21stCenturyMinistry

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

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

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

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

Praying the Neighborhood

In May I began walking a daily four-mile loop around our village, Damariscotta Mills, a lovely spot tucked between a lake and a tidal river on Maine’s midcoast. I hoped, by starting some sort—any sort—of regimen, I might begin to prepare for a long hike my husband and I hope to make in 2015. I… Read More

Advent’s Invitation to Incarnational Imagination

“The poet knows that the human experience of the sacred is awash in the particularity of things, the sensuous surface and ambient array of details that make possible any sense of dwelling in the presence of mystery.” – Belden Lane It’s Christmas morning, 1981, and I’m seven years old. I wake up early and fly… Read More