Parish Papers | Michigan District, LCMS

Parish Papers

Volume: 26

Don’t Disagree, Deliberate: How to Lead Community Conversations in Your Church

The church is no stranger to controversy. Chapter 15 of the Book of Acts describes a heated debate among the apostles at a gathering in Jerusalem. Should Gentiles be welcomed as Jesus’ followers or only Jews who kept Moses’ law by getting circumcised? When they resolved the matter, the letter they sent out to the churches acknowledged God’s work in the midst of disagreement: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” they wrote, that even non-Jews should be welcomed (Acts 15:28). Yet if disagreement about church matters can be holy, what about community matters? Should church leaders ever discuss issues of public concern and ask community members to join them? If so, how?
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Checking Up on Clergy Health: Assessing the Cost of Sacred Work

Many people feel called to their work and respond to job demands in ways that reflect a sense of vocation. But do we expect clergy to perform their calling with even greater devotion and sacrifice? Because clergy define their work as sacred, taking care of themselves may always be a lower priority. One writer describes the high cost of sacred work in this way: “if your backdrop is burning bushes and having a child at age ninety, or if it’s bumping into an angel with premarital plans for you . . . who are you to turn down a relatively minor request like leaving vacation to perform a funeral?"
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How to Raise Money for Your Community Projects

A congregation’s community project often starts with someone’s idea or dream, followed by a plan designed by a core team, and then, a group of volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Yet how can this worthy work be sustained over time? Whether the project involves food, clothing, or housing assistance; counseling and job training; or organizing residents around an issue of local importance like the need for a community garden or more stop signs, at some point the program might require funding in order to continue.
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Inviting, Informing, and Including Newcomers

In the 1950s, a new church start pastor challenged every member to invite two newcomers each month. Members enthusiastically committed to such a plan and the pastor’s wife, feeling a special call to grow the children’s ministry, regularly prayed for new babies to be part of the church’s growth. No one was more surprised than she was when half of the young couples in the congregation became pregnant that year! Although this was not an intentional church growth strategy, growing families primarily fueled church growth in the 50s.
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Volume: 25

Does Our Pastor Need a Job Description?

“I love our pastor and his family, but I don’t know if I can sit through another one of his sermons!” Other members made similar remarks that eventually reached the ears of Paul, chair of the personnel committee, who was asked to call a meeting to deal with members’ growing frustration. Paul felt nervous about setting up an unexpected meeting with the pastor because the personnel committee typically meets only once a year. However, the committee had never discussed with the pastor their expectations about sermon preparation vs. other priorities and time commitments.
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Mistakes Churches Make During an Interim Ministry

After thirty years of service, the pastor of Community Pine Church retired. For the majority of members, he was the only church pastor they had ever experienced. Lay leaders quickly formed a search committee to get started on finding an interim pastor. Any step that might delay them seemed a waste of precious time. They feared the months between pastors could deplete resources and members’ energy. After some discussion, the committee produced a vague document about the congregation and the kind of leader they were seeking.
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What Promotes Hope?

Do we see a snake or a rope? In this metaphor, the snake is fear, disappointment, discouragement, despair, anxiety, distrust, bitterness, or dejection. What is the rope? It is hope. All churches have hope, but they may occasionally experience snakevision: the illusion of no hope, only despair about the future.
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How Can We Help Immigrants?

A new church member—a recent African immigrant—described what his Christian mother taught him: “When someone comes to you and needs food and shelter, you give it to them. The next day you can ask them: What is your story?” The immigrant story touches every community and congregations have always welcomed newcomers. Typically, one in ten people attending a worship service in the US are immigrants—they were born outside the US. Further, one in five worshipers are children of immigrants because one or both of their parents were born in another country.
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Ministry in the Midst of Tragedy

On Friday, August 7, 2015, Vermont state employees left work and made their way to the parking lot together. There, a former client confronted and killed Lara Sobel, a social worker in the Department for Children and Families. Jody Herring shot her because Lara played a part in a custody battle involving Jody’s nine-year-old daughter. One of the witnesses, the Washington County State’s Attorney General, struggled with Ms. Herring to retrieve the gun and police apprehended her at the scene.
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Financing the Local Church: What Does It Cost?

Even though they are not members, Bill and Dorothy go to a church in their neighborhood once or twice per month. They are fond of the pastor and proud of the congregation’s ministry. They also take pride in contributing a small amount when they attend services feeling satisfied that they have contributed their fair share toward the church’s expenditures. Is their assessment realistic?
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Small Is Big Again: Reclaiming Small Church Ministry

Although megachurches garner a great deal of attention, these supersized congregations comprise only a small fraction of all worshiping communities in the U.S. The current estimate is that only about 1,650 megachurches (worship attendance exceeds 2,000) dot the landscape out of a total 330,000 congregations across America. In fact, most churches are small: two out of three Protestant churches attract less than 100 worshipers in a typical week. Some scholars predicted that megachurches would essentially put small churches out of business. But the percentage of large churches as part of all churches is growing slowly while the number of small churches has remained stable. While the church’s larger mission continues to be carried out by many small worshiping communities, small churches may get locked into self-criticism. However, more congregations are embracing the strengths associated with their small size. As one congregation proclaims: “We’re not just any small church. We’re the small church that’s here!”
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Guide to Good Governance

After months of meetings, the long-range planning committee of Epiphany Church submitted a report to the congregation’s board. The report highlighted three important conclusions: (1) the average age of regular worship attendees is going up while worship attendance overall continues to decline; (2) action steps must be taken immediately; and (3) major changes are needed in ministry priorities. After careful review, the board laid out five possible courses of action. How did Epiphany Church board members respond? They chose sides, with each action plan attracting supporters and opponents. How are they going to move forward and make decisions?
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How Do Congregations Respond to Interfaith Couples?

Beth Parab is an Episcopal priest. Her husband, Sameer, is an observant Hindu. Their first date lasted eight hours, stretching from coffee to dinner to a walk on the beach. And very soon afterward, she had to start thinking seriously about whether interfaith marriage was a possibility for her.
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Conquering the Cutback Syndrome

“We simply have too many churches in this small town,” declared a respected lay leader, Tom McClain, in a long-range planning meeting. “And three are from the same denomination as our church! It makes perfect sense to merge our congregation with the West Main Street Church. And if our other two denominational churches merge, our community would then have two strong congregations. I think two healthy churches better represents our denomination than four struggling congregations.”
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Volume: 24

Can We Wait for God’s Spark?

God sparks innovations, but only on God’s terms, and those terms usually involve disruption. From burning bushes to wood that burns even when soaked, God’s sparks manifest themselves in unusual ways. We can choose to ignore the spark or even squelch the spark. But, if we take notice of it, the spark soon becomes a roaring fire. What are the conditions for God’s spark? And, does the spark look different if people rather than God initiate the encounter?
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Does Your Congregation Suffer from Anxiety?

The church governing board gathered with a consultant for their much-publicized first meeting. They knew the consultant’s reputation and were eager to hear his advice. However, the consultant did not begin with recommendations. Rather he introduced a planning method known as SWOT analysis—acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Several church members were familiar with the approach but could not imagine how it applied to their church problems. No one had given much thought to how the congregation’s internal dynamics and their external context related to their current crisis.
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Keeping Up with the Pastor’s Pay: Trends behind Clergy Wages

Forces large and small affect how best to answer the question: “What should we pay the pastor?” Failure to keep track of inflation and replacement costs associated with current staff could make a church’s clergy compensation package uncompetitive. Sadly, the pastor feels no choice but to seek to move.
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What Keeps Congregations from Implementing New Ideas?

All individuals and organizations struggle with change. Implementing new ideas always means accepting that change comes as part of the package. Congregations hear about dozens of new ideas and gain new knowledge from denominational leaders, books, and workshops. Yet that news too rarely becomes part of a practical, local-church strategy. Why? There is often a big gap between what we know and what we do.
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Multiple Roads to a Multicultural Congregation

“We’re not sure how to do it but we believe we should become a multicultural congregation,” the pastor said. “How can we move from our dreams to a plan that achieves results?
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When Charity Brings Anything But Relief

Is it possible that our best intentions can do more harm than good? Sadly, relief organizations tell us that well-meaning people don’t think before they give. Some involved in humanitarian work after a natural disaster call the deluge of unwanted donations “the second disaster.”
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Making Congregations Greener

The celebration of Earth Day began in 1970 and has now spread to 192 countries. The early organizers could not imagine that almost fifty years later environmental issues would remain challenging, emotional, and controversial. However, for faith communities, the concept of caring for all creation fits with the Gospel message of assuming responsibility for what God has given us. How much have congregations embraced the practices of refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle?
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How Do New People Hear about Your Church?

When asked, “How did you first find out about this congregation?” visitors give surprisingly diverse answers. Because not all visitors are seeking the same thing, their path to your church door reflects their specific needs and interests. Thus, congregations need multiple strategies to publicize and promote their presence in the community.
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How to Deal with Church Conflict

The governing board met to make their final decision about hiring a new pastor. Having narrowed the field to two candidates after a long discussion, a board member moved for a vote. As expected, another board member objected to the motion. During the discussion, this member made clear that she strongly opposed hiring one of the candidates. Equally clear from the discussion was that the remaining board members favored the candidate that she vehemently opposed! She stated that she would leave the church if the board voted to hire the candidate she disliked. When a final vote was taken, the board unanimously (minus the opposing member, of course) voted to offer the position to the candidate she opposed. What the board did not know at the time was that she was leaving the church because of a job transfer. Was winning an argument more important to her than what was best for the congregation?
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What Numbers Matter for Congregations? Lessons from Five-Year Trends

Church growth, as measured by the average number of regular participants or worship attendees, has been the go-to statistic for many researchers and leaders tracking religion. Leaders less often consider other yardsticks of vitality—such as more meaningful worship, growth in ministry with youth, social advocacy, or engagement in foreign mission work. A new report based on information from over four thousand congregations gives us new insights about how congregations have responded to change over the past five years. The study suggests that some churches are thriving and surviving, despite the discouraging overall attendance trends.
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The Payday Lending Crisis: What Can Congregations Do?

Several years ago, the Rev. Dr. Freddy Hayes III, pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, noticed storefront payday lenders popping up like mushrooms, replacing banks. Getting organized, he and other clergy testified before the Texas legislature, saying: "If someone is drowning, instead of throwing them a life preserver .. we have thrown them shackles. That is what the payday industry has done to too many people." Congregations involved in community ministry confront a new challenge: the payday lending industry. Financially insecure persons live among us; attend our churches; and, especially in times of personal crisis, ask for assistance.
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How Ministry Teams Get Things Done

The pastor charged with recruiting teachers for the congregation's Sunday school classes expressed her frustration: "Every year it gets harder and I don't see that changing! I've tried every strategy and reached out to new people over and over again. At least I know one thing - what I'm doing isn't working." But one thing this leader and many others have not yet tried is a ministry team approach.
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Volume: 23

This Conversation—Again? Improving Church Communication

As congregations face change and new challenges, conflict is part of the process. Too often, under stress, church leaders and members fall into bad communication habits that prevent the airing of concerns and objections. Healthy conversations help people manage conflict and move them toward acceptance of new initiatives. Productive communication speeds up the process from planning to action and keeps members on track to accurately assess new realities.
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Navigating the Currents of Endowments and Reserve Funds

Donations to religious nonprofits climbed to historic levels, exceeding 115 billion dollars in the past year. Yet that rising tide hides small and turbulent undercurrents. Namely, charitable giving for religious institutions as a percentage of all nonprofit contributions continues on a thirty-year downward slide. Because people give to many worthwhile causes, including the church, leaders must make a case for how the congregation’s mission advances God’s will.
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New Models for New Churches: What Works?

Anyone with an internet connection can access Wikipedia and view the site’s content—35 million articles in 288 languages as of this writing. The site’s diverse content appeals to a huge audience and exemplifies what is called broadcasting, which targets one giant market. Another model, narrowcasting, seeks to reach a small niche market where the audience is, by nature, limited (i.e., by geography, demographics, or interests). These broad and narrow distinctions relate to the evolving history of church planting as well. Old planting models tended to use a broadcasting frame, whose leaders created a church for all comers, whereas newer models stem from a narrowcasting approach, where leaders design for a targeted group. Even the language used to describe what a church is reflects shifting strategies. Sometimes new churches begin as a worshiping community, a new ministry, or as a small-group initiative instead of broader designations such as congregation or church.
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Can Congregations Reach Young Adults?

A recent national study of more than eleven thousand congregations identified worshipping communities that are successfully engaging young adults. When 20 percent or more of a congregation’s active participants are between eighteen and thirty-four years old, the researchers designated the church as having significant young adult participation. They found that only 16 percent of all U.S. congregations met this threshold criterion. Thus, the study concludes that high young adult participation rates are not typical for American congregations. Most young adults are not hostile to organized religion, but the majority of them are unaffiliated and many describe church as irrelevant to their lives. Still, a broad range of faith groups found ways to minister to this important demographic.
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How to Enhance the Ministry of Associate Pastors

As one of the best and brightest seminary students, Chris delighted in his first pastoral appointment—the associate pastor of First United Church. Chris reveled in all his ministry responsibilities, such as developing a thriving lay ministry program, helping to set up a much-needed homeless shelter, and growing a strong youth ministry. In addition to regular worship leadership, he looked forward to the opportunity to preach once a month and officiate at weddings and funerals. Chris felt that this ministry setting was the perfect place to initiate new ideas and broaden the range of his ministry gifts.
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Congregational Strength Is Always Plural

What are the common denominators among churches that do effective ministry? Do they all have a thriving youth group? Or a large membership? Or great facilities? No! Strong, healthy, and effective congregations of all types thrive in many different kinds of circumstances. In all congregations, something already works well. The getting-stronger congregations focus on those strengths.
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Could Lack of Curiosity Kill the Church?

The proverbial expression that curiosity killed the cat highlights the danger of probing the unknown. However, the original phrase means something entirely different—that care or worry could wear out nine cat’s lives. Even early Christians gave caution about excessive inquiry, believing that curiosity was corrosive to the soul. Saint Augustine wrote, “God fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” But can too little curiosity hurt the church?
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Seeking a Bivocational Calling for Pastors and Churches

Jim tells his neighbor about their church’s bivocational pastor: “He preaches at our church at 9:00 on Sunday mornings, works in the church office two days a week, and does some visiting with sick members. On Sundays, he also drives eight miles up the road to another church and preaches there at 11:00. He sets up in their church office two days a week too. Then, he is the hospital chaplain one or two days a week.” Jim’s neighbor is speechless. He wonders when the pastor finds time for anything else. Many churches need different kinds of leaders and models of ministry to remain workable and effective. The example of the Apostle Paul, who made tents to fund his ministry, inspired multitudes. Now the current demand for bivocational pastors (modern tentmakers) far exceeds the supply.
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Finding God’s New Call in the Same Place

Bill is fifty-five and has been at Fairdale Church for fifteen years. Ministry there has lost its shine. He resists routine pastoral visits and even preaching has become a chore. However, in the current job market, finding a new call that can provide the salary he needs to support kids in college is tough. He has been looking for a while without success, so feels stuck. Church participation is down and the board is worried.
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What Churches Can Do to Increase Social Media Security

As email gained popularity in the mid-1990s, company leaders feared their employees would spend too much time with it and tried to limit employees’ email use. Then spam came along, making people even more nervous
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How to Avoid the Potholes on the Road to Retirement

Gordon, a pastor in his late sixties, ignored all the warning signs. Despite his waning energy, he believed he was the exception to every retirement rule. The congregation’s anxiety grew with each passing year and concerned leaders braced for the brewing crisis. Would the pastor have a medical emergency that suddenly suspended or ended his ministry? Would the church’s financial and mission vitality outlast the pastor’s “treading water” years? Would the congregation eventually confront Pastor Gordon and force him to exit?
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Our Future Pastors: Assessing the State of the Pipeline

Significant trends suggest that attracting and preparing people for pastoral leadership is becoming more difficult. What obstacles stand in the way of supplying congregations with the kind of leadership required in the future?
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Volume: 22

How to Make the Most of a Consulting Process

Church leaders face challenging questions without simple answers. Questions like, should we relocate to a new community, construct a new building, or renovate at our existing site? Hire a new staff person or reconfigure the job descriptions of our current staff? What kind of pastoral leadership will we need when our current pastor retires? Church-wide decisions like these reflect high-risk choices, which tempt members to maintain the status quo
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Should We Consider Closing Our Church?

This year ten out of every 1,000 congregations will close their doors for the last time. Across the U.S., this means that more than 3,500 churches go out of business annually. Surprisingly, the average congregational mortality rate of one percent surfaces as among the lowest for any type of organization. That fact is little comfort for the members, pastoral leaders, and communities who witness the death of a be-loved spiritual community.
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Do Your Mission and Method Fit Your Size?

Lyle Schaller pioneered research on congregational development and asserted that three factors predicted the development of any congregation...
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What Type of Follower Attends Our Church?

As Jesus prepared to go to Jerusalem during his third year of ministry, his followers increased dramatically. As the crowds grew, what percentage followed because their deepest desire was to respond to God’s call?
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Caring for the Caregivers

Rosalynn Carter pointed to the universal nature of caregiving when she said that there are four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers. The church plays a unique role by helping many people realize that they are already engaged in some form of this ministry. Caring for a family member or loved one is a vocation that can be sup-ported and celebrated by the congregation. Still, part of this support requires acknowledging that caregivers often put their own needs last and risk losing their ability to continue as caregivers.
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How to Welcome Children with Autism and Their Families

Kylie, an active five-year-old, does not speak but she is learning sign language. Sometimes Kylie’s behavior is similar to what professionals see in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Her parents want to attend church with Kylie and her two younger brothers. Unfortunately, several disappointing worship experiences have discouraged them from seeking out another church. They remain hopeful that they can eventually find a congregation committed to nurturing the spiritual growth of all their children.
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eGiving: It’s about More Than Money

Money doesn't buy all that it used to; neither do we spend it the way that we used to. In 2010, electronic payments accounted for 75 percent of all financial transactions. But in churches that same year, 90 percent of gifts came via cash or check. Not surprising when as few as one in ten churches offer parishioners the opportunity to give electronically.
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When Less Is More: The Consequences of Clergy Turnover

James served on the staff of two large churches be-fore accepting a call as a solo pastor for a small rural congregation. After three years, he wonders if his leadership has made a difference. Gloria accepted a call to lead an urban congregation immediately after seminary. After a decade in ministry there, she wonders if she is still the best leader for the church. Jeremy heard from his seminary mentor that a wonderful church, served for twenty-five years by an esteemed pastor who has announced his retirement, is seeking a new pastor. Should he apply?
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A Parable about Pastoral Leadership

Only the wisest of pastors can create a congregational atmosphere where the reins of leadership shift with each new opportunity or crisis. At least four types of leadership—character, focused, transformational, and shifting—are necessary for congregations attempting to navigate their rapidly changing environment. These four types are not a progression, but rather the forms of leadership that typically surface for congregations facing specific challenges.
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Big Ministry Trends for 2014

In his book about underdog strategies, Malcolm Gladwell recounts the biblical story of David and Goliath as a metaphor for the unexpected advantage. He gives examples of what he calls “the David opportunities,” those “occasions in which difficulties, paradoxically, turn out to be desirable.”1 He claims that there is unexpected freedom that comes when people believe they have nothing to lose. He writes:
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Volume: 21

Why a Sense of Belonging Matters

With our cultural emphasis on individuality, too many people are lonely and feel disconnected from others in their community. Because a sense of belonging can be linked to economic development, city planners and community organizers attempt to create environments where residents can enjoy a sense of belonging. Local churches also provide some of the fiber that weaves people together by offering them a place to belong and to be known.
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E-newsletters: Worth More Than You Know

E-newsletters are pervasive—marketers, businesses, politicians, civic organizations, and physicians, among many others, prize them for the content they deliver. Churches have also embraced e-newsletters because information can be easily shared with members. But they’re worth more—much more.
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Growth or Decline? 10 Key Questions about Worship Attendance

Three out of four congregations attract the same number of or even fewer worshipers than they did five years ago. Review the following questions to determine if your church could take steps to attract and retain more newcomers.
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Disaster Relief: Congregations in the Eye of the Storm

An EF level-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, killing 158 people, injuring 1,150 others, and causing nearly $3 billion in damage. The storm leveled St. Paul’s United Methodist Church worship center and severely damaged their family life center. Two of their members were among the dead and three members from another area congregation lost their lives. Hurricane Irene caused major destruction along the East Coast of the U.S. and record flooding took many inland communities by surprise. When the Schoharie Creek rose to historic levels, Prattsville and Schoharie, New York were among the most affected—90 percent of the village structures sustained major damage, including local churches.
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Clergy Groups: Are They Worth the Investment?

A pastor new to parish ministry sought advice from another pastor about continuing education opportunities in their community. “It’s hard to explain, but this pastor group I’m part of is just different from anything else I do,” his friend began. “Yes, I attend one or two conferences or seminars a year and I go to the denomination’s meetings. But each time that we meet I learn something from the other pastors that helps me in my ministry. I encourage you to find a group of pastors that will help you be-come a better pastor.” Is this good advice? Will the pastor’s participation in a peer group make a difference in the congregation’s effectiveness?
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The Great Recession: Its Effects on Congregations and What We Learned

Churches across America weathered the greatest economic upheaval since the Great Depression be-tween 2008 and 2012. In the middle of that fiscal roller coaster ride, charitable gifts to religious organizations in 2011 totaled around $96 billion. Although the donated dollars figure appears large, when adjusted for inflation, those dollars actually reflect a 2 percent drop from the previous year.
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Making Informed Decisions during Times of Change

Ann asked what seemed like a simple question: “We need more input and information before our committee can make a recommendation. How can we make sure that our decisions are wise and all voices are heard?” Congregations and regional bodies face this challenge when change or diminishing resources call for innovative approaches—such as new staffing configurations or shifting mission priorities. With many people involved—some with strong views and others with little interest or knowledge—how can leaders accurately portray the priorities of all those affected? One-on-one conversations about new policies are impractical in congregations. And when a regional governing body charges a task group with making proposals, the number of potential stakeholders grows even larger. In general, the larger the geography and the greater the number of stakeholders, the more complex the work becomes.
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Important Conversations: How to Avoid the Sand Traps

Churchgoers and clergy—even those with excel-lent listening skills—sometimes drift off the fairway of an important conversational round, whether they are handling personal matters with friends or church matters with members. They can avoid these sand traps through increased awareness of the ways they fall into them. Here are few conversational tips.
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Oral Communication: How to Strengthen Our Effectiveness

A congregation’s clergy and members will find that the best way to improve communication is by perfecting their responsive listening skills. Briefly defined, this conversational method enables us to listen to and understand another person—even though we may disagree with some of his or her opinions or behaviors. Sometimes referred to as caring or active listening, responsive listening creates a conversational environment in which people with whom you converse often move toward positive changes in their feelings, attitudes, or behaviors. A few people are born with this responsive listening ability, but most of us need tips on how to do it.
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What Leadership Style Works in Our Church?

Dave wanted to be a good pastor, and the right pastor for the church. But daily he felt like a square peg being pounded into a round hole. Unfortunately, different factions in the congregation held different views on his leadership. Some church members wanted Dave to bring an exciting new ministry vision and direction, others wanted to feel more emotionally engaged in church life, and another group of members wanted a comforting shepherd who focused on taking care of their spiritual needs. Dave, and all groups within the church, operated on unshared assumptions about pastoral leadership.
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Can You Downsize Staff Without Destroying Your Congregation?

Downsizing hurts not only the person who loses a job but their family, other employees, and even bosses who have a deep, compassionate spirit. When you add the element of a congregation, downsizing also hurts the personal and professional support groups of the staff person. It also damages the health and well-being of the congregation because it can wound the church’s image and witness in its com-munity context.
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How to Avoid Pastor Burnout

Francis, a nurse, works in a neonatal intensive care unit. Caring for high-risk infants and dealing with their concerned parents makes her job extremely stressful. Yet she loves it and cannot imagine doing anything else. Although she is exhausted when her shift ends, she is also happy because she knows that she has made a difference for her patients and their families. How can she handle the high stress and experience high job satisfaction—at the same time?
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Volume: 20

How to Use Our Five Senses to Experience the Wonder of Advent

Advent is a season of the senses. Scents of pine, bayberry, and Christmas cookies ready to taste fill the air. Everywhere you go, carols waft to your ears. The feel of wrapping paper and sticky tape touch our fingers. We “ooh” at the sight of outdoor lighting displays or behold the beauty of a simply decorated tree. This is also true in our church buildings and services—though many times we don’t recognize the senses for the spiritually teachable moments that they hold. Advent can be a time to help worshipers be present to life and to God in new ways. We all desire authentic spiritual experiences with God, but the trouble is that most of our teaching comes by way of sermons, books, Bible studies, and other spiritual resources. These all instruct our thinking but often miss our souls, the prime place of divine encounter.
20 - 12 - PDF icon P P --12-2012 How to Use Our Five Senses During Advent.pdf

How to Maintain Church Health in a Declining Population County

World War II’s financial transfusion healed the Great Depression of the 1930s. But World War II also ended rural America’s Norman Rockwell era. When 15 million people took off military uniforms in 1945, many of them put on wedding rings and began revising America’s population distribution. Halos of suburbs filled with young families and small children began ringing U.S. cities. Simultaneously, during the next three decades, more than 75 percent of America’s agricultural population began “moving to town.”
20 - 11 - PDF icon P P --11-2012--Maintain Church Health in Dec Population County.pdf

Preventing Church Fraud

Police charged Marilee Smith with embezzling $230,000 from the Baptist church where she worked as church secretary for twenty-one years.1 Authorities believe that she issued checks to herself and forged signatures. John Jones, treasurer of a United Church of Christ congregation, embezzled nearly $300,000 over an eight-year period. He took cash from the collection plate and fraudulently withdrew funds from the congregation’s endowment account for his own benefit. Patricia Taylor stole more than $150,000 from the Catholic church where she served as youth director and as the bookkeeper responsible for payroll. She made unauthorized credit card charges and issued fraudulent church checks to personal vendors. Another church employee stole more than $130,000 in just fourteen months because she was the only person able to write and sign checks, manage and reconcile the church checking account (including making cash deposits), and authorize the transfer of funds be-tween accounts. Her monthly financial reports to the church board were pure fiction. How do congregations prevent this sort of thing from happening?
20 - 10 - PDF icon P P --10-2012--Preventing Church Fraud.pdf

Where Are the Unchurched?

About half of all Americans are affiliated with a church or congregation. However, some parts of the country—like the Northeast, New Mexico, and Texas—with high percentages of Catholics, boast high affiliation rates. In these places, a congregation of some kind claims almost 59 percent of the population. Some upper Midwestern states—Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin—are also highly churched. Western states typically show the lowest affiliation rates...
20 - 9 - PDF icon P P --9-2012--Where Are the Unchurched.pdf

Keys to Growing a Small Church

Small churches can grow. A recent national study found that 15 percent of small churches—those with fewer than 125 attendees—grew in worship attendance over a five-year period. However, too many small congregations are like lockboxes that constrain the current size; this lockdown eventually leads to decline. While increasing percentages of people are attending megachurches, fewer than 2 percent of all congregations attract more than 1,000 weekly worshipers. Small churches are the most common type dotting the American landscape. The nature of these churches is complex, with a more diverse profile than larger churches. They exhibit unique leadership arrangements, member relationships, contextual pressures, and growth barriers. These features make pastoral and lay leadership more challenging because one-size-fits-all strategies do not fit all small churches.
20 - 8 - PDF icon P P --8-2012--Keys to Growing a Small Church pdf.pdf

What Message Are We Sending about Giving?

The largest source of congregational income is what individuals contribute through their offerings, pledges, donations, and dues. On average, nine out of every ten dollars a church receives come from what individuals give. Churches rely much less on other income sources such as trust funds, investments, bequests, and charges for use of their facilities. The typical worshiper gives an average of about $1,500 a year, which breaks down to $125 a month or $28 each week.
20 - 7 - PDF icon P P --7-2012--What Message Are We Sending About Giving.pdf

Mission Possible: More Men in the Pews

Women make up the majority of churchgoers. While about half of the U.S. population is female (51 percent), a larger percentage of worshipers (61 percent) are female.1 Why is this?
20 - 6 - PDF icon PP-20-6-2012--Mission Possible More Men in the Pews.pdf

How to Turn Bystanders Into Active Disciples

Every congregation faces the same challenge—a fraction of the members carry the majority of the load. These loyal few attend services weekly, participate in church programs, support the church financially, take on leadership roles, and volunteer for mission and outreach activities.
20 - 5 - PDF icon PP-20-5-2012--How to Turn Bystanders Into Active Disciples.pdf

How Is Your Congregation’s Health?

While every congregation is unique, congregations fall into three broad categories of health: healthy, intentional, and fragile. Within these three health categories are ten specific types. Where would you place your congregation’s health?
20 - 4 - PDF icon P.P.--4-2012--How Is Your Congregations Health.pdf

What Type of Future Are We Building?

Three churches: totally different, yet identical! The three churches are miles apart geographically. They are oceans apart in other ways. Each church serves a radically different kind of community. Their members have dissimilar backgrounds and life experiences.
20 - 3 - PDF icon P.P.--3-2012--What Type of Future Are We Building.pdf

How to Manage Change Resistance

Why do church leaders so often underestimate resistance to change—even when the status quo is not working and the change promises to deliver big benefits?
20 - 2 - PDF icon P.P.--2-2012--How to Manage Change Resistance.pdf

How to Perfect Your Leadership Triangle

The most effective pastors, staff, committee chairs, and ministry-team coordinators possess three skills in equal proportions: relational, organizational, and spiritual.
20 - 1 - PDF icon P.P.--1-2012--How to Perfect Your Leadership Triangle.pdf

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