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?

Discarded surgical map on the sidewalk

Barry Winders says the COVID-19 crisis is a hinge point for the church. This pivotal time demands mission-focused leaders lest the church slip back into the busyness and nonmissional activities of the pre-COVID-19 past.

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Tags: COVID-19 | Fruitfulness | Leadership | Vision

8 Trends Impacting Church Leadership for 2021

Icons of trends impacting church leadershipIn January, Doug Powe and Ann Michel of the Lewis Center identified eight notable trends in 2020’s swirl of change. Some trends have been underway for some time, but accelerated significantly in 2020, for example the church’s embrace of online ministry. But in other areas, the events of 2020 have led to renewed emphasis on the basics — prayer, fellowship, faith formation, and the call to racial justice.

There’s No Going Back to the Pre-Pandemic Church

Surgical mask imprinted with an image of a churchKay Kotan says many churches feel a natural desire to return to the familiar, comfortable patterns of the past. But churches that embrace this time of disruption as a catalyst for lasting change are most likely to be vital in the post-pandemic world.

What’s Keeping Younger People from Ordained Ministry in the United Methodist Church?

Group of young adultsAnn Michel shares the results of an informal survey among younger adults who have sensed a call to ministry in the UMC but have opted against ordination. While concerns about current denominational struggles are top of mind, a myriad of other factors are also at play. The good news is most could be addressed if we have the will and the wherewithal.

8 Keys to Improving Livestream Worship

Icons representing keys to improving livestream worshipBob 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.

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches

Diverse congregationThis article was published in 2017, but it is among the most read of 2021. Diversity-oriented churches, despite the challenges they face, are some of the fastest growing churches in the United States, says Brian Leander of Adelphi University. He names seven characteristics that help explain how these churches are able to embrace greater racial, ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic diversity.

8 Financial Lessons for the Post-pandemic Church

A puzzle in the shape of a $100 billLovett Weems and Ann Michel share eight key lessons to help churches deal with the financial aftershocks of the COVID crisis. Now is the time to create a healthier financial future by managing resources wisely, engaging givers more effectively, and seeking more creative approaches to economic sustainability.

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What’s Wrong with Thinking of Church as Family?

Old black-and-white photo of a congregationLee Ann M. Pomrenke says the beloved metaphor of church as family can stand in the way of a congregation being truly open and inclusive. The church is a movement defined by shared values, commitments, and actions, not a household family linked by a shared heritage or appearances.

What Might the 2020 Census Mean for Churches?

Graphic of a group of diverse peopleLovett Weems 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.

7 Reasons You Must Not Abandon Your Online Services

On-off slider button on a cell phone screenThom Rainer says it is a mistake for churches to give up their digital or streaming services after returning to in-person worship. He outlines seven reasons online worship can augment your place-based worship and reach the community.

3 Indicators of a Thriving Rural Congregation

Rural church

Allen Stanton says rural churches need better indicators of what it means to thrive. He outlines three characteristics of vital rural congregations able to lead the wider community toward the Kingdom of God.

10 Paradigm Shifts for Mission Renewal

Elevator display showing the number 10Tim Snyder and Paul Erickson say that congregational renewal involves a new way of being church and new approaches to our foundational callings. They outline 10 new ways of thinking essential to reimagining the church and its mission.

Preaching Strategies for a Post-Pandemic Church

Open Bible, cell phone, and headphonesNew preaching strategies are needed to engage emerging generations in the digital age. Michael Beck and Rosario Picardo say sermons in the post-pandemic church will likely be shorter, more conversational and interactive, and less reliant on a single voice.

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Discovering God’s Future for Your Church

Discovering God’s Future for Your Church is a turn-key tool kit to help your congregation discern and implement God’s vision for its future. The resource guides your church in discovering clues to your vision in your history and culture, your current congregational strengths and weaknesses, and the needs of your surrounding community. The tool kit features videos, leader’s guides, discussion exercises, planning tools, handouts, diagrams, worksheets, and more. Learn more and watch an introductory video now.