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 Minding the Church’s Doors

Preaching in a different church almost every Sunday, Nancy Taylor learned firsthand how often visitors go unnoticed even in churches that see themselves as “friendly.” Christian hospitality, she writes, requires that we mind the doors of our churches not as gatekeepers but as disciples charged with oiling the hinges so that they swing open easily. In a former position, I…

Leading Ideas
0 Reimagining Church Buildings

How can your church building be an asset rather than a liability? Dave Harder says we must interrogate the dominant narrative that says church is what happens in the building for a few hours on a Sunday and let a new narrative emerge — one that focuses on God’s hopes and dreams for the neighborhood. Many churches have inherited valuable…

Leading Ideas
0 What Might the 2020 Census Mean for Churches?

Lovett H. Weems Jr. highlights key findings in the 2020 U.S. Census Report of significance for churches including an aging overall population, the first-ever decline in the white population, and greater diversity. He writes that the census results upend many of the working assumptions churches hold about their future. The oft-quoted “demography is destiny” comes to mind as we explore…

Leading Ideas
0 Moving Forward in Uncertain Times

Susan Beaumont says churches are still in a liminal space that calls for learning and experimenting rather than planning. She explains how different segments of an organization adapt new ideas and outlines the key leadership tasks for innovating and adapting in these uncertain times. We are still in liminal space. Reopening our buildings and regathering the congregation physically will not…

Leading Ideas
0 Managing Congregations in a Virtual Age

Are virtual meetings and work-from-home staff part of the new normal in your church? In this in-depth interview John Wimberly shares best practices for working with staff and volunteers in a hybrid era. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video, or continue reading. Ann Michel: You’ve written that the transition to digital worship most congregations made in response to the…

Leading Ideas
0 Number of Young United Methodist Elders Hits Historic Low

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership has released its annual report on clergy age trends in the United Methodist Church. This year’s statistics show that the number of ordained elders under 35 has reached an all-time low. Lovett H. Weems Jr. recounts the trendline for young elders in recent decades noting significant downturns since 2016 erasing several years of progress.…

Leading Ideas
0 Why Pledging Still Matters

How can churches help a new generation of givers skeptical of institutional allegiances embrace the practice of pledging? Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff says it’s critical to frame the conversation around spiritual rather than institutional needs. She makes the case for pledging as a vital spiritual discipline that helps us grow in generosity and faith. Does your stewardship…

Leading Ideas
0 Coffee, Kids, and Chaos

Looking for a simple, creative way to engage young families in the life of your congregation? Jessica Anschutz explains how providing a gathering space for young parents and their children can be a high-impact, low-budget way to build a supportive, nurturing community for young families. In the New York state community where I serve, young adults comprise 25% of the…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Ways to Nurture a Church Culture More Open to Change

Ministry innovations are more likely to take root in a congregational culture that is receptive to change. Meghan Hatcher who works with the Innovation Lab at the Center for Youth Ministry Training outlines ways congregations can tend their cultural soil so that seeds of change are more likely to flourish. Talk of innovation is abuzz in the ministry world, particularly…

Leading Ideas
0 Innovating to Reach More People

How can innovation help congregations reach new and younger people? Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe Jr. interviews Mikka McCracken about innovation, building relationships, and creating person-focused ministries so more people know the way of Jesus and discover community, justice, and love. Doug Powe: Mikka, you lead the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Innovation Hub, a first-of-its-kind effort to…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Signs I Need to Put on My Desk

Often the best way a leader can improve things is to focus on his or her own actions and behaviors. Carey Nieuwhof outlines five simple reminders that help him lead more effectively, and can help you, too. As a leader, you probably need to remind yourself of certain things on a regular basis. I know I do. As a young…

Leading Ideas
0 9 Strategies for Meeting People and Learning Their Needs

Elizabeth Mae Magill sought to create a food ministry that wasn’t a charity but a demonstration of Christ’s radical welcome. She did months of street ministry to get to know food insecure neighbors, hear their stories, and build relationships. She shares nine practical tips for meeting people and learning their needs. Street ministry is simply walking around in areas where…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Key Lessons for Managing Congregations in a Virtual Age

Turning toward a hybrid future, churches have focused much attention on digital worship. John Wimberly says it’s just as important to consider how to work with staff and volunteers. He names key issues for managing programs and ministries in an era when working from home and digital meetings are likely to remain part of congregational life. Congregations do not have…

Leading Ideas
0 Leading Amid Controversy Over Masks and Vaccines

Navigating the complicated and divisive issues of vaccines and mask-wearing has made ministry during this pandemic even more fraught for many pastors and congregations. Doug Powe and Jessica Anschutz of the Lewis Center say the key question is about how we can be God’s ambassadors in the midst of this tension.  They outline four strategies to reframe the debate. It…

Leading Ideas
0 Building Thriving Rural Congregations

How can rural churches break free from the false narratives and unrealistic metrics that obscure their potential vitality? Allen Stanton lays out a new vision for healthy rural congregations as valued stakeholders and potent agents of change within their communities. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video, or continue reading. Ann Michel: You maintain that the rural church is…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Essential Qualities of Effective Evangelism

Priscilla Pope-Levison’s new book, Models of Evangelism, studies eight influential approaches to evangelism, everything from visitation and revivalism to social media. She finds that regardless of the method deployed, five qualities are essential to effective evangelism — hospitality, relationships, integrity, sharing the Christian message, and rootedness in the church. What makes evangelism good? When we consider the dramatically different models…

Leading Ideas
0 How Parents Help Children Grow in Faith

New research on how parents pass faith to their children provides strong evidence that talking with children about faith in the context of daily life is powerfully important. Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff reports on this and other findings in Handing Down the Faith by Christian Smith and Amy Adamczyk. Parents are the most powerful influence in determining…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Ways to Preach about Money More Effectively

Alex Joyner says tending to our attitudes about money is a way of tending our souls. He shares tips for preaching in ways that can help people see their finances through the lens of faith. Our financial lives are part of our spiritual lives. One of the reasons Jesus talked so much about money is because he realized that our…

Leading Ideas
0 6 Traits People Value in Online Faith Communities

In the rush to offer online worship, many churches have focused primarily on technical and programmatic concerns. Heidi Campbell says it’s more important to consider what people need from church now and how digital technology can meet those needs. This article has been translated into Spanish by United Methodist Communications. I find most pastors and churches focus their attention on…

Leading Ideas
0 Daring to Think Forward in a Time of Accelerating Change

How can churches get ahead of the curve by learning to anticipate change rather than always responding to change after the fact? Ann Michel interviews Dwight Friesen about how to cultivate the imagination and skill set needed to think forward. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video, or continue reading. Ann Michel: Your book is built around the premise…

Leading Ideas
0 Keeping Church Staff Accountable to the Overall Mission

Evaluating church staff by measures related to their own individual performance can lead to ministry silos, says John Wimberly. When every staff person’s ultimate goal is the overall mission, a church is far more likely to make progress. How does a staff person’s work relate to the broader mission of a congregation? When the expectations for every job relate to…

Leading Ideas
0 Are Your Worshipers Tourists or Travelers?

How can you inspire your worship attendees to be active participants rather than casual bystanders? David W. Manner explores the metaphor of travelers versus tourists to consider what it means to be fully engaged in worship. In Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard wrote, “Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Steps to Resume Ministries beyond Worship in Fruitful Ways

Lovett Weems says that churches should be deliberate and careful in making plans to resume ministries disrupted by the pandemic. The restart of youth ministry, Christian education, mission, and other programs presents an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of your pre-pandemic approach, consider new options, and innovate in ways that promote fruitful outcomes. Churches are devoting a good deal of…

Leading Ideas
0 Commissioning: A Simple Tool for Activating People’s Gifts

David Ferguson, one of the authors of Hero Maker: 5 Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders, describes how the simple act of commissioning church leaders can bless their ministries and affirm their gifts. He describes how laying hands on and praying for leaders and ministries teams has energized the leadership culture in his church. How can you bless people…

Leading Ideas
0 Becoming a Digital Savvy Congregation

How can your church extend its reach and maximize its impact through digital media? Doug Powe interviews media producer Phil Cooke about strategies for becoming more media savvy. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video, or continue reading. Doug Powe: Why do so many churches and church leaders struggle to maximize their influence? Phil Cooke: A lot of it’s…

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