21stCenturyMinistry

Small Church Magic

A number of years ago I found myself sitting in an auditorium, surrounded by colleagues, listening to a speaker talk about church growth. It was not the first time I had found myself in this situation: A speaker from an urban center telling people in a judicatory that is predominantly rural and low-income what they… Read More

How Many Crockpots Does It Take to Keep a Small Church Afloat?

Small Is the New Big Issue

We sit quietly in a 125-year-old, former Methodist church sanctuary (now a space used for art events). A cello, violin, and guitar lead us with instrument and voice. We sing one line of one psalm 108 times. We sing the line 108 times because the musician who leads us is also a yogi, and that… Read More

Making Peace with Peacemaking

Nick Nagy, “Peacemaking in the Middle” Over the winter break, our editorial assistant, Nick Nagy, took a close look at people of his home state, Indiana, and by association the rest of the Midwest, who, especially since the 2016 election, have been characterized as “hopelessly isolationist and dismally Trumpian.” Nick’s lead-off article in our January… Read More

An Inconvenient Incarnational Peace

Real peacemaking doesn’t start with abstract concepts for me, but with faces. I see faces of children in Salvadoran refugee camps and Mothers of the Disappeared I met in 1989. I see U.S. war veterans: Debbie, Jim and Miguel, who willingly served their country and came home emotionally, spiritually wounded. Jim was a parishioner who… Read More

Where Can I Run To?

Creating Sacred Space as a Black Woman

The 1990s R&B girl group, Xscape, has a famous song entitled “Who Can I Run To?” The song discusses the complexity of whom to rely on when one needs love. I can relate. I entered my thirties this year full of hope, only to be hit with three significant losses in a six-month time span.… Read More

How the Grinch Told Christmas

Or, Sacred Space is Where It Finds You

The end of the year is upon us. And end is where we shall start: this tale will end with poorly described travelogue of where to find your sacred space hidden in this year’s festivities, mostly through the process of elimination. Or maybe not. Actually you might want to stop reading now. I wouldn’t trust… Read More

Giving Thanks in Thankless Times

A Guide for Reflection & Conversation

Editors Note: Each month, Bearings contributors offer insights on a key theme in the practice of life-as-ministry. As the final installment in the issue, The BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence Pamela Shellberg, PhD reflects on the articles in the issue and poses questions for further reflection by Bearings readers and the communities in which life-as-ministry plays out for… Read More

Finding Deep Gratitude in Ordinary Time

My Sunday night yoga class is an anchor in my week. It grounds me and prepares me for the week ahead. The teacher is wise and the community that gathers is special. Recently one night a couple I hadn’t met before showed up. A bit older than me, they looked to have shared many, many… Read More

Radical Gratitude as Resistance

I’m going to put a whole lot of honesty on the table: I find the age we live in very disturbing. Perhaps you share my concern or, worse yet, have been the object of concern from the likes of me. The truth is, my peace has been disturbed. As an African-American man, fighting for dignity… Read More

Jesus is the tweet. You are the hashtag.

Reflecting on Life in the Digitally-Integrated Church

Editors Note: Each month, Bearings contributors offer insights on a key theme in the practice of life-as-ministry. As the final installment in the issue, The BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence Pamela Shellberg, PhD reflects on the articles in the issue and poses questions for further reflection by Bearings readers and the communities in which life-as-ministry plays out for… Read More

Re-Mediating the Global, Digital Body of Christ

A Conversation with Media Scholar Heidi Campbell

For more than a decade, new media, religion, and digital culture scholar Heidi Campbell of Texas A&M has been exploring the ways that the internet, social media, and other digital technologies engage with the religious and spiritual practices of ordinary people. Her more than seventy articles, books, and edited volumes have mapped how digital social… Read More

Re-Mediation in the D-I-Y Church

Lately I’ve been thinking about a passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus reminds Peter that our youthful vigor and self-determination will always fade. “Very truly, I tell you” Jesus says, “when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old,… Read More

Growing by Half

How Part-Time Pastoral Leadership Can Revitalize the Church

One year ago, I began studying a rare but important species that many church officials wrongly believe doesn’t exist: the mainline Protestant congregation that finds vitality after doing away with the full-time pastorate. To be sure, it wasn’t always the easiest species to find. Many congregations with shrinking attendance and budgets continue to struggle after… Read More

Crowdfunding Christian Ministry

It’s hardly breaking news that many congregations struggle with financial stewardship. Perhaps there was a time when Christians gave to the church without a second’s thought. In days of yore, giving was considered a duty and solemn obligation, and members reliably filled out pledge cards, doing their part to keep church coffers full. That’s not… Read More

What Do We Mean When We Say, “All Are Welcome”?

I’ve driven by that church—you know, the one with the giant banner that says, “All Are Welcome.” I often ask myself, “If I walked through the doors, would I be embraced?” I’m an educated, queer, Black, Progressive, Transgender Christian. Would I, with all that I bring, be welcomed in that space?” When we claim that… Read More

Collaborative Ministry is How We “Love One Another”

They would soon be facing a life-threatening winter. Overwhelming violence in Syria had forced residents from their homes with minimal belongings. Several thousand Syrian refugees were now relocated in a U.N.-sanctioned camp at Jordan. Without the warm clothing they left behind, they might not survive the harsh conditions coming their way. This was in August… Read More

Into the Mystery of Collective Ministry

My favorite definition of “minister” comes from the verb, not the noun. Emphasis is placed on the action, not the subject: “To minister” means to assist where help is needed. This is completely different from the notion that I was raised with as a child in a Roman Catholic household headed by two parents who… Read More