Members of Mbour United Methodist Church in Mbour, Senegal, celebrate the opening of their new church building.
50/50 for Life, for Church, and for the World: A Lens for Missional Impact in Your “Glocal” Neighborhood
by Patrick Friday
The Rev. Rae Lynn Schleif, pastor of Linworth United Methodist Church, faced a difficult challenge. She needed to reposition her congregation to develop deeper relationships with its mission partners. The problem was not a lack of compassion; rather it was one of limited time and resources. What was the congregation willing to give up in order to gain more meaningful mission engagement? Linworth UMC in Columbus, Ohio, is not unlike other churches spread thin by numerous projects that share no unifying focus. A key moment of discernment came from an unexpected place—the other side of the world!
By embracing a 50/50 covenant with a global partner, the Linworth congregation had agreed to take risks, step out in faith, and stage an interactive online worship with their new friends in Laos, a Mission Initiative of Global Ministries. It was nerve-racking because everything was up in the air until the last minute and there were worries about technology and the internet connection. Then, as the congregation held its breath, moving images of their partners began to appear on the big screen. Songs of praise in a different tongue echoed through the sanctuary. “That’s when transformation happened for our congregation,” explained Rev. Schleif. “Even one of our oldest members was touched. I remember her exclaiming, ‘Oh my Lord, I would have never imagined that I could worship with people from the other side of the world.’”
Lens for Discernment
After catching a glimpse of what was possible through partnership, the next step for Rev. Schleif was assessing her church’s existing mission engagement. “I believed we needed to have more time to be in ministry with our partners in a way that would cause us to listen, learn, and understand more about their culture, their lives, their concerns, their joys, their needs, and their resources. In Mission Together 50/50 provided a lens for discernment. It enabled us to go from 23 mission programs down to five programs that are now having greater impact.”
From the Movement
Using a 50/50 approach creates space for all voices to be heard and all gifts to be appreciated in a healthy and balanced way. It’s a philosophical framework for missional engagement, born out of the intersection of partnerships and movements emerging from 25 years of bridge building within Global Ministries’ mission initiatives. Many of the mission initiatives have within them disciple-making movements led by United Methodists. Their leaders have valuable, first-hand expertise to share with others. Their passion, conviction, and creativity are contagious and can be challenging to the typical US congregation’s status quo. When a 50/50 partnership, which is based on mutuality, is embraced by all stakeholders in a multilateral way, the result can be transformational for all.
For Life, for Church
Laura Cottington, a layperson from Minnesota, participated in a 50/50 equipping workshop hosted by her conference. She was surprised by the difference it made in her life. She reported in her blog: “It has impacted my understanding of not only the mission and outreach of the church, but also all of my relationships—family, friends. Almost in everything I do in which I try to help others, I want to walk with them 50/50.”(See https://crumcmissions.wordpress.com/author/lauracottington/ for Cottington’s blog.)
After a recent training in Texas, the Rev. Bailey Barkley, associate pastor of First UMC Lubbock, began to explore ways to use 50/50 as a tool for engagement with his new church members. In Indiana, the workshop participants found 50/50 to be a helpful way of bridging the generational gap in their churches.
Mobilization, Multiplication, Movement
Our goal as a denomination is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” As the body of Christ, all members bring their own unique gifts and graces to the table. The recent Tanzania Roundtable was an example of the importance of this collaboration and our interdependence as partners. A native Tanzanian explained how the church is often perceived as “the provider” in her context. After being introduced to 50/50 she said, “Now I know God really needs me. And the church really needs what I have too.”
Mbour UMC, a congregation of Global Ministries’ Senegal Mission Initiative, has seen an outpouring of local enthusiasm for its recent church building program. Yet, the project stalled because of a lack of support from abroad. Today, Mbour’s members have embraced the idea of holding their own harvest offerings and are proud to be building the church from their own resources in Senegal. Inspired by 50/50, Pastor Jean Pierre of Mbour UMC has been empowering his flock with these words, “Levons Nous Et Batissons—Rise Up and Build!”
The city of Clarkston, located approximately ten miles north of Atlanta, was once a remote railway crossing. Today, Time Magazine calls it “the most diverse square mile in America.” Residents of the area speak 60 different languages and 32 percent of the population is foreign born. Seventy-five percent is under the age of 40. Clarkston is representative of many places now experiencing a major demographic shift in this rapidly changing world. To engage the globe today requires that church members simply go out the front door of their church into the surrounding community. To be part of this global Methodist movement of the Holy Spirit requires a commitment to living with everyone in the community as a people of faith. Sometimes stepping out creates messy situations, so the commitment is real and necessary.
Many church members are asking the question—where do we start? How can we have lasting impact through missional engagement in God’s mission—Missio Dei? The 50/50 partnership model provides a simple and straightforward framework for engagement globally and locally—“glocally.” At the intersection of partnership and movement, 50/50 brings together the body of Christ, sharing what we have through God’s abundant grace.
Patrick Friday is the director of Global Ministries’ In Mission Together 50/50 Partnership program. For more information about becoming a 50/50 partner, go to http://www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Partnerships/In-Mission-Together. This article was first published in the November-December 2015 issue of New World Outlook. Used by permission.
The Rev. Rae Lynn Schleif speaks at a roundtable event in Linworth, Ohio. Photo: Patrick Friday
United Methodist women in Senegal contribute their labor to build a United Methodist Church in Mbour, Senegal. Photo: Jean Pierre
Pastor Christian Istrate has begun a new United Methodist fellowship in Sibiu, Romania. Istrate is studying to become ordained clergy for the UMC in Romania. Photo: Üllas Tankler