21stCenturyMinistry

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

Church for the Like-Minded Only? Won’t Get My Vote.

Several times this fall, my local university has announced which of the university’s colors fans should wear to the Saturday football game. Remarkably, the word gets out and nearly an entire stadium dons the same color clothing. One week it’s yellow. Later, green. Most recently, white. I’ve noticed a similar trend elsewhere. First, there were… Read More

Mapping the 21st Century Ministry Landscape

As a kid, I loved making maps. When I was around eight years old, I would ride around our neighborhood for hours on my bike, cruising the sidewalks, streets, alleyways, and dirt trails that connected and intersected the townhomes in our development. When I came home I would record the pathways I discovered on a… Read More