Monday, August 3, 2020

THE CONTINUING PROMISE OF NICHE MINISTRY


In the ever-diversifying culture of North America and Europe, the day of  "one-size-fits-all" church is over.  There never really was such a church that could serve everyone with equal effectiveness.  However, many of us remember communities with extremely homogenous population.  In the years of monocultural neighborhoods and three national television networks, a neighborhood church might find itself able to relate culturally to 80 percent of the residents in its neighborhood.  However, today, human diversity is increasing in most zip codes.  This diversity can be seen in terms of race, education, political tribes, lifestyle hobbies, income, etc.  Today, in the rare homogenous neighborhoods that remains in the South or Midwest, we might find a dominant congregation that relates to one out of five households (20 percent), but even this is rare. Involvement (or market share) of even 1 percent is notable now - and also increasingly rare.

Friday, June 19, 2020

SHIRLEY AND MERCY IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR


There is a song based on Psalm 23, verse 6: "Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  We sang this at church when I was six.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

FAITHFULNESS THROUGH A REVOLUTION


We went to a drive-in movie the other day - in my hometown. It was the first time I had been there since I was 15, when my friends and I stayed for the late show without calling home. (We all got grounded.)  Now I am too old for the late show, which had promised to be the better of the two movies.  So we quietly departed after movie number one.  The Rubidoux Drive-In had not changed at all - in a world and a city where almost everything else is different than before.  It is frozen in time, like a space alien, a holdover from another century. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

WORKING OUR RECOVERY DURING THE PANDEMIC


Years ago, I served as pastor of a church that was loaded with persons in recovery from varied addictions.  I learned that the recovery community is often two steps ahead of the rest of us.  The more recovery folks who became a part of our church, the better church we were: the better we practiced hospitality and lived grace... the better that we understood gospel and life itself.  Recently I interviewed two leaders at Mercy Street in Houston, a Saturday night worship community with an emphasis on recovery.  I was interested in how the pandemic was challenging people in recovery and what we might do about it.  I went into the conversation with some unexamined assumptions:  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

LESSONS FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM


I spent the better part of January in the UK, as a part of Epicenter Group's coaching work this year with 26 British pastors. From London to Wales to Scotland and down again to Cornwall and Norfolk on the southwestern and southeastern coasts, Beth Estock and I saw almost every kind of ministry setting. People have asked what we learned. Here are some observations: 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

I SEE A LAND BEYOND BONKERS!


On Jan 3, 2020, a diverse group of United Methodists assembled by Sierra Leone Bishop John Yambasu unveiled their carefully negotiated proposal to the 2020 UMC General Conference to help United Methodism split into two streams.  One prominent left-of-center blogger called the whole thing 'bonkers.'  I disagree with that assessment.

Friday, December 6, 2019

THE URGENCY OF YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 2020s



In these forty years since I reached adulthood, both the world and the church have changed vastly. Among the changes:
  • The majority of two generations of young people (raised in church) has left organized Christianity, creating an aging church that is decidedly less engaging for teens than the church I knew in the 1970s. It's not only the kids that are missing in most Protestant churches, but their parents. 
  • Youth ministry in American churches has virtually collapsed. I was part of vibrant youth ministry in three different churches during my middle school and high school years, with music groups, Bible studies, recreational programming, camping/retreat experiences and mission trips.  In each of these churches, Sunday nights were hopping with activities for all ages, especially for youth. The recent collapse is in part related to the loss of adults with kids from most churches - but also to the extreme busy-ness which has descended upon the lives of most young people.