a final commitment and celebration time. There are also suggestions for children, youth, adult classes, prayer teams, communications teams, etc.
There is a Leader Manual and Media Guide that has over 160 pages of planning materials, sample sermons and liturgies, schedules and helpful suggestions, media projection slides and six DVD’s with video clips that can be used by planning teams or in worship. I think pastors and church leaders will be impressed by the quality and thoroughness of the videos and planning materials and will find them helpful.
There is also a daily devotional and prayer booklet called Cultivating Fruitfulness: Five Weeks of Prayer and Practice for Congregations. This allows every household and every family to prepare themselves with daily readings before hearing more in-depth treatment in preaching and teaching and planning. And there are five different Planning Workbooks, one on each practice. These are for small planning groups to dig deeper, and to develop more strategic plans and ideas for new ministries and initiatives for the Five Practices.
These materials are designed for maximum flexibility. Some congregations will want to use all the resources and design an in-depth immersion experience in the five practices that includes sermon series, small group planning, every household reading daily devotions together, work days, youth events, commitment services, and a long-term planning follow-through. Others will want to tailor the materials to support the fall annual pledge and stewardship emphasis and will meld these materials with some Consecration Sunday elements to help people prepare for their financial commitments with a full and renewed understanding of the mission of the church and how generosity relates to all the other practices. Some congregations may decide simply to preach a sermon series based on the original book and use the daily devotional booklets to supplement the learnings, and forget the planning groups, leaders manual and media kit, etc. Some congregations who have already preached a sermon series or had their leadership study the original book will benefit from returning to the five practices with new perspectives and resources to help deepen the congregation’s engagement and understanding of the practices.
As with any writing project, I’ve felt pretty much immersed in the new materials during the last few months, and now my part in the project is finished and it’s in the hands of the printers, publishers, and distributors. This work began with many telephone conversations and planning meetings nine months ago, and continued through the spring with heavy writing and editing deadlines that coincided with Holy Week, General Conference (some of you wondered what I was working on up on that stage!) and Annual Conference. When I clicked on the “send” icon on Tuesday to offer my last couple minor suggestions to strengthen wording or correct typos, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief and satisfaction for another project completed. But mostly I felt like I needed to click the send button with some form of prayerful blessing.
I pray that the words, work, videos, messages, ideas, shared experiences, and all the effort that various writers, pastors, laypersons, contributors, and editors have poured into this project yield fruit seen and unseen in hundreds of congregations large and small, and that ultimately there are lives changed, souls touched, sufferings relieved, gifts stimulated, and commitments to Christ renewed because of these efforts. My thanks to everyone who helped (there are lots of examples, sermons, liturgies taken from churches and pastors across the connection, and especially Missouri!), and I hope you’ll pray with me for the continued fruitfulness of the Five Practices in congregations.
Yours in Christ,