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Purple Cow: funny name, essential support

Posted: May 20 2019 at 03:06 PM
Author: By Diane Strzelecki, NIC Communications Specialist


Purple Cow pastors meet with Bishop Sally Dyck to share stories of how the group supports, inspires and holds each other accountable.

On March 27, clergy members of the Purple Cow group met at the Northern Illinois Conference Chicago office for their monthly gathering of support, prayer, encouragement, brainstorming, and accountability.

The group takes its name from the book with the same title by Seth Godin, who wrote that “success was linked to doing things worth noticing.”

Eric Blachford (Harvard: First), Jonathan Crail (DeKalb: First), Mike Jones (Shannon: Bethel), Victor Melad (Chicago: Edison Park), Adonna Reid (Chicago: South Shore), Megan Smick (Oregon UMC), and Karl Sokol (Brookfield: Compassion) are all graduates of the Institute for Congregational Development (ICD), a two-year intensive program that provides support, professional growth, and leadership training in order to prepare clergy to start new churches and redevelop existing churches within the Northern Illinois Conference.

The group met with the Rev. Martin Lee, NIC’s Director for Congregational Development & Redevelopment, to update each other on their respective ministries and how they’re helping their congregations “stand out from the herd.” They were joined by Bishop Sally Dyck, who listened to their stories and shared some encouraging words.

Blachford says the Purple Cow meetings provide an opportunity to sit down with other like-minded leaders and be inspired.

“Here we’re reminded of the importance of intentionality, which I think is the first step on the way to revitalization,” he said. “I come away thinking God’s really going to do something cool here.”

Jones credits the group for the ideas and encouragement as Bethel UMC continues to grow its Church at the Lake services in Shannon, Ill.

“Anything that happened for me in my ministry came out of a Purple Cow meeting,” he noted. “It’s phenomenal to be together for support, to have a place where ideas and encouragement can happen.”

They share stories of success and stories of “failure” with equal enthusiasm, taking cues and ideas from one another while developing ways for their churches to get noticed. Ideas flow back and forth freely.

“The Institute helped these graduates see possibilities for making more disciples and building faith communities,” Lee said. “Each month they gather to report on what they’ve done, what risks they’ve taken, how they are thinking outside of the box.”

The stories continue to fly around the table. Blachford talked about putting the emphasis on restoring joy at his small rural congregation, reaching out into the community for VBS partnerships, and welcoming young families. Reid spoke about her congregation embracing community members on election day, actively listening to concerns and joys of voters and providing prayer when requested. Melad noted that his congregation opened up their annual Easter egg hunt to the community—as well as the church building’s space, which is once again welcoming community groups such as the Girl Scouts—and seeing relationships being built in the community.

“Every month I get to meet up with my best friends in ministry,” noted Smick. “As clergy, we often get bogged down in the details and it can be easy to forget why we do what we do. These meetings are like a shot in the arm.”

Not only are these leaders adding to their communities of faith through new members, baptisms, and community partnerships, they all represent congregations that paid 100% of their apportionment in 2018.

During the ICD program, they learned from their classes and books; upon graduation, they put their study into action with each other’s support.

“You can see that this group gives you the confidence and courage required to do both the new thing and the hard thing,” Bishop Dyck told the attendees. “Sometimes a group is what’s needed to see a vision and lift it up.”

Visit for information on ICD.

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