Three years ago this month, we launched the FivePractices.org website and I wrote Blog Number One. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations had been published about five months before, and we wanted to support the conversations that were being generated about fruitful congregations, strategies for strengthening congregations, reflections on ministry, and experiences in the spiritual life. A task force of laity and pastors (bloggers all!) met to offer recommendations, staff members experimented with images and content, and we launched in October, 2007.
Since then, I’ve written more than 175 Blogs that have elicited hundreds of comments and responses from readers. Dozens of the Blogs have been reprinted through the Missouri conference newspaper and in many local newsletters and on websites. UMR has published several for distribution across the church. Abingdon Press sifted through the blogs and published thirty in a devotional book called the Balancing Act: A Daily Rediscovery of Grace. More than a thousand people subscribe to receive notices whenever a new blog is posted, and several thousand more receive reminders through Net News and other sources that repeat the announcement of each new blog. The website also has carried stories of creative congregations as well as other resources, links, and information about the books.
While the blogging and website ministry thrived, the Five Practices “Tree” flourished and continued to sprout new branches. More than 125,000 copies of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations have been used by church leaders, and in 2008, Focus on the Five Practices: A Congregation-Wide Initiative was released. Cultivating Fruitfulness, the daily devotional book for congregation-wide use, has now exceeded 100,000 copies. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations has a youth leader edition and a children’s leader guide is in the works. The book has been translated into Spanish, Korean, German, and Russian. I’ve been invited to speak more broadly before laity and clergy across the connection at conferences, district workshops, seminaries, clergy retreats, laity events, and leadership seminars. All these initiatives received support through the Five Practices website.
A few months ago, Five Practices of Fruitful Living was released, along with a Leader Guide for small groups and class teachers. This book takes the congregational conversation down to the level of personal discipleship. The book is being used widely this fall. This new book caused us to rethink the Five Practices website. We moved from a primary emphasis on church systems to a wider focus on the Five Practices for personal discipleship as well as for congregational work.
I’m happy to announce the launch of our new website! FivePractices.org has been redesigned with several new features. Steve Cusumano, who works with Graphics and Web Service for the Missouri Conference, has provided a fresh new design that brings to life the Five Practices, uniting the personal with the congregational themes.
The Five Practices Blog will continue as before, allowing people to comment on current or past blogs. We’ll likely use more photos and graphic elements in the blog. We’ve redefined our Stories of Strength section, inviting readers to submit stories and photos from their congregation’s experience of the Five Practices (submit a story here). We’ve added a Video Library which we are beginning to build. If you have clips that highlight the use of the Five Practices in your congregation, let us know.
The new Daily Devotionals section is one of the more creative innovations for the site. Every day we’ll display a different devotional selected randomly from the three devotional books that support the Five Practices. Readers can respond with comments or reflections of their own. A Newsletter feature allows anyone who wants to subscribe to receive an email whenever the content of the website changes. And the website provides the basic resources and links for biographical information, for purchasing books, and for connecting with others.
The purpose of the FivePractices.org website is to deepen the spiritual life of our leaders and to provide resources for congregations to fulfill their mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, renewing the church, and transforming the world. Radical Hospitality. Passionate Worship. Intentional Faith Development. Risk-Taking Mission and Service. Extravagant Generosity. These edgy words direct our attention to the essential work of the church and stimulate greater attentiveness to the essential practices of the spiritual life and Christian practice.
Thank you for your faithful support and continuing conversation about the Five Practices. Let us know what you think of the new designs. The site is a work in progress, open to continuing adaptation and revision. Leave a comment, or email me at RSchnase@aol.com or Steve Cusumano at Steve@moumethodist.org .
Yours in Christ,