Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Past our prime?

I often chide the Unitarian Universalists in regard to "seeking truth" being an inane vision for a congregation. But sometimes, a dose of one person's truth may be a good thing. Or maybe not. Here's some possible truth to ponder.

"The future of American liberal religion is one characterized by a posture of exile, where we no longer can expect that the larger culture cares what we are saying or doing."

Christopher H. Evans, from his new book, Liberalism Without Illusion: Renewing an American Christian Tradition

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Guaranteed low attendance...

The very best way to deter church shoppers and potential new members is to list sermon titles, topics, and the speaker in the church newsletter or on the church website. (Special occasions an exception.)

Potential visitors often check out church websites. If they like what they see, they're inclined to visit. This desire to visit may be thwarted by a particular sermon topic. For current members, listing titles creates a "pick and choose" faith, i.e., I like that sermon topic so I'll be there; I don't like that sermon topic so I'll stay home.

Listing sermon titles is a lose-lose situation all around.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Now is not the time to cut back..

I realize the last two years have been very difficult financially for many Americans. At the same time, I'm working with a medium-sized Episcopal church that began giving away the offering every Sunday, and also saw a 10-12 percent increase in the annual pledge drive for each of the past two years.

The minister and lay leaders believed that cutting back when others were in great need was counter to the congregation they wish to become.

A recent survey noted that almost 60 percent of Americans will spend as much, or more, for holiday gifts this year than last. This is not a time for church leaders to act as protectors of people's pocketbooks. This is the time for churches of all faiths to increase their good works
in the larger community.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Fear and Anxiety Committee...

One guaranteed emotional response to change in a church is fear. I have seen fear go off on its own course regardless of anyone's ironclad process, and I've seen change make a direct hit to the anxiety alarm in the brain.

I have seen clergy thrown to the anti-change wolves. I have watched transformational leaders butt their heads against emotional barriers.

Three issues are in play: Fear and other emotions complicate all efforts; many pastors are not prepared to do transitional work in their congregations; and, it's absolutely critical that churches connect serious change with their mission to the larger world.

Peter Steinke, The Christian Century, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Change? At our church?

The price of moving up off a plateau in membership usually requires paying the price of change. It means a change from doing yesterday over again, only better, to an intentional venture into new territory.

The goalless drift that is characteristic of too many congregations on a comfortable plateau in size must be replaced by vision, intentionality, a venturesome spirit, and the will to pioneer new approaches to ministry. Rarely, does this "just happen." It is the product of visionary and initiating leadership.

Lyle Schaller, 44 Steps Up Off the Plateau

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The make it or break it issue..

Is your church a voluntary association, or a community in covenant? A voluntary association allows members to set their own rules for participation. A community in covenant is one in which the institution of the church sets the standards. This is a VAST contrast in approaches.

Many churches claim to be covenanted communities, but they really aren't. They function like voluntary associations. The more theologically liberal, the more likely this is the case. If your church is a voluntary association, chances are good that what your church is today is what it will be forevermore. It will only attract people who desire a low expectation environment.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Christmas giving at its best...

I urge hearty souls to give to their churches the same amount of money they spend on Christmas presents for friends and family members. This money would go toward mission beyond the church's four walls, and not be put into the operating budget.

What a wonderful Christmas gift this would be, allowing us to shop in good conscience. If you think this is a stupendously good idea, as I do, please tell others.

I heard Christmas music in a department store yesterday, November 3.