Congregational Life

Attendance Down, Participation Up

For the entire 20th century, worship was the centerpiece of congregational life in the United States.  As the first decade of the 21st century nears its end, this is no longer true.  Experiential learning is the “new” worship in many mainline churches, with service to others hot on its heels. […]

Zombie Congregations

Okay, right off the bat let me say, my intention here is not to offend anyone (which means I am pretty sure I will offend someone…)  What started me thinking about this was a church sign I passed where, I believe, someone made a rather amusing mistake.  The sign read, […]

The Urgency Element

Two major research projects have essentially defined my ministry for the past ten years: congregational vitality and seeker spirituality.  A recent job change offered me (forced) a unique opportunity to pore through a veritable mountain of surveys, interviews, and site visit notes to determine what to keep and what to […]

Christianity for Dummies?

Do you have to be stupid to be a Christian?  I sometimes wrestle with this very question.  It’s reminiscent of the joke poster — “You don’t have to be crazy to work here… but it helps.”  One of the most common reasons Christian spiritual seekers outside the church give for […]

Wipe That Smile Off Your Faith

Humor is a powerful tool for communication and relationship building.  A good sense of humor is an essential element of mental, and even physical, health.  Most people like to laugh, they like being around others who laugh, and they are drawn to those who make them laugh.  Laughter is good […]

Oh We, Of Little Faith

I received three emails today that I call “Chicken Little” messages.  You know, the panicky ‘sky-is-falling’ folks who take every apocalyptic message as gospel fact.  Somewhere, someone is marching out the old, tired chestnut that the United Methodist Church is dying and won’t be around in thirty or forty years.  […]

Theology of Worship?

A few year’s ago, I attended worship at a hot, new, up-and-coming congregation situated in a strip mall, eschewing anything smacking of “traditional” church (at least in The United Methodist system).  We sang a lot of ‘contemporary’ tunes, saw a ‘post-modern’ dramatic interpretation of scripture (in mime and ‘liturgical’ dance) […]

The Big Five

For years, United Methodists have pledged to uphold the church by their “prayers, presence, gifts, and service.”  Just this year a fifth promise was added — “witness.”  It is a little problematic that we’ve added a fifth when we haven’t done a very good job with the first four — […]