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 Effective Ministry with Children

One of the most important challenges facing our society today is the moral and spiritual development of our children. The questions for the church are What are we doing about it? and How well are we doing it? A truly effective children’s ministry sets up the conditions to nurture young people into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. What…

Leading Ideas
0 Put Your Money Where You Want Your Heart to Be

If you want your heart to be with God, here’s a suggestion I’ve found to be very powerful in my own life. Put your money where you want your heart to be. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  In other words, your heart follows your money, not the other way around. We think it’s…

Leading Ideas
0 A Spiritual Recovery

Today, we are faced with a terrifying financial crisis in both domestic and global financial markets. The economy is in dire straits according to leading economists. We are experiencing record foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment. Our gross domestic product is in steep decline. A simple equation of prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness will help forge our way through any financial…

Leading Ideas
0 Supporting Younger Clergy

I had the privilege of being with the national United Methodist camp and retreat leaders who gathered in California recently. One of the things I emphasized was the importance of camping experiences for young persons as a place for hearing and responding to God’s call to ordained ministry. The Lewis Center survey of under-35 United Methodist clergy showed that 11…

Leading Ideas
0 Outliers: The Story of Success

Have you ever wondered why some people are extraordinarily successful? How do some people overcome insurmountable odds and reach an elite level in their fields? In Outliers: The Story of Success, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell draws on sociology and economics to examine the traits of successful people. Gladwell uses the word “outliers” — a mathematical term describing a statistical abnormality…

Leading Ideas
0 Is Denominational Loyalty Waning?

A new study documents a reality many have claimed for quite some time. People are not as loyal to their denominations as church leaders might wish. Ellison Research found that seven out of ten regular churchgoers in the United States would be at least somewhat open to switching denominations if they could no longer attend their current church because of…

Leading Ideas
0 Helping Youth Discern God’s Call

Two months ago, a group from my church attended the Leadership Institute held at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. Pastor Adam Hamilton spoke of his desire to encourage young people to pursue the possibility of ordained ministry and how the church was planning a small group to accomplish this. He then asked all those attending…

Leading Ideas
0 Why I Believe in the Next Generation

I work with young adults. That is to say, when I employ them on my staff, my goal is for them to work with me, not for me. I have learned over the years that people rise to meet the expectations placed on them. So I raise the bar as high as possible and challenge the young people I encounter to…

Leading Ideas
0 The Church and Race Relations — Then and Now

In reflecting on the church and race relations over the past forty years, and whether it is possible or even desirable for us to strive toward becoming color-blind, I have been reflecting on what was occurring in American society in the late 1960s. It was a time of great racial tension in America. The Kerner Commission Report, commissioned in 1968…

Leading Ideas
0 The Welcome Table

In the summer of 2006, I led a study group from Wesley Theological Seminary in a doctoral course that retraced many of the steps of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. Our group reflected much of the diversity of the church and society. We prayed, sang, and shared our thoughts together as we traveled. In the midst of growing divergence…

Leading Ideas
0 Tips for Strengthening Adult Education

How can your church offer a strong and inviting program of Bible study and Christian education for adult learners? It is important to offer a variety of formats, schedules, and approaches. Despite their best intentions, ongoing groups have a tendency to become cliquish. Newcomers are far more likely to feel comfortable joining something new. Here are some suggestions: Experiment with…

Leading Ideas
0 Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church

The Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas gathers each week in 78,000 square feet of space that originally housed a Wal-Mart. The large glass front features two entrances and many windows. Just west of us is the nearest neighborhood; to the immediate east, a Kroger grocery store stands adjacent to the building. As people from the community pass by the church…

Leading Ideas
0 Evidence of Fruitfulness

When congregations live in Christ and for Christ and through Christ, something happens: fruitfulness. The expectation of fruitfulness begins in the first chapter of Genesis when God says to the human beings whom God has created, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Human fruitfulness is our response to God’s own fruitfulness in making the heavens and earth and everything within it. (Genesis…

Leading Ideas
0 Fruitful Ministry Includes Harvesting

I am convinced that we in the church do not understand the concept of harvesting. I can’t begin to count the times I have heard someone say, “I am just here to plant seeds.” They obviously do not understand farming. No wonder we do not know how to harvest. Can we learn to harvest and not see our planting as…

Leading Ideas
0 Communication Strategies for Addressing Conflict

Whenever I work with churches that are experiencing serious conflict, especially those that have reached the point of impasse, communication issues commonly emerge. Regularly, parishioners tell me that poor communications are at the root of their congregation’s problems. Miscommunication, they say, has created much of the hurt. To deepen connection or clarify communication, one must first lower the anxiety or…

Leading Ideas
0 Learning from the Mistakes of New Church Starts

Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts (Challis Press, 2008) by Jim Griffith and Bill Easum is a must-read for pastors founding new churches and those who work most closely with them. The authors draw from years of experience with new church starts to outline concisely ten practices that can limit the success of new churches. Given the…

Leading Ideas
0 The Transformative Power of Listening

Religious leaders are often socialized to be better at speaking than at listening. It is understandable that preachers want to preach, teach, and lead with their voices and their carefully honed understandings of scripture and theology. Listening is difficult because it requires us to give up the role of expert and become a learner again. The act of letting go…

Leading Ideas
0 Passing the Mantle: Crisis or Opportunity?

Four years ago a new bishop came to serve our area. For the first time in my ministry, I was older than my bishop! Around the same time, I turned fifty. These two events led me to think anew about my calling and my hopes and dreams for my life and ministry. One of the things I discovered was that…

Leading Ideas
0 Who is Visiting Small Churches These Days?

When small church lay and clergy leaders gather, the first comments you often hear reflect an understandable anger, defensiveness, and dread of an imminent future. This is understandable given the challenges they face. But if you listen long enough, as I have done regularly for the last several years, you begin to pick up signs of hope — hope consistent…

Leading Ideas
0 God’s Leaders Multiply, Not Maintain

As we begin thinking about fall stewardship campaigns, our minds may turn to the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), the story of a master who entrusts property to his slaves and then calls each of them to account for how they cared for his property. Some predictable sermons immediately come to mind. This time of year, talents are usually…

Leading Ideas
0 Ministry as Leadership

How are the practices of ministry understood and how are they learned? Is there an organizing principle for all the functions of ministry, or do they remain a list of skill sets that require separate forms of mastery? To put it another way, are these various abilities oriented toward a common purpose? I think so, and that purpose is religious…

Leading Ideas
0 A Generation of Tinkerers

Robert Wuthnow’s book After the Baby Boomers (Princeton University Press, 2007) is about younger adults — a group he defines as persons from 18-45 years of age. Wuthnow, who is a sociologist, examines how the characteristics of this generation affect their practice of religion and spirituality. He introduces a variety of topics that seem to make a difference to younger…

Leading Ideas
0 Strong Youth Ministry and the Call to Ministry

The other day I was driving down the interstate when I pulled into a roadside rest stop. Just as I stepped from my car, a long bus pulled up that had a sign that ran nearly the entire length with the name of a United Methodist church from North Carolina. A whole herd of youth poured out and headed for…

Leading Ideas
0 The Ministry of the Missional Church: Community Led by the Spirit

The Ministry of the Missional Church (Baker Books, 2007) by Craig Van Gelder is not leadership in search of theological rationale. It is a theology of the church in search of the leadership practices intrinsic to the nature and mission of the church. And church leaders who have the patience to read through the theology to get to the practice will…

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