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Rethink Church campaign kicks off around the country, offers ways ‘to be the church’

Rethink Church campaign kicks off around the country, offers ways ‘to be the church’

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Rethink Church campaign kicks off around the country, offers ways ‘to be the church’

By Diane Degnan and Linda Green | April 23, 2009 {1006}

NOTE: This information was produced by the Office of Public Information and United Methodist News Service at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn.

May 5 and 6 mark the kickoff of Rethink Church, the next evolution of The United Methodist Church’s “Open hearts” welcoming campaign. Major events will take place in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Doors are an integral part of the Rethink Church campaign, signifying the many opportunities to connect and be the church outside church walls.  Photo illustration courtesy of United Methodist Communications. Photo #09-1154.

“If we are to Rethink Church, we must rethink what it means be a servant community,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, the communications agency of the denomination.

United Methodist Communications oversees the Rethink Church advertising and welcoming program and provides Rethink Church training, media and public relations support services to United Methodist congregations and conferences worldwide.

United Methodist bishops from around the world will mark the launch May 5 when they visit day laborers at three sites in and around Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Council of Bishops meeting. The bishops will serve breakfast to the laborers and spend time with them in conversation and prayer.

More than 100 United Methodists will take to the streets of New York City May 6 to perform random acts of kindness, including hailing cabs and opening doors. The street teams will also give away iTune cards — good for one song download — that promote, the new Web site to which The United Methodist Church is directing people unaffiliated with the denomination, via Rethink Church advertising.

Local churches and annual conferences are also encouraged to plan events to benefit their communities. The goal of the events is to make tangible the messaging found within the Rethink Church advertising.

The North Texas Annual Conference has aligned a housing renovation project with the Rethink Church launch. More events are added daily.

Tools and resources to help churches plan Rethink Church launch events are available at New information on how congregations can get involved, including tips for launch-date activities, has just been added to the site’s “Getting Started” area. Also included is a church-level strategy for staging random acts of kindness events, similar to the New York City event. Ideas range from cleaning up graffiti to bagging groceries.

Web site opens church doors

The United Methodist Church launched its Web site April 20 in preparation for the Rethink Church launch.

The new site encourages people to think about church not as a building but as a doorway to service in the world. A UMNS image courtesy of United Methodist Communications. Photo #09-1155.

Using nontraditional methods to reach young adults and others in relevant ways, the new Web site shows the thousands of ways people can be the church in the world and invites a new generation into a life of faith and service.

There are more ways to enter church and begin a spiritual journey than just coming into the front door of a building, say designers of the interactive site.

“Faith itself is a bridge by which we see God and the work of God present in our world,” Hollon says. “God is not contained in the walls of our sacred buildings. God is in the streets, at the well, in the least expected places.”

Helping young adults

The Web site, dedicated to helping young adults find new ways to connect to the church, offers hundreds of virtual doors visitors can enter to allow them to make a difference in their lives and the world.

A viewer entering the “Watch Door” is able to see video about people in his or her community and across the world who are making a difference. Video and stories range from people dealing with current events to a reporter visiting the dentist for the first time in five years.

A print advertisement directs people to A UMNS photo illustration courtesy of United Methodist Communications. Photo #09-1156.

People who have a question or an opinion about prayer, spirituality or current events can click on the “Talk Door” and ask or answer away or engage in a dialogue with others. A virtual door called “Now” features the latest headlines and allows users to see topical items of interest on Twitter.

Through the “Friend Connect” door, site visitors can join several social networks and engage in real-time conversation about things that matter to them. The “Find Door” lets people interested in such topics as environmental issues, health advocacy, day care, disaster response and the arts type in a ZIP code and locate United Methodist churches near them that offer ministries and opportunities around their areas of interest.

“Ten Thousand Doors captures the variety of ways we carry out ministry, and it illustrates that doorways open inward and outward,” Hollon said.

As Jesus in John 10:9 uses the door as the pathway to salvation, the church is using doorways to express service to the world and as an entry point for those seeking to explore faith.

Areas of focus

The campaign is also a response to the church’s four areas of focus — developing principled Christian leaders, creating new churches and renewing existing ones, engaging in ministries with the poor and stamping out killer diseases of poverty by improving global health.

“Each of the four areas of focus is about creating engaged, active disciples committed to Jesus for the transformation of the world. The four areas are practical doorways,” Hollon said.

The method may be contemporary, but it promotes the work of faith in ways rooted in worship, prayer, service and Bible study — tenets of Wesleyan tradition, he said.

The Rev. Larry Hollon talks about the “Rethink Church” campaign during the Commission on Communication meeting Sept. 25-27, 2008, in Nashville, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry. Photo #09-1157.

“Faith is the bridge — the understanding, the vision, the hearing, the belief and the affirmation that God is in the world, healing, changing, forgiving, comforting and making people whole,” Hollon added.

A relevant message

The church hopes the site holds particular relevance to those ages 18-34, a demographic that seeks meaningful ways to change the world and is looking for purpose and meaning in life with friends who care about them.

“The gospel is relevant,” Hollon said. “The church must always strive to be relevant in presenting the good news of the gospel.”

The national advertising campaign directs viewers to the site where they can discover that United Methodists are people of action — people who are “Opening hearts. Opening minds. Opening doors.”

“It is a promise,” Hollon said. “We promise that you will be received with open hearts, open minds and open doors if you engage with the people of The United Methodist Church.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Degnan works in the public information office at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn. Green is a staff writer with United Methodist News Service, a service of United Methodist Communications.