Browsing: Leading Ideas

Leading Ideas
Delivered every Wednesday, our free e-newsletter Leading Ideas offers articles by thoughtful, cutting-edge leaders on subjects you care about — navigating change, reaching younger people, financing your ministry, communicating effectively — to help you be the leader God is calling you to be.

The Lewis Center is committed to helping congregations and denominations thrive and grow by providing ideas, research, resources, and training for vital and fruitful leadership. Through Leading Ideas, we share vignettes of leaders and congregations, book reviews, leadership quotes, and helpful “right questions” built around the premise that leaders don’t need answers — they need to know the right questions.


Leading Ideas
0 A Gracious Invitation to Generosity

Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff says inviting people to participate in the generosity of God can be a gracious way to initiate conversations about giving. Stewardship and tithing are important concepts, but too often they are heard as thinly veiled euphemisms for church fundraising. In many churches, the conversation around money and giving relies heavily on the vocabulary…

Leading Ideas
0 Worship Under the Bridge

Bishop Robert Schnase tells the story of a Texas congregation sharing worship with its homeless neighbors in relational and empowering ways. This powerful example of risk-taking mission began with the simple desire to learn about people’s circumstances and ask, “What do you need?” Two people, a married couple, actively belonging to a faith community in New Braunfels, Texas, began to…

Leading Ideas
0 Never Fail to Attend Because You Can’t Contribute

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., explains that while only a few members of your church may be currently experiencing hard times, most of the others live with the reality that they could face hard times some day. And they will feel better about giving to a church that acknowledges that reality. The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are often filled, as they…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Welcoming Strategies that Can Backfire

Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff says that churches sometimes reach out to newcomers in ways that are off-putting or even counterproductive. Unfortunately, several common, well-intended welcoming strategies top the list of things that can make visitors uncomfortable or even turn them away. 1. Asking visitors to introduce themselves in worship It’s common practice in many churches to ask…

Leading Ideas
0 People Give to People

Stewardship consultant J. Clif Christopher says relationship building is the key factor in encouraging donors to give. And while pastors often shy away from talking about money, Christopher says people of faith want and need counsel on how a disciple uses money. I visited one time with a very active church member. He had recently made two gifts. One was…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Things to Consider Before Engaging a Public Issue

When so many causes, crises, and critical needs demand our attention, how can a congregation decide where to engage? Pastor and author Ginger Gaines-Cirelli outlines key questions and concerns in discerning a faithful and sustainable response to public issues. Choosing when and how to engage actively in the public square requires intentional discernment. If your congregation is discerning whether to…

Leading Ideas
0 First Impressions Are Formed Earlier Than You Think

Kay Kotan and Blake Bradford explain that a church visitor’s first impression is often formed long before they enter the sanctuary. So, hospitality needs to begin online, as people approach your location, and through casual encounters with your building. We have all heard it said that you do not have a second chance to make a first impression. This is…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Practices for Fruitful Congregations in a Post-Attractional Era

Robert Schnase’s five key practices — radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity — have helped thousands of congregations be more fruitful in ministry. But churches today face a more challenging reality than when Schnase first articulated these principles a decade ago. In a new, revised version of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations,…

Leading Ideas
0 Church Childcare Programs: Income Generators or Missional Opportunity?

Nursery schools and childcare programs are more to churches than a source of rental income. Lewis Center Director Doug Powe says they offer important missional opportunities as well. He outlines four simple strategies for engaging children and families. Many congregations have daycare centers, preschools, nursery schools, or after-school programs. Some see the revenue-generating possibility of these programs as their primary…

Leading Ideas
0 Preaching Truth in the Age of Alternative Facts

New Testament professor Bill Brosend says that preaching in the age of fake news and alternative facts can be like walking a tightrope. But it’s when the stakes are highest that it’s most important to be disciplined, humble, and aware that actions speak more eloquently than words. How are we to proclaim good news in the era of fake news?…

Leading Ideas
0 8 Things Your Christian Educator Wants You to Know

The work of faith formation leaders in a congregation is expansive and vital, yet often undervalued and misunderstood. Virginia Callegary lifts up the need to support and affirm their work by sharing eight things she and other Christian educators want church leaders to know. Many churches employ a faith formation leader, Christian educator, or youth leader. Churches that do not…

Leading Ideas
0 Overcoming Apprehension about Change

Dan Turner led an older, established congregation through a restart. The remnant of members from the previous church brought many gifts to the new church, but also a healthy dose of grief and skepticism. They had to change and sacrifice. But ultimately, the power of seeing lives transformed overcame their grief and apprehension. A restart is different from all other…

Leading Ideas
0 6 Ways to Create a Guest-Friendly Worship Service

How can you position your church for increased attendance and growth? John Zehring, author of Get Your Church Ready to Grow, suggests six strategies that can make your worship more attractive to visitors, without requiring a major investment of time or resources. 1. Explain your time-honored traditions Integrate into your worship a brief explanation of religious practices and traditions in…

Leading Ideas
0 Leading Faithfully in the Public Square

Amy Butler, pastor of the historic Riverside Church in New York City, reflects on how churches can faithfully address the issues of the day without turning every Sunday into a political rally. She says a church’s prophetic witness must be grounded in the gospel and flow authentically from a healthy lived experience of beloved community. In today’s political climate, many…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Key Questions for Evaluating Ministry Possibilities

Aaron M. Bouwens says too many churches make decisions based on the popularity and charisma of a plan’s proponents. He says congregations can make better decisions by asking key questions about the proposal’s alignment with mission and whether there are enough people and resources to support it. The church council meeting has been moving along just fine when out of…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Lessons for Better Preaching

Charley Reeb, author of two books on preaching, says that preachers better connect with people in the pews when they realize they are in the pulpit, not the classroom, and strive for messages that are less academic and more relevant to everyday life. One reason so much preaching misses the mark is that preachers tend to approach the task as…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Ways to Involve Younger People in Stewardship

Churches too often overlook younger adults when it comes to stewardship and giving. Ian Urriola outlines four ways churches can foster a culture of generosity among young people. It’s stewardship season here in the U.S. The temperature is starting to cool down. The days are getting shorter. Pumpkin spice lattes are being consumed by the gallon. As we stare down…

Focus
0 6 Trends Revealed in 2018 Clergy Age Report

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., highlights some of the significant findings in the Lewis Center’s annual Clergy Age Trends Report. Of note is the modest downturn in recent years in the number of clergy under 35 as well as the number and percentage of young women clergy, following a decade of improvement. Download the 2018 Clergy Age Trends Report.   For over…

Focus
0 Young Clergy Effectiveness: Good News-Bad News

Data from the Lewis Pastoral Leadership Inventory™ (LPLI) suggest that younger clergy share many of the same strengths as their older colleagues and that they get high marks for their creativity and new ideas. The challenges seem to be sustaining that creative edge over time and translating new ideas into fruitful outcomes when it comes to worship attendance and discipleship…

Focus
0 5 Reasons the Church Still Needs Young Clergy

For many years the Lewis Center has monitored the presence of younger clergy in the church. Why do these trends still matter? Lovett H. Weems, Jr., and Ann A. Michel remind us that despite modest progress in the past decade, encouraging the ordination of more young candidates for ministry is just as important as it was when they first articulated…

Leading Ideas
0 6 Ways to Maximize Your Church’s Home-Field Advantage in Giving

Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard, authors of Contagious Generosity, say churches can reach donors in ways no other nonprofits can. Congregations can maximize this “home-field advantage” by building trust, enhancing relationships, casting vision, and working to shape their culture in ways that enhance generosity. Even though people attend church services less regularly today than in the past, the church still…

Leading Ideas
0 What Happened in One Small Church Mattered

Roger Lovette shares the touching story of returning to the first church he ever served,  thirty years later, to find they had finally acted on his recommendation to relocate to a more desirable location. The story is a reminder that change takes time and, more importantly, that transformative ministry continues along the way, keeping church going and making it holy…

Leading Ideas
0 People Too Busy to Serve? Teach Them to Steward Their Time

Lewis Center Staffer Ann A. Michel says people who think they are too busy to serve at church should be challenged to reexamine their priorities and make first fruits commitments of their time. Helping people steward God’s precious gift of time can free them from chronic busyness and allow them to experience the joy of serving. These days, it seems…

Leading Ideas
0 Engaging Young Adults Through Innovation

Ebonie Johnson Cooper describes how involving young adults in an innovative process of ministry design can enhance their church participation. She outlines five pilot initiatives that are proving fruitful at Reid Temple AME Church in Maryland. Contrary to popular belief, young adult Christians are not a monolithic group. We do not think alike. We do not worship God alike. And…

Leading Ideas
0 Welcoming Change Begins with You

Simple habits of congregational life, such as always sitting in the same pew or greeting the same people after worship, might seem normal and innocuous. But they can be unwelcoming and off-putting to newcomers. The good news is, simple steps to disrupt these habits can make a big difference to visitors and these changes can begin with you! We are…

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