Top “Leading Ideas” Articles of 2017


What Leading Ideas subjects are trending this year? We have assembled this list to give you another opportunity to glean insight and inspiration from the authors and articles most popular with our 18,000 subscribers.

Photo of a large church buildingThe Case of a Small Church in an Oversized Building

Lewis A. Parks, author of Small on Purpose, describes how smaller congregations can easily squander their last resources for ministry attempting to keep up with the mounting demands of an aging facility. He says such churches must decide for the people of God rather than their present building, before it’s too late.

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9 Things Preachers Should Never SayPhoto of a person with their hand covering their mouth

Many preachers shoot themselves in the foot when they start off with hackneyed or formulaic phrases that fail to capture the fleeting attention of those in the pew. Charley Reeb, a Florida pastor known as a gifted preacher, outlines nine opening lines that good preachers avoid.

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Photo of people being welcomed at the front door of a churchPet Peeves of a Church Visitor

Churches need their most positive, smiling, warmest personalities on their front lines, says Greg Atkinson. Your parking lot team, greeters, ushers, and welcome desk volunteers need to be friendly and welcoming. And most of all, they need to know how vital their role is to the mission of the church.

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Photo of a church choirFour Functions of a Church Choir

Choir director Brian Hehn has helped Arapaho United Methodist Church become a “singing congregation” by emphasizing the choir’s four key functions — to lead and enliven the congregation’s song, to sing music that the congregation cannot, to serve as a small-group within the church for faith formation, and to sing music that glorifies God and edifies the congregation.

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Photo of a pastor in conversation at a coffee shop6 Ways to Turn Your Church Inside-Out

To connect with people, you need to meet them where they are, says Ben Ingebretson, the director of new church development for the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences of the United Methodist Church. He offers six practical ways you can air out your church by taking your ministry into public spaces.

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Photo of a church volunteerWhy Don’t People Volunteer at Church?

Mike Schreiner and Ken Willard say the key to getting a higher percentage of people involved is understanding the difference between volunteering and Christian service and between recruiting and inviting. They name five best practices for engaging people in meaningful ministry roles.

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Photo of a lit matchstick4 Practices to Help Prevent Clergy Burnout

Matt and Kim Bloom, principal researchers with the Flourishing in Ministry research initiative, explain why clergy are at risk of burnout. Their research has found that four types of “recovery experiences” are effective in avoiding burnout.

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Photo of a congregation listening to a sermon5 Things I Need from a Sermon

What do those in the pews need from a sermon? Larry Buxton says it’s more than platitudes and common sense. An effective sermon needs to speak to people’s real needs and individual situations, challenge them with meaningful truths, share Jesus, and remind people that God is at work in our lives and the world.

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Photo of ASK in neon10 Ways to Master the Art of Asking

Learning how to be effective in asking others to support your ministry is a key to fruitful leadership, says Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff. She provides ten practical tips from her new book Synergy that will enhance your volunteer recruitment and fundraising.

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Photo of a person inviting you to church4 Clues for Inviting Others to Church Effectively

Lewis Center Director Doug Powe says many people just don’t like inviting other people to church, in part because faith is so personal and in part because they fear rejection. He provides four clues for inviting in a way that is genuine, specific, honest, and expectant.

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Photo of a millennial sitting in a pewWelcoming Millennials by Preserving Their Anonymity

Churches often welcome young adults with such urgency and expectation that younger visitors can feel overwhelmed. Scott Chrostek, pastor of Resurrection Downtown, says it is actually more hospitable to maintain their sense of anonymity and personal privacy in worship — to help them blend in and feel comfortable without attracting undue attention.

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The Lewis Center staff has assembled and edited this material.

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