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 Top “Leading Ideas” Articles of 2021

What Leading Ideas subjects are trending this year with you and our nearly 20,000 subscribers? In addition to pandemic, the most popular articles of 2021 focus on topics including reaching younger people, adapting to change, hybrid worship, diversity, funding and finances, reaching new disciples, small churches, and more. What Will Your Church Look Like Post-COVID-19? Barry Winders says the COVID-19…

Leading Ideas
0 Simple Guidance for Preachers on Christmas Eve

As pastors and congregations prepare to receive guests on Christmas Eve, Bishop Kenneth H. Carter offers simple, heartfelt advice. Keep the sermon brief but grace filled. Appeal to people’s generosity. And make sure those inspired to begin their faith journeys are invited to take the next step. 1. Keep it brief. Err on the side of saying less, rather than…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Things to Avoid and 5 Things to Accent at Your Christmas Eve Service

Barry Howard names some dos and don’ts to help make your Christmas Eve service meaningful and welcoming. A festive and effective Christmas Eve service, he says, can go a long way toward building durable relationships and enhancing community connections. At most of the churches I have served, the annual Christmas Eve service is a treasured gathering in the life of…

Leading Ideas
0 Creating Powerful Worship in Small Congregations

Do you want amazing worship on a small church budget? Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe Jr. interviews Teresa Stewart, a blogger and creator of the website Paper Bag Cathedrals, on ways small congregations can enliven their worship. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video on YouTube, or continue reading. Doug Powe: When it comes to worship planning resources, small…

Leading Ideas
0 10 Tips for Hosting A Live Nativity

A live Nativity can be an engaging, heart-warming event not only for church members but for the entire community as well. One Houston-area church has decades of experience bringing the Christmas story to life in this way. Lindsay Peyton shares their organizational and planning tips. The Christmas story literally comes to life every year at Christ Church UMC in The…

Leading Ideas
0 Giving Thanks Faithfully

Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff says Thanksgiving is an opportunity to refocus our expressions of gratitude. True gratitude is always about the giver and not the gift. Faith invites us to focus less on what we are grateful for and more on the God to whom we owe thanks. Growing up in a nominally religious household, Thanksgiving was…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Approaches to Keeping Small Church Worship and Education Vibrant During the Pandemic

Rebekah Simon-Peter outlines four models small churches have used to survive the pandemic — the church at home model, the shut-in model, the never shut down model, and the hybrid model. She shares tips for how these approaches can keep worship alive and Christian education vibrant in smaller congregations. Small churches are often isolated from each other, so you may…

Leading Ideas
0 7 Dos and Don’ts When Considering the Redevelopment of Church Property

More and more faith communities are asking how they might make better use of expensive and underutilized facilities. Rick Reinhard offers practical advice in the form of seven dos and don’ts to help a congregation approach property redevelopment realistically and faithfully. More and more houses of worship are shuttering their doors. Declining membership, increased internet streaming, and COVID-19 pandemic pressures…

Leading Ideas
0 Clear Vision, Values, and Hope are Essential Leadership Tools

Do the challenges of a global pandemic and extreme polarization seem insurmountable? Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe Jr. interviews Retired Major General Randy Manner on how clear vision and values help in navigating difficult terrain by engendering unity and hope. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video on YouTube, or continue reading. Douglas Powe: You’ve worked in a lot…

Leading Ideas
0 Diverse Congregations Are Stronger Congregations

One hopeful trend in Faith Communities Today’s 2020 survey findings is that the percentage of multiracial congregations in the U.S. has doubled over the past two decades, from 12% to 25% of all faith communities. The 2020 FACT Survey Report also reveals that congregational diversity correlates to increased growth, spiritual vitality, and a clearer sense of mission and purpose. Over…

Leading Ideas
0 Starting a Conversation about Mental Health

The local church is often the first place people go for help in addressing mental health challenges. Matthew Stanford sees this as a divine opportunity and suggests ways churches can address the subject of mental illness more openly and honestly. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who suffer with mental illness are common. In fact, social stigma is the second…

Leading Ideas
0 8 Keys to Improving Livestream Worship

Bob Whitesel has watched many online Sunday services to identify recurring weaknesses and help churches improve their livestreaming. He offers eight practical suggestions for engaging online worshipers more effectively. 1. Be your genuine self. Many watchers flip around to various online services, listening to just a few minutes of each, to find one with which they can relate. It is…

Leading Ideas
0 3 Strategies for Creating More Adaptable Ministries

Meghan Hatcher explains that churches capable of adapting in response to the needs and assets of a community make it possible for more people to experience the transformative love and grace of Christ. She outlines three strategies to help a church be more innovative and adaptable. Innovation enacted with intention can transform people’s lives. Consider an example from the medical…

Leading Ideas
0 Doing Evangelism with Integrity

Is your congregation squeamish when it comes to evangelism? Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe Jr. interviews Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison, author of the new book Models of Evangelism, on how congregations can more authentically engage a variety of evangelistic practices with confidence and integrity. Listen to this interview, watch the interview video, or continue reading. Douglas Powe: Some people hear the…

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…

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