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 5 Lies We Like to Tell About Church Growth

Church consultant Dan Hotchkiss exposes some of the reassuring lies that cause many churches to stagnate at a comfortable size while ignoring well-established truths about church growth. Growth, he says, requires doing something new. Some churches grow, and others shrink. Most oscillate for decades around a size they find comfortable. Whether your church is trying to achieve escape velocity from…

Leading Ideas
0 Planning for a Strong Finish to Your Stewardship Campaign

Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff says the success of a pledge drive depends in large part on reaching givers who require a bit more encouragement. So, even after Commitment Sunday has come and gone, you need a plan for critical but often overlooked steps such as following up with those who don’t initially respond and thanking those who…

Leading Ideas
0 2 Churches — 1 Pastor

It is increasingly common for a congregation to share a pastor with another congregation and for pastors to be serving more than one church. Lew Parks, author of Small on Purpose, considers this trend and some of the skills and perspectives needed in multi-church settings. One of the most significant sociological and organizational trends in the church today is the…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Key Practices for Building a High-Trust Culture

Amy Valdez Barker says that the church should be a training center in the development of trust. She names practices that leaders can employ when groups come together to create environments that foster and facilitate a high-trust culture. The church should be one of the primary training centers in building high-trust communities and high-trust cultures. Our faith in Jesus requires…

Leading Ideas
0 7 Tips for Avoiding Digital Communication Disasters

Church consultant Joel Snider says that serious congregational conflicts can be caused or exacerbated by the poor use of electronic communication. Congregations can work to develop a common understanding of appropriate and inappropriate uses of digital communication, says Snider, and he offers seven key principles for forging a digital communication covenant. Have you ever sent a text that the recipient…

Leading Ideas
0 7 Ways Congregations Can Respond to the #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo movement has been a wakeup call regarding the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and misconduct in virtually every sector of society, including the church. The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women has outlined ways that a congregation can respond to victims and help prevent further abuse. The #MeToo movement has been spiritually powerful because of…

Leading Ideas
0 The Bright Promise of Alternative Faith Communities

A new type of congregation is emerging that combines religious practice with a distinctive element of local culture or community identity, such as artistic expression, missional engagement, table fellowship, or nature. Researchers Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris studied the key characteristics of these alternative faith communities in their book Divergent Church. Convergence, a worshiping community in Virginia, focuses on the…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Tips for Experimenting with Change This Summer

Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe says that the summer is the perfect time for a congregation to test possible changes through short-term experiments. He offers four considerations to guide an experimental approach to implementing new ideas. An experiment is where you get to test something out. You go into it knowing that the results may not be what you…

Leading Ideas
0 Reaching People Who Don’t Look or Act Like “Church People”

Rev. Olu Brown started Impact Church in Atlanta 11 years ago with a group of 25 people. Now, it’s one of the 25 fastest growing churches in the country, with almost 4,400 worshipers weekly, onsite or online. He shares tips on reaching people — even those who don’t look or act like “church people.” At Impact Church, we’re a group…

Leading Ideas
0 Stop Taking Givers for Granted

Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard, authors of Contagious Generosity, explain the importance of developing a system to thank givers to celebrate their spiritual growth through giving and encourage greater generosity. It is sad but true that many churches take their givers for granted. Most nonprofits, on the other hand, understand just how difficult it is to find prospects, cultivate them,…

Leading Ideas
0 What Kind of Church Will Millennials Lead?

In a very short period of time the Millennial generation will be the largest segment of clergy, says Wesley Theological Seminary President David McAllister-Wilson. Therefore, the key question for the church is no longer “How can we attract Millennials?” but rather “What kind of church will Millennials lead?” As churches of all denominations struggle to turn around their aging congregations,…

Leading Ideas
0 Did Jesus Invent the Pyramid Scheme?

While the idea of a pyramid scheme may bring to mind shady dealings and unsavory characters, Stephanie Remington of the Lewis Center staff sees genius in the idea of building influence through friendships. She says utilizing our existing networks is a perfectly natural way to grow the church and identify new leaders — a method established by Jesus himself. Ah,…

Leading Ideas
0 4 Tips for Preaching on Politically Charged Topics

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, author of Sacred Resistance, says it’s up to preachers to address the pain, injustice, confusion, and chaos in our days even when it is risky, and she offers guidance on approaching controversial issues in meaningful and responsible ways. “I went to worship this morning and not one word was spoken about [fill in the blank].” I’ve heard this…

Leading Ideas
0 7 Ideas for Making Vacation Bible School an Evangelism Opportunity

How can you deepen your relationship with the children and families participating in a Vacation Bible School and stay connected with them throughout the year? Lewis Center Director Doug Powe outlines strategies to make your Vacation Bible School a meaningful and effective evangelism opportunity. Many churches conduct Vacation Bible School during the summer, engaging neighborhood children and families as participants.…

Leading Ideas
0 9 Top Trends Impacting Church Leadership

Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe and Associate Director Ann A. Michel outline some of the major trends evident in their research and interactions with church leaders. While many of the trends are quite sobering, they also reveal possibilities for innovative and adaptive approaches to ministry. 1. Changes in church attendance patterns Since 2001, worship attendance had been trending downward…

Leading Ideas
0 Honoring the Context of a New Ministry Setting

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., says incoming pastors tend to see everything through the lens of their own experience, vision, and interests, rather than learning how things got to be the way they are. Good leadership is always about the group, not the leader, says Weems. So it’s important for new pastors to take time to understand the pulse of a…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Strategies for Engaging Millennials

Joshua L Mitchell, author of the book Black Millennials and the Church, shares what his work reveals about how black churches can engage younger adults — strategies that are valuable advice for any congregation looking to better connect with the next generation. Based on the findings of my study, here are five strategies that any church can implement today that…

Leading Ideas
0 6 Ways to Know If Your Church is Overstaffed

Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff outlines six questions that can help reveal whether a particular staff role is likely to be fruitful or burdensome and counterproductive. Over the past several decades, the trend in many churches has been to add staff with more laity in paid positions. In many circumstances, the addition of staff promotes more vital and…

Leading Ideas
0 6 Keys to Sharing the Gospel in a Pluralistic Culture

Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe, Jr., says evangelistic strategies often fail because they don’t meaningfully and respectfully engage those we are trying to reach. Powe highlights key values and practices for reaching others while honoring differences, gleaned from a recent study of the renowned 20th century evangelist, E. Stanley Jones. It’s tempting to imagine that revitalizing a church is…

Leading Ideas
0 5 Reasons Churches Suffer Management Chaos

Focused on ministry, churches often give too little attention to organizational management. Church consultant Rich Sider outlines five common management problems that can result in confusion and conflict. Churches correctly give priority to ministry to their members and their communities. However, if they don’t also give priority to how they are managed and to the systems needed in any organization…

Leading Ideas
0 Leading Unafraid

How can church leaders confront the fear that prevents congregations from dealing with controversial issues or taking necessary risks? Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, outlines perspectives and strategies drawn from his new book Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times.  Successful people are willing to do the things that…

Leading Ideas
0 From Parking Lot to Pew: Turning Building Users into Worshipers

Many churches provide meeting space for community groups hoping that building users will eventually show up for worship. But for a church to reach new people through its facility, it must engage in an active, intentional process of building relationships with those using the building, according to Kay Kotan and Phil Schroeder. Who is in and out of your church…

Leading Ideas
0 Setting the Right Expectations for Volunteers

Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe Jr. says it can be difficult to hold volunteers to high standards of job performance, but clear position descriptions, mentoring, and regular evaluation and feedback can help assure that volunteers will do their jobs well. What can churches justifiably expect from volunteers? It is one thing when someone is getting compensated to perform a…

Leading Ideas
0 Is Your Parking Lot Helping or Hurting Your Church?

Believe it or not, your parking lot could be the thing that is holding back the potential of your church, according to church growth expert Rich Birch. He describes how a tired-looking parking lot creates a poor first impression and offers five tips for launching a parking lot team. The first thing that most people typically see about your church…

Leading Ideas
0 Unsticking a “Stuck” Institution

Four years ago, Amy Butler stepped into the pulpit of The Riverside Church in Manhattan, a church well known for its public witness and prominent pastoral leaders. She shares advice on taking the helm of a well-established congregation and leading change within a historic institution. Those of us called to lead institutions with long and prominent histories have a big…

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