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07 January 2013

The Church's Generational Log Jam is Making Everybody Cranky

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

logjamMinistry leaders can be so busy lamenting the fact there are fewer people in our churches these days that we often miss how the people who do attend are crammed together generationally.

We are unwittingly cramming six distinct generations into three traditional roles, and it causes all kinds of congregational tensions, which present persistent challenges to ministry leaders.

That’s the important point that Carroll Sheppard and Nancy Burton Dilliplane make in their helpful book Congregational Connections: Uniting Six Generations in the Church. I had the pleasure of co-leading a conversation on generations in the church with Carroll at a recent gathering of the Philadelphia Area Ecumenical Resource Network, and I appreciated this point:

“This is the first time in the world’s history when significant numbers of six demographic cohorts have all occupied the stage at the same time.”

“What is intensifying the problem is that these six generational cohorts are trying to squeeze themselves into an outdated three-generation model of elders, households raising children/career singles, and children.”

“In the six-generational cohort society, it is often unclear who is in charge, who will do the work, and who is raising the children.”

28 December 2012

Best of the Blog 2012: Digital Ministry, Pastoral Transition, and Church Leadership

Posted in Culture, Social Media, Church

20122012 was the most challenging and gratifying in my professional career. I published my first book, left one call and accepted another, and relocated our family of six from Boston to Philadelphia. It was a great year to be blogging to document it all.

What I've learned about blogging is that one does not only write a blog to process the present moment, but also to observe how one's own perspective, style, and interests evolve over time.

I blog, in part, to discover what I'm interested in, what seems worth writing about, and to chip away at larger ideas and challenges in 1000 words or less. In short, in blogging, like all writing, I suppose, the thing you learn the most about is yourself.

So, in a new a new tradition (drum roll) here's the best of my blog, 2102 edition:

Here's the 2012 edition of the blog in raw numbers: 

  • 48 posts
  • 36,134 visits, of which 25,670 were new
  • from 25,727 unique visitors
  • who viewed 57,583 pages on the blog

Top five posts:

Here are more highlights organized thematically:

11 December 2012

Should I Stay or Go? Three Questions and Resources for Discerning a New Call

Posted in Church

GoDiscerning whether to seek and accept a new call to ministry is an intense experience.

A myriad of ideas, dreams, and worries swirl around in your head and heart. It can be hard to know your own mind, motives, and true desires, let alone God’s.

In my own experience of deciding to leave one call and take another, these are the three central questions that helped focus my discernment—and the resources that helped me answer them. I hope they can be helpful to you in your own process of discernment.

05 December 2012

Remembering The Rev. Dr. Ronald Thiemann

Posted in ELCA, Leadership, Church

On December 5th I had the honor of preaching the funeral sermon for my mentor and friend, The Rev. Dr. Ronald Thiemann. We lost him too soon and will miss him greatly.

ron thiemannFirst Meeting

I remember the first time I met Ron Thiemann. It was 1996 and I was a newly minted first year Master of Divinity student at Harvard Divinity School and Ron was the Dean. I was invited, along with all first years, to the traditional welcome cookout at Jewett House, the Dean’s residence. We shook hands in the receiving line and said hello. And that was it. In that brief moment, neither of us could have possibly imagined that our journeys would somehow lead us here today.

I never had a class with Ron, a fact he would later tease me about frequently. I tried to explain that he just wasn’t in my area, but he didn’t buy it. But I did see him often. You know, at Harvard, professors are our versions of celebrities and Deans all the more so. I remember seeing Ron walking hurriedly across the Div School campus. I’d say, “Hey, there’s the Dean!” It was like seeing a theological rock-star. I knew that he was brilliant, important, and busy teaching and guiding the Divinity school, which he did for 13 years.

So, perhaps you can imagine that when Ron and Beth appeared unannounced for Sunday worship here at Redeemer when I was serving as pastor, I had to do a double take. I peeked into the sanctuary from the back door and said, “Is that the dean? That’s the dean!” I walked up and, I’ll never forget, I nervously said, “Hello, Professor Thiemann, I’m Keith Anderson.” And Ron said, “Yes. I know.” Eek! And then I had to preach in front of him a sermon I didn’t particularly like. My heart thumped in my chest as it did for my sermons in the weeks to come. After weeks of calling him Professor Thiemann, he finally had to say, “Keith, please, call me Ron.”

And in the time since, I came to know Ron, not only as the incredibly accomplished scholar and institutional leader, advisor to political, religious, and business leaders, but as a colleague, a wise mentor, and, truly and most of all, a friend.

26 November 2012

Pastors, Stop Complaining About Sunday Morning Sports

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Church

soccerIt’s a common complaint among clergy types, “Sunday morning sports is taking people away from worship!”

This lament and the exasperation that accompanies it goes deeper than just whether a family shows up on a particular Sunday. It is the lament of the loss of the privileged place that the Churchand clergyonce enjoyed in our culture. And in our lament we risk alienating the very young families we seek to engage.

The emergence of Sunday morning sports is just a symbol of a shift that’s happening in our society where the church is no longer accommodated or propped up by our culture.

Clergy lament this. It makes our jobs harder. But, if we are honest, there is something deeper: it is the resentment of the loss a privileged place of not only religious institutions, but Christian institutions, and not just Christian institutions, but Christian people, and the leaders of those people, the professional clergy, us. We are mourning our own diminishing cultural position and privilege. That’s what I hear just under the surface when clergy complain to each other about Sunday morning sportsits the loss of our place, our privilege, our position.

13 November 2012

What Churches Should Learn from Mitt Romney's Defeat

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Leadership, Church

romneyA fundamental problem that led to the defeat of the Romney campaign, and Republican party more generally, in the 2012 election, is the same one that faces mainline congregations: mistakingly thinking that simply maximizing a coalition of aging white men is sufficient to win the future.

Much of the early analysis in the final days of the 2012 presidential campaign has focused not on policy, ideology, or ads, but strategy: polling, turnout, and, specifically, demographics.

It turns out that the downfall of the Romney campaign was not appreciating the demographic shifts that had taken place in the country over the last four years. America and the electorate had become more diverse and urban - and the tone, resonant issues, language, and culture had shifted along with them.

In many ways, the mainline church now finds itself in the same position as the Republican party - scrambling to catch up to changes in country and culture. The Church must understand the lesson of the Romney defeat and pivot toward the culture that exists now rather than the one that used to be.

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