Call to Action Twitter Report #umclead

Responses from the digital diaspora

Yesterday, the UMC jumped into the online world via a worldwide webcast of questions and answers about the denominations’ Call to Action report. It was structured to be watched by groups of people, so it included time for questions and 10-20 minute breaks for tables or groups to discuss.

While I credit them for a seamless disruption-nearly-free webcast and a good format, there was no effort for groups online to collaborate via Facebook or Twitter. Great Web 1.0 effort, sad Web 2.0 integration. There’s lots of us out there who are UMC polity nerds but don’t have a physical community of such people.

Enter Josh Hale (@expatminister) who suggested a hashtag #UMClead for our discussion on twitter. It took off like wildfire. From a few hours before the webcast to this evening,  I harvested 1,714 tweets for the #umclead, and I checked again an hour later and there were about ~100 more that weren’t included. Well done, Josh, organizing an online space for conversation…and it’s now on the official UMC website. Kudos!

First, wordcloud

The wordcloud of the tweets with the hashtag #umclead is above.

The top 10 words were: RT, church, umc, vital, people, question, congregation, leadership, bishop, and change. Interpret what you will. But the fact that RT was really high meant we were sharing each other’s thoughts and wisdom. I personally had over 30 RTs during the webcast.

Second, analysis.

My own thoughts:

  • There was white-hot outrage and snark that overflowed the internet tubes when the Bishop mentioned “scorecard.” Just a boom of thoughts. I think it hit squarely the CTA concerns that ministry is reduced or at least solely evaluated on whatever is quantifiable.
  • The question from the Congo and from the seminary class were the spot-on favorites, lots of shout-outs to those great questions. Congo asked what is God’s vision for the UMC, and the seminary class wondered where they would be left after people had decimated any semblance of structure beyond the local church. Those are my words and probable sentiment.
  • There was some self-reflections as people were complaining about the snark and sarcastic comments made by the twitterverse. Deal with it. It’s like doctors having graveyard humor…UMC polity nerds have polity humor. Clergy have clergy humor. Let us speak in the language we are comfortable when we know we are among friends, clergy and lay alike.
  • Finally, I’m thankful there’s a ton of faithful laity and clergy who are going through heartfelt struggles as they discern what God is doing with the UMC and what our role will be in that.

My highlighted tweets and retweets of mine (favorite tweets from the conversation, though I’m sure I missed some good ones):

  • robrynders Rob Rynders – Amen. That’s all folks. I’m off to grow my campus ministry through cats and cereal. #umclead
  • ireverant Mike Baughman – can an institution become a movement? I’m honestly curious if there are examples of this happening without the inst. collapsing #umclead
  • WVUMC WV United Methodist – How do we go from being institutional to being a movement again? Wow awesome question from bishop #umclead
  • revdeanl Dean Libby – “@amylippoldt: #umclead Jesus only made 12 disciples. How many am I responsible for? #scorecard” // Good question!
  • umjeremy Rev. Jeremy Smith – Someone came in while I was yelling “A SCORECARD? SERIOUSLY?” loudly. Whoops. Her response? “I score you on a curve.” That’s grace! #umclead
  • jhilde jhilde – RT @Jerad: The best advice I wld give a seminarian: prep to be incarnational and bivocational. #umclead // Best advice for current ones too!
  • revpeacegirl Kerry Greenhill – RT@Strangelywarmed Does anyone think Paul, Peter & Timothy strategized abt growing the church…? #umclead / Or did they go where need was?
  • expatminister Josh Hale – Those 4 markers aren’t drivers!!! Can only prove statistical correlation, not causation!! Arggh. #umclead
  • robrynders Rob Rynders – Are there new or emerging ways to measure vitality besides stats? (Panel: chirp, chirp. chirp, chirp) #umclead
  • steveheyduck Steve Heyduck – Annual Conference ought to be planned by people who have been UM for less than a decade #umclead
  • umjeremy Rev. Jeremy Smith – I’m not sure you can give bishops greater accountability without authority. I, for one, don’t want to return to Wesleyan autocracy. #umclead
  • justinhalbersma justinhalbersma – My question: Is the UMC willing to die for the sake of the Gospel? If not we may have a disconnect? #umclead
  • revpeacegirl Kerry Greenhill – I’m generally not crazy about any question that makes me pick *one* thing as most important. Aren’t these systems interdependent? #umclead
  • gavoweb gavin richardson – #umclead, general agency is small cost, percentage wise, so cost isn’t there, but it need a good shake up. Should be a mission, not a career
  • gmilinovich greg milinovich – “Sorry, I can’t love you because I need to improve my church stats first.”. #umclead
  • daveag Dave Allen Grady – #umclead a clergy just said to me “give me my sales quota so I can make it and then get on with real ministry”
  • gavoweb gavin richardson – Let’s be realistic, #umclead dashboard stats is about paying the rent & job security.. Two things I don’t remember Christ having. #justsayin
  • revbrad Brad Laurvick – “You haven’t worked in the private sector… They expect results!” #UMCLead #Ghostbusters
  • johnjwilks John Wilks – “Numbers never tell the whole story of a congregation’s life” Bish Goodpastor- followed by details of numbers we r going 2 focus on #umclead
  • melrynders melrynders – If we said a vital congregation can be big or small why are we so focused on numbers? #umclead
  • umjeremy Rev. Jeremy Smith – Boom! Exactly! RT @ithinkyoureneat: Numbers will only hand us correlations; we must find the causality behind them #umclead
  • daveag Dave Allen Grady – #umclead how can we reduce the distance when we are a huge denomination with global reach. Seems at odds with reduce the size of board
  • amylippoldt Amy Lippoldt – #umclead the “builder” generation built. Now we deconstruct, downsize, localize. That’s good. It’s the “results” stuff that is worrisome.
  • ireverant Mike Baughman – This is some real breakthrough stuff: vital congregations have good preaching and opportunities to serve!? Whoa! #umclead #hopethisimproves
  • robrynders Rob Rynders – Vital congregations have lots of members with cats. #umclead

Rob Rynders has some thoughts here “Call to Action and #umclead: Why Cats and Cereal Will Save the UMC.” Here’s a few of his thoughts:

  • The focus right up front was on statistics and the new buzzword, “dashboards.” The idea is that we need to increase our efforts in collecting statistical information about our weekly worship attendance and membership and make that information public (I assume for accountability’s sake). If we think that these dashboards will solve our problems then I am terrified for the future of the UMC. They can be used in helpful ways or they can be used to shame pastors into padding their numbers. I hope we use them as tools and for insight, not as motivators.
  • Every one of my colleagues are working overtime and are honestly trying to grow their congregations but sometimes hard work is not enough. How is the denomination going to train and resource leaders to create vital congregations? Will more difficult mission fields be resourced, trained and evaluated differently (i.e. The Western Jurisdiction)? Bishop Palmer did answer that there is a team that is focusing on how this will get done. I hope pastors will only be evaluated by dashboardsafter they have received the best training and resources.
  • The most important question asked today came from The Congo: “What is God’s vision for the UMC?” If we can’t answer that immediately and in detail when asked, then no commission or study will keep the UMC from dying.

Third, reading and responding.

  • READ all the twitter posts I harvested. 1,705 of them categorized on a Google Doc spreadsheet. It’s read from bottom to top unfortunately as I can’t figure out how to reverse the order. Sorry. UPDATE: Thanks to Alison Carmack, it’s now sorted from top to bottom. ThanksCheck it out here.
  • READ: I didn’t see this before but the UMC Leadership Summit site has many supporting and sister documents that informed the CTA. I’ve read the SAG report before but some of the others are new to me and I plan to peruse them. Check them out here.
  • RESPOND: After you watch the webcast and read through the above, fill out the survey that promises to be read. It’s 23 questions and quite serious in nature. Fill out the survey here.

Finally, shameless plug.

This blog has several blog posts outlining concerns with the Call to Action initiative. Check them out:


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  1. says

    I do think you captured the general feel of the broader twitter conversation. I do feel as though many of the comments were alarmist (perhaps as a necessary result of the immediate nature of the twitter response) and some definitely created straw men to respond to. (Specifically responding to the Jesus only had 12 disciples comment; he had far more than that.)

    You express concern that the dashboard could result in padding numbers, but the opposite actually happened in North Alabama where Willimon put it into place. Number went down the first year it was in place with the Bishop providing one theory that with less often reporting comes much easier exaggeration.

    I will repeat myself in saying without reservation that counting people isn’t something new or corporate. We seem to serve a God who loves counting things and people. One reading of the Bible shows that clearly. God loves it when people show up!

    Perhaps as a seminarian who is looking at new models of ministry I am less connected to the current structure (though I’m proud to be a UM and plan to continue as one in the future), but as I read the preponderance of response I see two things. 1. People who genuinely want to be faithful to Jesus’s calling. 2. People who are afraid of what that might look like institutionally.

    Embracing the calling and discarding the fear of change are both necessary for renewal. Baby steps will not work.

  2. says

    Great work, Jeremy. (Did you know your page has an ad for Mormons on the bottom of it?)

    @John Leek – “Change” is a word without content. Change what? Change how? Change why? These and others have to be answered before the call to change should be heeded. No one is afraid of “change.” They are not persuaded the changes being suggested are wise.

    God does count all the hairs on our head, but he values the bald man just as much as the hairy one. Sometimes his people are many. Sometimes they are a remnant. The key issue is whether they are faithful.

  3. says

    John Meunier, LOVE your blog BTW.

    Change means a loss of comfort and control. It means expectations. It means more rapid movement.

    Change, for me, means that we look at the way we do just about everything and see if it’s part of the mission AND if it is working. If it isn’t we shouldn’t be doing it.

    Change also means being willing to fail trying NEW things. Doing the same things that don’t work is being unfaithful.

    Change in this case means looking again at what it would look like to continue Jesus’ ministry to God with the Holy Spirit for the world in a totally new ballgame.

    Does what we are doing help turn skeptical people into believers (help people see how they are loved and valued by God), turn observers into disciples and replicate itself?

    If it doesn’t we should consider other faithful things we can be doing in the service of Christ in the worship of God.

    • says

      @John Leek, thank you for the kind words on the blog.

      I am fully with you on what you write here. If the Call to Action advocates would drop the corporate change lingo, quote some Wesley (without misrepresenting him), and say what you are saying above, I’d be all for it. I don’t see any of that.

      Maybe I’m just too suspicious and cynical for my own good.

      • says

        I don’t particularly like what they’ve done either. Willimon is easily one of the more change minded Bishops and when I was in conversation with him when he visited Asbury even he didn’t seem to see change in the way I feel is necessary.

  4. says

    First of all, I’m still figuring this “Call to Action” thing out,so I may be off base in my assumptions. That said, let’s get on with it. All the emphasis on numbers gives me feeling that, rhetoric to the contrary, this is really about the fact that people are staying away from (or leaving) us in droves and we want to stop the bleeding. I have a two things to say on that subject:
    1) Why don’t we start behaving like the followers of Christ we purport ourselves to be and start loving everyone, not just the people we’re comfortable with. That includes LGBT, youth and young adults, homeless people and any other marginalized group I may have forgotten. And, by loving them, I mean we quit ignoring and excluding them and welcome them into our fellowship. Fully.
    2) Quit copying the Baptists and get back to being who we are: Methodists.
    Truth be told, if we do number 1, the other two will work themselves out.


  1. […] Last week I spent a good part of a day listening and communicating with a number of folks during my UMC’s global Leadership Summit webcast. It was a good time to be a twitter native. Our community of folks were not intentionally courted for the webcast, but we sure did have our own little conference. Jeremy has a great run down of all that fun. […]

  2. […] Both of these happenings require us to look and listen closely and with a highly refined critical lens, so that we might discern truth in the midst of rhetoric.   My editor at The Christian Century posted this interesting consideration of the budget process that I think is well worth checking out:  And the Rev. Jeremy Smith posted this, much longer, run down of the Call to Action discussion: […]

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