Small Is the New Big

A Guide for Reflection & Conversation

The articles in this month’s Bearings magazine, “Small Is the New Big,” illuminate questions raised by the realities of small church ministry. In them we read eyewitness accounts of the spiritual energy in churches described as “small”—small that is, when the metric applied is a numerical count of members or weekly worship attendance. The articles invite us to... Read more

Small, But Not Alone

Collaborative Parishes Offer Hope and New Life for Small Churches

With few exceptions, Christian churches in America are in trouble. Membership has been trending slowly downward for decades with the most pronounced declines occurring in churches in the mainline Protestant tradition. I am not writing, however, to sound the alarm about the shrinking numbers of the faithful. I would guess that none of it is new to you. Nor am... Read more

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 need to do to grow their congregations. Good... 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 issue... 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 still suffers from nightmares... Read more

Claiming, Cultivating & Creating Sacred Space

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... Read more

Make a Place for Yourself in the Darkness

It is dark. Rain falls soft and visible from beneath the streetlights. Heard faintly in the cacophony of the night is a homeless man yelling something into the air. Something indeterminate. Unsettling. Avoidingly, nervously, people walk past. Through the glass windows of a Mexican restaurant, I am waiting for him to arrive. He comes in, late, carrying the... 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 me if I were you. There is no narrative arc here, nor... Read more