1:00 P.M. EST May 16, 2011 | HOUSTON (UMNS)
Windsor Village United Methodist Church has more than 18,000 members and a roster of 75 ministries that serve children, youth and adults every day of the week.
A quick look at Kingdombuilders.com, Windsor’s website, gives viewers opportunities to learn to produce their own multimedia; information on purchasing healthy, organic produce through the Kingdom Co-op; prayers for the drought in Texas and for recover in Japan; and information on a Parenting Academy weekend, just to name a few.
Clicking further into the website leads the reader to connecting through worship, Bible study and programs as well as explaining the Road to Salvation and offering an outlet for prayer requests.
Even in Texas, where everything is bigger, Windsor Village is impressive.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, Windsor Village’s visionary leader, sat down with United Methodist News Service to talk about church growth and community building in the third-largest city in the United States.
The United Methodist Church is focused on creating more vital congregations. What makes Windsor Village a vital congregation?
When I came in 1982, I shared with the administrative council then that we were going to do three things, and we’re still trying to do those three things, almost 30 years later. First, have a strong education ministry — not just on Sundays with Sunday school, but during the week — dealing with secular needs of the people because that’s what John Wesley did. Second, have a winsome worship service; and third, reach out to children and youth.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell
is senior pastor of Windsor
Village United Methodist
Church in Houston. UMNS
photos by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery
That was a three-legged stool that I suggested we sit on, and it didn’t have anything to do with how many people we had. But let me be very clear about this: Just because you’re bigger doesn’t mean you’re better. I know some lousy big churches, and some great small churches. It’s about the size of your commitment and your heart and your faith in the Lord.
What do you consider before deciding to add a program or ministry?
Does it give God the glory? Will it meet the needs of the people? Is it scriptural? Would it defeat the works of the devil? And, of course in this economy, you have to ask: Can we afford it? Ideally you want to increase your structure to support the scope and size of your ministry. So when we start a new ministry we want to make certain that the budget is tight and we’re going to be not just faithful, but fruitful stewards of the relatively limited resources that God has given us here at Windsor. We do not have an unlimited budget.
You have been a spiritual advisor to President George W. Bush and now to President Barack Obama. What do you have to offer these world leaders as a person of faith?
I think perhaps the most critical thing I offer them is the truth. I’m not running for office. I have no reason to sugarcoat it. I view it as a prophetic priestly role, and am honored to be able to do so. Both President Bush and Obama are bona fide believers. Both of them became believers by confession of faith, which is interesting to me. I grew up in the church. I grew up in the faith. Their faith, on the other hand, they made a point-in-time decision, “I’m going to be a Christian.” Obviously their Christian faith has manifested in different ways, as is the case with most of us. But I admire both of them greatly. And I will tell you, until you’ve sat in that chair and dealt with what they have to deal with, you have no idea the pressure that they’re under. The Bible says, pray for those who are in authority. At the risk of getting in trouble, it’s fair play to criticize somebody’s policies and politics. But if you’re a believer and you criticize those policies without praying for the person, you are not aligning with God’s word.
What’s the biggest obstacle to growth the church faces?
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell says vital churches should “be open
to whatever the Lord wants to
do in your setting right now.”
View in Photo Gallery
It’s becoming increasingly critical for us to identify young pastors. The truth is that we tend to encourage mediocrity — unintentionally, but we encourage mediocrity. Once you’re ordained, if you preach a sermon on Sundays — good, bad or average — bury the bodies of folk when they die, do a baptism every now and then, don’t rob a bank, don’t beat your spouse, don’t show up on the news in a negative way, then you’ll keep your job. In some other denominations, if you don’t preach and preach well, if you don’t teach and teach well, if you don’t add value and do it efficiently, if you don’t have programming and do it spiritually, you don’t get paid. Minimum salaries are great. But what you don’t want to have is a minimum-salary mindset. It’s been suggested that this denomination has attracted a disproportionate or high percentage of “minimum mindset” pastors. And I think if that’s a preponderance of our pastors here, then we’ll continue to lose membership in The United Methodist Church.
What advice would you offer to other churches and pastors who want to grow vital congregations?
Please don’t allow the scope and size of what the Lord is doing any place to discourage you. Be open to whatever the Lord wants to do in your setting right now. Just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it’s not gonna happen. You don’t walk by what you see; you’re walking by faith. It costs nothing to vision. There’s no greater power than an idea whose time has come. I believe our time under God is now. So let’s go.
How do you want to be remembered?
I’ll be 58 this year. I have served in ministry more years than I will serve. So at the end of the day, if one could say truthfully that I was an honorable husband (so far, so good), a faithful father (so far, so good) and a productive pastor, that’d be good.
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.