21stCenturyMinistry

Swimming into the Deep End

Parenting, Pastoring, and Common Discernment

As I write, I am just returning to pastoral ministry after parental leave. As I bonded with my newborn daughter—my second child—I spent time reflecting on how my vocation as a parent is reshaping my ideals and practices for ministry. Since I was ordained in my late 20s and didn’t become a parent until almost… Read More

The Ministry of Stories

Creating Space to Notice and Know

During the four hot, humid months between my junior and senior years of college, I waited tables at Beethoven’s Inn, a hole-in-the-wall deli that served sandwiches named after classical music composers. The realm of the “Handel, Bach, and Scarlatti” was a land of firsts for me. There, I ate gazpacho for the first time. I… Read More

Talking About Racism

While driving my seven-year-old to a doctor’s appointment for what was likely an ear infection, I noticed that the car was unusually quiet. Rain pattered on the windshield, and the wipers provided their usual rhythmic swishing sound. But my oldest kid is a talker—her waking hours are filled with questions, comments, knock-knock jokes, and observations—and… Read More

Women in Ministry

Is Social Media the Great Equalizer?

I write this on the last day of Women’s History Month. Over on my Twitter account, I spent the month highlighting—via the hashtag #BlackChurchHERStory—African American women religious leaders alive today who have been trailblazers in ministry and in the academy. These pioneers range from the likes of Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, who in 1974 became… Read More

Re-Imagining Communion

Radical Listening and Making the Body Whole

I remember the words so clearly: “I know what it’s like to have my body broken, I know what it’s like to have my blood spilt. I won’t celebrate anyone else’s broken body or spilt blood, and I don’t want anyone doing that on my behalf.” Sitting in the pew next to me, my friend… Read More

“Feeling Into” an Empathetic Ecclesiology

I didn’t have the opportunity to attend The BTS Center’s Convocation last month, but I was pleased to know that Troy Bronsink would be sharing insights about how to apply design thinking in 21st-century ministries. Where I live, write, and teach in the Silicon Valley, “design thinking” is on everyone’s lips—even if they don’t quite know… Read More

A Community of Makers

The Changing Face of Clergy Collegiality

I must confess that I have been a less-than-dutiful clergy colleague. In Lutheran polity, congregations are organized in small geographic clusters called conferences, and their clergy gather for monthly meetings for mutual support and, oftentimes, text studies. Good times, right? Although it has been over three years since I took my new call, I still… Read More

A Christmas Story for a Political Season

It’s December, and we have entered the season of narrative. Around the globe, adorable children in Sunday School classrooms are presenting nativity pageants in hundreds of different languages. They don headgear cut from bedsheets and cardboard-and-aluminum angels’ wings. Nervous but excited, they anxiously watch for their pageant directors’ cues . . . and then, when… Read More

Addicted to Certainty

It was the third and final night of our church’s annual revival and, despite the guest evangelist’s renowned theatrics, the prospect of disappointment loomed over the event like a dark cloud. The previous two nights had produced only a single convert—the seven-year-old son of one of our deacons, who’d walked the aisle, tears staining his… Read More

Our Savior of the Soccer Pitch

Like many young families, our weekends in the fall are busy with soccer. We have four kids on three different teams. That means three practices and three games each week, mostly clustered on Friday night and Saturday morning. While the schedule is hectic, we love to see our kids play, and we track their progress… Read More

Rethinking Church, Communally and Creatively

I spend a curious amount of time discussing, studying, and writing about polity—the structures and procedures of congregational/denominational governance. As other theologians and sociologists of religion speculate about the decline, revival, or re-emergence of Christianity and the church, I focus on how emerging congregations organize themselves and structure their decision-making processes. As a “body”—ecclesial, social,… Read More

Beyond Reconciliation

Race, Religion, and Reparations in the White Church

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”—Cornel West The #BlackLivesMatter movement (#BLM) has captured the attention of the nation. From the streets of Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore to the stages of Republican primary debates and the political platforms of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the movement has informed and shaped a national… Read More

Surf’s Up!

Seven Multimedia Ministry Sites Worth Surfing This Summer

Summertime is often a time for ministry leaders to tackle that long reading list or stack of impulsively bought books from Amazon that has built up over the rush of the ministry program year. It is also a good time to travel off the beaten digital path and discover new resources for both personal nourishment… Read More

Sustaining Ministry through Soulful Entrepreneurship: Finding New Tools for a Changing Church

In the past decade, an increasing number of social entrepreneurs—individuals who feel called to make a difference in the world while earning a living doing it—have been establishing themselves. From mindful consultants to healers to savers of elephants and rainforests, these entrepreneurs find ways to live their passion and at the same time make an… Read More