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 Young Elder Numbers Return to Near Historic Low in UMC

Lovett H. Weems Jr. reports that the number of young elders in the United Methodist Church has dropped precipitously in the past two years. The number of elders age 35 and under has fallen nearly to the record low recorded 15 years ago, erasing a decade of progress. This year, the number of young elders (under 35) in the United…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Suggestions for Managing Conflict in Polarized Contexts

Effective leadership is the critical variable that holds an institution together when conflict threatens to tear it apart. David R. Brubaker says a high level of conflict is less likely when leaders engage conflict, manage polarities, commit to respectful cooperation, speak truth, and protect their people. Few individuals are eager to lead in a polarized time. Yet leaders today cannot…

Leading Ideas
0 Is It Time to Right-Size Your Staff?

This might be the time to have a conversation about right-sizing your staff, says Jim Kitchens. He outlines different ways to approach the task depending on the urgency of the situation. Many churches have been struggling for years to raise the financial resources needed to maintain the staffing model they’ve “always had.” This struggle has come into even sharper focus…

Leading Ideas
0 What Is Your Narrative?

Is your church dwelling in a story of woe and discouragement? Or does it see current circumstances through the lens of change and new opportunity? According to Mike Bonem, leaders set a positive tone for their churches by framing a narrative that emphasizes bright spots and the belief that God is doing something new. What is the overarching narrative that…

Leading Ideas
0 8 Factors that Make You a More Influential Leader

A leader needs influence to move a community in the right direction. Eight key factors can help you gain and keep influence writes F. Douglas Powe, Jr., director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, and James C. Logan, Chair of Evangelism (an E. Stanley Jones Professorship), at Wesley Theological Seminary. There is often a difference between who is in…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Types of Alignment between Pastor and Congregation Promote Well-being and Effectiveness

Matt Bloom, principal investigator for the Flourishing in Ministry research initiative, says a good fit between pastor and congregation is essential for pastoral effectiveness and well-being. His research suggests clergy thrive when there is alignment between the job responsibilities and the pastor’s skills, a match between the values of the pastor and those of the church, and when the position…

Leading Ideas
0 Changing the Tone of Conversations about Money and Church

Money conversations can be difficult in churches. But Lovett Weems suggests two principles that can change the tone of stewardship conversations. Never talk about people’s money apart from their discipleship and never talk about the church’s money apart from its mission. There are two principles that, if followed, can change the tone of stewardship in our congregations. These principles may…

Leading Ideas
0 How to Keep Your Leadership Pipeline Full

How can you make sure your church will have the new leaders it needs? Ken Willard and Kelly Brown consider how succession planning, a process common in the business world, can be adapted to help your church maintain a strong pipeline of leaders. Have you ever found yourself struggling to fill a key leadership position in your church?  Most of…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Essential Practices of a Hero-Making Leader

Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird say that effective leaders focus less on being the hero themselves and more on making other people heroes in God’s unfolding story. This hero-making approach to leadership development is rooted in Jesus’ ministry and rests upon five essential mindset shifts that build the kingdom through the power of multiplication. Hero making is a term we…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Tools the Pandemic Has Uncovered for Special-Needs Ministry

Sandra Peoples, a leading voice for the special-needs community, says the modifications churches have made to reach members during the COVID-19 crisis have made special-needs families more connected than ever. She believes new ways of reaching out to those in isolation could continue to bless these families long after the pandemic has passed. For my family, social isolation isn’t much…

Leading Ideas
0 Good Administration is Good Leadership

Bishop Will Willimon says competent, efficient, hands-on administration is just as important as the “big picture” leadership skills of inspiring a vision and nurturing theological purpose. Good management increases a church’s capacity to implement change and move forward. Many leadership books play off management against leadership, lamenting a preponderance of bean-counter managers and paper-shuffling administrators when what we need are…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Principles of Radical Hospitality

Yvonne Gentile and Debi Nixon believe radical hospitality means going beyond mere friendliness to surprise and delight church visitors. Three keys are letting guests know they are noticed, paying attention to their needs, and consistently following up after their visit. What does exceptional hospitality look like in practice? Radical hospitality is hospitality that goes beyond being friendly; it is welcoming…

Leading Ideas
0 8 Steps for Moving from Protest Moment to Social Action Movement

Anthony Hunt writes that recent social movements raise the question of how protest moments can lead to substantial, sustainable social change. He outlines eight steps for galvanizing support and moving from reaction to constructive, coordinated action. Recent protests across America have heightened awareness of several urgent social issues — from Black Lives Matter and the need for police reform, to…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Ways to Reset Your Stewardship Ministry in the Midst of COVID-19

Nearly half of congregations say stewardship is the biggest challenge they face as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Stewardship expert Clayton Smith says churches can bounce back and suggests three ways to move forward with sustained generosity. Lake Institute of Faith & Giving recently surveyed church leaders about Faith and Giving in the Time of COVID-19. Nearly half of…

Leading Ideas
0 Ministering with Families in the Ongoing Pandemic

Emily Peck McClain describes the very real challenges children, youth, and families face during this time of upheaval and distance from physical church. She offers practical suggestions for how congregations can meet their material, spiritual, and emotional needs. Those who minister with families are facing difficult challenges in these days. When schools are closed children suffer the loss of much…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Ways to Counter Online Fatigue

Are you and your church growing weary of so many online encounters? There are different ways of connecting safely that don’t involve staring at a screen, writes F. Douglas Powe, Jr., director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and James C. Logan Chair in Evangelism (an E. Stanley Jones Professorship) at Wesley Theological Seminary. The past few months have…

Leading Ideas
0 6 Tips for Connecting with People in the Digital Realm

Tim Snyder considers how church leaders can connect with new people through digital relationships. He explains how digital platforms provide enhanced opportunities for listening, prayer, storytelling, and evangelism in the course of day-to-day life. The digital revolution has been transforming our lives for the past 30 years — at home, at work, and, yes, at church. But in the face…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Capacities Needed to Multiply Your Church’s Ministry

Paul Nixon and Christie Latona say congregations ready to launch successful new initiatives typically possess four strands of congregational DNA — spiritual intensity, missional alignment, dynamic relationships, and cultural openness. Measuring and strengthening these four capacities can prepare your church to leap from maintenance to gospel movement. Multiplication can mean many different things for a church. Sometimes new small groups,…

Leading Ideas
0 Are Your Pandemic Giving Systems as Effective as the Offering Plate?

Due to COVID-19 restrictions most churches have adopted new ways of taking up the collection. Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff says it’s important that these new methods honor the central role of offering in worship and invite everyone to give. The familiar ritual of passing the plate has fallen victim to the pandemic. Many churches worshiping online have put…

Leading Ideas
0 The Challenging Climate for U.S. Congregations

The average congregation is getting smaller with a median size of around 60 attenders, reports Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research. At the same time, a small percentage of large congregations accounts for around half of weekly worship attendance and increasingly dominates the religious landscape. Much like the phenomenon of climate change where incremental shifts in…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Strategies for Doing Church Online

Heidi Campbell, who has studied online churches since the early days of the internet, describes three online church strategies that have emerged during the pandemic. The most common strategies mirror or modify the aspects of normal worship. But she sees the greatest promise in strategies that reimagine worship to take advantage of the unique possibilities of digital technology. Three dominant…

Leading Ideas
0 The Search for New Leaders Begins with Prayer

Ken Willard and Kelly Brown say that prayer and study are necessary first steps in creating a leadership pathway for your church. They present six ideas for laying a spiritual foundation for a new leadership development process. Leaders tend to be people of action. This is a very good thing! But we suggest you ensure a strong foundation of prayer…

Leading Ideas
0 COVID-19 Reminds Us of Crucial Church Finance Safeguards

Lovett Weems says the pandemic reveals the importance of certain essential financial practices for churches. Maintaining a reserve fund, expanding giving options, and setting realistic budgets can help a congregation weather tough times. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought tragedy and hardship to millions of persons throughout the world. Among them are church members who are experiencing grief, financial loss, and…

Leading Ideas
0 Good Communication Requires More Than Just Sharing Information

Trying to improve communication by sharing more and more information is likely to backfire, according to Ryan Hartwig and Warren Bird. Effective communication is aimed at creating shared meaning, structuring decision making, and coordinating leadership activities, not just transmitting information. Church leadership teams often struggle with communication because they don’t understand what communication truly is. When communication is seen simplistically…

Leading Ideas
0 Leading between Faith and Patriotism

Lovett H. Weems Jr. writes that preaching at the time of a national holiday offers opportunities and dangers. He says it is important to approach the holiday theme through the lens of biblical faith, especially in today’s deeply polarized political climate. National holidays and celebrations offer both opportunities and dangers for congregations and their leaders. Preachers and worship leaders often…

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