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 Helping the World See the Church in a Different Way

The community where I live in South Korea is one of the five top places where Koreans want to live. So to reach new disciples for Christ, it is important for us to think of what we do from a non-Christian perspective. Restoring the leadership and influence of the church is not something that happens inside the church. We have…

Leading Ideas
0 Cultivating a Consequential Faith

Congregations have been doing a lot with teenagers, but it isn’t always leading to consequential faith, maintains Kenda Creasy Dean in Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church(Oxford University Press, 2010). Urging congregations to move beyond emphasizing self-fulfillment and entertainment, Dean invites them to embody self-relinquishment and a missional imagination. “Mission means participating in…

Leading Ideas
0 Churches Where Youth Exhibit Highly Devoted Faith

Kenda Creasy Dean reports in her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church (Oxford University Press, 2010) that there are churches where young people exhibit highly devoted faith, and those churches look and act differently from other churches. Drawing on the work of Christian Smith and Melissa Lundquist Denton in Soul Searching: The…

Leading Ideas
0 Working Through the Stages of Grief when Cutting Your Budget

Our church was not reaching its budget and had to make difficult changes to reduce expenses by 16 percent. The finance committee realized a reduction of this magnitude would require cuts in staffing — something no one welcomed. They asked the staff-parish relations committee to come up with a plan to reduce staff expenditures. Then, members of the church council…

Leading Ideas
0 The Multisite Church Movement

A new report by the Leadership Network reports on the current state of churches having more than one site. Below are some of the findings from Multisite Is Multiplying by Warren Bird and Kristin Walters.\ Multisites have a 90 percent success rate. Of those closed, location and campus pastor were cited as the top reasons why. There are an estimated…

Leading Ideas
0 Monitoring Key Indicators of Congregational Health

Imagine driving a car at night and the dashboard lights go out. With the headlights on, you can still see the road immediately ahead of you. But you cannot see the speedometer or any of the other gauges. If it is a short trip, it may not be a problem. But what if you are on a long overnight drive?…

Leading Ideas
0 From Our Doorsteps: Developing a Ministry Plan That Makes Sense

Many churches today desperately need to fall in love with their communities again. Increasingly, congregational life and community life spin in different orbits with little connection. That is not how it started for any congregation. Churches began with a mission to address the needs of people in a particular place. They survived the early years and into maturity precisely because…

Leading Ideas
0 Why I go to Church

When I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I sometimes look around at the other congregants and ask myself, “Why are these people here? Why did they choose to come to church?” Some people prefer staying at home to leisurely read the Sunday paper, or go out for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Why have these people given up their precious…

Leading Ideas
0 Avoiding Lay Ministry Burnout

Have you known a church member who seemed fully engaged and invested in a congregation but suddenly walked away? What makes someone “flame out” unexpectedly? How do people find themselves in so far over their heads that they opt out all together? It’s important for leaders to recognize an all-too-common pattern of engagement that leads to burnout. People become active…

Leading Ideas
0 Friendships and Reaching New People

Every church believes itself to be a welcoming and friendly fellowship, but this isn’t always true. If our churches are to become spiritual communities where faithful friendship is expressed, we need to move beyond merely welcoming newcomers and one another. We must deepen our understanding of friendship to appreciate its role in our personal lives and how friendship informs the…

Leading Ideas
0 Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation

Many church leaders bemoan the absence of younger people from their pews without bothering to consider the contextual factors that must define ministry with new generations. Carol Howard Merritt’s Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation is an engaging mix of personal narrative and social commentary that explores the cultural trends and interpersonal dynamics that shape the needs and…

Leading Ideas
0 Principles for Sound Staff Evaluation

Many people flinch at the mention of evaluation, and with reason. In congregations, staff evaluation often is conducted as a popularity poll with anonymous respondents rating staff performance on the basis of subjective impressions. In effect, the staff members answer to hundreds of semi-invisible bosses who can invent new things to blame them for at any time. This approach raises…

Leading Ideas
0 Ten Misconceptions about Church Vitality and Growth

The Lewis Center’s reporting on American Congregations 2008 (a report about congregational vitality and growth based on the Faith Communities Today Project at Hartford Seminary) brought to mind ten myths that prevent congregations from moving forward. In each case, the research findings reveal a different truth and suggest a new question to reshape your congregational agenda in ways that will position…

Leading Ideas
0 When Christians Get It Wrong

For several decades now, many have watched in amazement as churches grew far larger than had been the norm previously in the United States. While many were independent, quite a few developed within traditional denominations. One of the most notable is the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. From a handful…

Leading Ideas
0 Travelers’ Christmas Eve Service

The Travelers’ Christmas Eve Service is quite the tradition at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City. It is part of our Space for Grace Sunday evening services. Our location on the Upper East Side of New York City means that we welcome visitors to worship each and every Sunday throughout the year and particularly during Advent as…

Leading Ideas
0 Opening Doors on Christmas Eve

When our two grandsons were seven and three years old, they would often race the thirty yards or so from their house to ours. The 7-year-old was faster and taller and would arrive first. He could also manage the mechanics of the storm door handle with ease. The 3-year-old was always about five seconds behind, arriving just as the door…

Leading Ideas
0 Nursery Lessons: A Better Way of Recruiting Volunteers

Recently we have been focused on revitalizing the nursery at our church. We put in rigorous safety measures. We organized a committee to support the nursery’s vision. We assigned a greeter position to the front door of the nursery and tried like crazy to recruit people to help rock babies. Every step was successful except for one — recruiting volunteers.…

Leading Ideas
0 Choosing Church … or Soccer, or Work, or Family Time, or …

Sunday morning has become a popular time for youth sports. Weekends are for some families the only opportunity to share quality, sustained time together. And a significant proportion of the population works on Sunday mornings. How else would you get your coffee or donuts on the way to church? The church should support families in their God-given vocation of caring…

Leading Ideas
0 Your Money Autobiography

There is a disaster in your community, and opportunities for giving donations abound. What is your response? You receive a cash gift for your birthday. What do you do with it? Have you ever wondered why you respond the way you do to a situation that involves money? How do you make your choices for earning, spending, giving, saving, and…

Leading Ideas
0 Five Practices of Fruitful Living

The genius of Bishop Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (Abingdon 2007) was to identify foundational habits that, when properly implemented, enable the church to flourish in the essentials of congregational life. His newly released companion volume, Five Practices of Fruitful Living, encourages individual Christians to adopt these practices as a way of life rather than a passing program…

Leading Ideas
0 Five Practices of Fruitful Living

United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase, author of the best-selling Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations published by Abingdon Press in 2007, has a new book on a similar theme, Five Practices of Fruitful Living. Below is a portion of a recent Leading Ideas conversation with Bishop Schnase. What made the original Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations so successful, with over 100,000…

Leading Ideas
0 Find a Few Wise People

When pastors tell me about particularly troubling dilemmas they face in their congregations, perhaps the most common advice I offer is, “Find a wise person,” or “Find a few wise people.” Here is what I mean. If you have selected the right persons to consult they will give you their best assessment of reality. Because you have affirmed their fairness…

Leading Ideas
0 Myths about Clergy Burnout and Managing Stress

The plight of stressed-out pastors has attracted a great deal of attention since The New York Times front-page report, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work,” by Paul Vitello and an op-ed response, “Congregations Gone Wild,”by Jeffrey MacDonald. TheHuffington Post followed with “Soul Care and Roots of Clergy Burnout” by Anne Dilenschneider citing a new report from Clergy Health Initiative…

Leading Ideas
0 If You Count the Money, Count the People

At a recent gathering, clergy and laity from several congregations were asked how they keep track of their attendance each Sunday and how they keep up with who is attending. A vigorous debate ensued. Some reported how they monitor the numbers and keep track of people attending, but the energy was with those who did not attempt either task. The…

Leading Ideas
0 Ways to Welcome Worship Guests Warmly

Greet guests when they first arrive in the parking lot. Greet guests as they arrive at the door, saying “Good to see you. Glad you are here.” Do not ask for their names as many guests are cautious and prefer anonymity. The larger the church, the more this is true. Clearly mark the rest rooms, nursery, and worship rooms. In…

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