Navigating Life-as-Ministry

Re-Imagining the Story: Can the Mainline Church Put Away Childish Things?

Elizabeth Drescher’s recent piece on “Bearings” asks the question: “What if we had the next great awakening . . . and everybody slept in?” As a church pastor, I’m beginning to wonder that, myself. There are times when being a mainline church pastor feels like being Sheriff Woody from the “Toy Story” movies—adventurous in ways… Read More

Ministering in the Middle of It: There’s More Than One Way to Pastor

Is it the pastor’s place to console, or is it the pastor’s place to challenge? Should ministers emphasize comforting the afflicted, or afflicting the comfortable? In the piece that he wrote for Bearings last week, Adam J. Copeland pondered these questions when he asked, “What’s the Point of a Pastor?” It’s a great question—and one… Read More

What’s the Point of a Pastor?

“One of the reasons that people need pastors is precisely because God is always present but usually not apparent.” – M. Craig Barnes In my Presbyterian faith tradition most pastors wear black preaching robes. I promise we don’t do it for comfort. Or looks (obviously). These robes signify, in part, the relationship between the church… Read More

Coming Clean on Bringing Millennials Back to Church

Can you hear it? It’s the sound of Mainline ministry leaders around the country breathing deep sighs of relief, patting themselves on the back, and smiling in self-congratulation in response to the recent news that what Millennials—that generation woefully absent from their churches—really want from the church is . . . the sacraments. In her… Read More

Graffiti & Grace in the Liminal Church: The Church Mediates God’s Love. That’s Social, But Not Always Digital

Editor’s Note: An edited version of this story previously appeared in The Narthex.  We are thankful for that publication’s permission to share the piece here. The Rev. Thomas Broad and wardens of Grace Episcopal Church in the rural hamlet of Randolph, New York engaged in a remarkable act of social media ministry one Sunday morning a while back.… Read More

Affiliating in the Age of Unaffiliation: How Digital Social Networking is Changing How We Gather

“I haven’t really given it much thought, but I’m really not looking for community when I go to church,” a colleague said when we talked at a consultation earlier this year sponsored by the New Media Project. We’d been thinking about the ways in which new digital media practices—not the technologies themselves, but the ways… Read More

Self-Giving God, Self-Giving Church: Letting Go of the Church into the Love of God

Each year as Holy Week comes upon us again, we have another opportunity to be formed by the stories and practices of death and resurrection. Our formation this year depends on what’s happening right now in our minds and hearts, church and world. Several current conversations in my church are shaping the way I take… Read More

When Faith Goes to College . . . And Joins the Wrestling Team

Considering the amount of online commentary available concerning the millennial generation and the future of the church, the relative dearth of attention paid to young adults’ experience of faith and college is surprising. After all, college changes people. The 18-year-old who steps foot on campus during orientation week is, as students today would say, “super… Read More

Challenges & Blessings of Soulful Leadership in the 21st Century Church

Editor’s note: Part of this blog post is a further development of material in The Soul of a Leader by Margaret Benefiel (Crossroad, 2008). Used with permission of the publisher. The Western church rewards twenty-first-century ministry leaders, lay and ordained alike, for their drive, decisiveness, productivity, and long work hours. In such an environment, what happens… Read More

Tourism and Toys: Playing with a Reformation Legacy

It’s a difficult thing to bear the burden of a legacy. Even more so when it comes to traditions of faith. “What would our Patron Theological Figure do?” we may ask. Or perhaps we mentally transport ourselves back to some imagined Golden Era when our tradition seemed to have found itself in God’s holy favor.… Read More

Not Quite Home

I decided to return to my old church for a visit. Readers of BEARINGS will recall that it’s been a while since I’ve crossed the threshold of the church that nurtured me through graduate school and the various ups and downs of life at that time. I’d been mulling a holiday return. I wanted to… Read More

Heaven is Here: Reflections From a Snow Globe

Editor’s note: On January 26 – 27, The BTS Center hosted Convocation 2015: “Gifts of the Dark Wood.” Over the course of two days, the event’s participants and keynote speakers—Dr. Eric Elnes and Dr. Marcia McFee—explored how encounters with failure, uncertainty, and temptation possess the power to bring individuals closer to God. In the following… Read More

Rewriting the 21st-Century Ministry Playbook

This time of year my thoughts turn from theology to football as the NFL and college football playoffs pack the January television airwaves. It has been particularly the case this year as my favorite team, the New England Patriots, makes yet another deep playoff run. Viewers and sports commentators alike have noticed that there is… Read More