RELIGIOUS SWITCHING & Beginning in the late teen years 31% of Christians become unaffiliated, while 21% of unaffiliated Americans become Christian. This it has resulted in a net flow of millions of Americans from Christianity to unaffiliated. #PewResearch

by Alan Cooperman, Pew Research, 8/29/22.

Earlier this month, Pew Research Center released a study exploring how the religious composition of the United States might change by 2070. One of the conclusions of the study that drew widespread attentionis that Christians – who constituted 64% of the nation’s population in 2020 – may no longer be the majority five decades from now.

But the future course of Christianity in the U.S. is not set in stone. Whether the U.S. will continue to have a Christian majority in 2070 will depend on many factors, including one that was a key focus of the Center’s new study: religious “switching” – that is, voluntary changes in religious affiliation.

Religious switching goes in all directions. It might be a switch from one kind of Christianity to another, from Christianity to another religion, or from Christianity to no religion at all.

Religious switching goes in all directions. It might be a switch from one kind of Christianity to another, from Christianity to another religion, or from Christianity to no religion at all.

Research has shown that religious switching tends to occur when people are younger, typically starting in their late teens. We estimate that between the ages of 15 and 29, 31% of Americans who were raised as Christians become religiously unaffiliated – a group that includes atheists, agnostics or those who describe their faith as “nothing in particular.” (This doesn’t necessarily mean they give up all religious beliefs. Many of these so-called “nones” believe in God or a universal spirit. But by a wide variety of measures of religion and spirituality, they tend to be less religious and less spiritual than Americans who identify with Christianity and other faiths.)

We also estimate that before turning 30, 21% of Americans who were raised with no religious affiliation convert, formally or informally, to Christianity.

The difference between those two percentages – 31% of Christians become unaffiliated, while 21% of unaffiliated Americans become Christian – might not seem large. But the difference actually is huge because of the imbalance in the size of the two groups: Many more Americans are raised as Christians than as “nones.”

The bottom line is that although Christianity is by far the majority faith in the U.S., religious switching – beginning in the late teen years – has resulted in a net flow of millions of Americans from Christianity to unaffiliated.

Read more at …

VIRTUAL CHURCHES & Examples of online congregations: Robloxian Christians, VR Church and virtual church plant, MMO Church.

By Chris Karnadi, Religion & Politics, 8/9/22.

… In 2011, a child from Tacoma, Wash. named Daniel Herron started a church on Roblox, a free-to-play game geared primarily to children and teenagers. Founded by Herron when he was 11 years old, The Robloxian Christians initially began as a space for Christian Roblox players to gather and interact, and this space grew into a fully in-game church with four services a week and more than 53,000 Roblox members.

As a game that is also a game creation platform, Roblox enables users to design their own spaces and invite people to interact with them. In his first few months of playing, Herron had experienced interactive cafes and castles, but wanted to design a world that not only invited Christians to join but also to engage their faith.

The Robloxian Christians was an extension of Herron’s real-life faith. As an active member of a Presbyterian church, Herron included familiar elements such as Bible studies, Wednesday night services, and the like. But at the same time, he was able to establish a Christian community that would have never been possible, encouraged, or even allowed by the PC(USA) denomination because of his age. At present, the Robloxian Christians remains nondenominational and operates more as a collective than a traditional church with accountability to some larger governing body. Metaverse communities often allow faith groups untied from traditional denominations to gather with little to no supervision, allowing for a greater diversity of people to lead and gather.

VR Church is another religious community that meets in the metaverse. Started in 2016, VR Church meets on AltspaceVR, a social virtual reality platform that was acquired by Microsoft in 2017. According to the church’s website, its founder and bishop DJ Soto was originally a pastor at a megachurch in Pennsylvania before leaving and deciding to plant a virtual church. VR Church is not affiliated with any denomination and has a minimalist statement of beliefs: an amended Apostles’ Creed and a few tenets listed on its website.

Soto initially left his previous position with the idea to plant a church in the physical world, but after experimenting with an Oculus headset (Oculus was purchased by Facebook in 2014) and AltspaceVR, he planted a church in virtual reality instead. The church steadily grew, and then exploded in popularity during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It now hosts weekly meetings with up to 200 attendees. According to one report, the church has also ordained other ministers and baptized people who can’t leave their houses.

“People see what we are doing and think it’s innovative, but we believe later they will understand how it is currently reforming the landscape of Christianity,” Soto told me via email.

VR Church prides itself on reaching people who can’t go to church because of disabilities or chronic illness. According to VR Church’s website, one of their eldershas an autoimmune condition and remains mostly at home. Pastoring in the VR Church, her profile says, has allowed her the blessing of a “VR family.” In addition to opening up spaces for disabled and immunocompromised people to lead and experience community, the nontraditional VR Church also allows creative interpretations of Christian texts and rituals. Baptism can happen in a glacial lake in a completely fabricated digital world. An entire landscape can be used to illustrate Bible verses and attendees can walk around and explore the interpretation of scripture.

VR Church has recently expanded with a “virtual church plant” called MMO Church that takes place in the video games Rust and Final Fantasy 14. Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMO) allow large numbers of players to meet on the same server and interact with one another. In this instance, MMO Church sets a meeting spot in a server and players show up within the MMO and participate in church there with their own chosen characters. Instead of planting a church in other states or cities, VR Church plants churches in other games.

Read more at …

METAVERSE & Facebook’s worrisome aim to “become the virtual home for religious community.”

by Chris Karnadi, Religion & Politics, 8/9/22.

… In October 2021, Facebook was renamed and rebrandedas Meta, signifying another shift from one of the big five tech companies to focus on building the metaverse. Earlier that year, Zuckerberg spoke about why he sees the metaverse as the next major development of the internet: “You can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it.”

Last year, Meta also told The New York Times about studies that the company had conducted with church communities starting in 2017, learning both how faith communities leverage platforms like Facebook to gather people and thinking about how to potentially develop that relationship. According to this report, Meta’s aim is to “become the virtual home for religious community,” and the company “wants churches, mosques, synagogues and others to embed their religious life into its platform.” Reflecting a larger trend, many institutions—including religious ones—are becoming interested in the metaverse’s possibilities, and with that interest, increased formalization and monetization are likely to follow.

Virtual church won’t fully replace in-person worship any time soon, but the benefits of having an online presence and infrastructure have been self-evident throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Faith communities were already meeting in the types of virtual environments that would make up the metaverse, and the pandemic has increased the popularity of existing metaverse churches like The Robloxian Christians.

Read more at …

MINISTERIAL TRANSITIONS & Are you being ‘quietly fired’? It’s more common than ‘quiet quitting.’

by Emily LeFroy, New York Post, 9/2/22.

…While quiet quitting is rejecting the idea that employees should be going above and beyond, “quiet firing” is essentially the opposite.

The phenomenon, according to a recruiting expert’s now-viral post, is when employers quietly reduce the amount of work given to an employee or evade chats about progressing until workers grow so frustrated they quit.

…On top of that, not being invited to work on “cool” projects, not being looped in on information “critical” to your job or your boss never discussing career progression were listed as other signs.

…“It works great for companies…eventually you’ll either feel so incompetent, isolated and unappreciated that you’ll go find a new job, and they never have to deal with a development plan or offer severance,” Dilber wrote. “Or your performance will slip enough due to the lack of support that they’ll be able to let you go.”

… both trends may just be a sign that there should be more transparency between employers and employees.

“In both scenarios, it’s a bad relationship that has gone on too long but sheer inertia is keeping it going,” they wrote.

Dilber suggested companies should be looking at their management practices and identify places where people are being “quiet fired” by poor managers who don’t want to do the work to support, train and coach their teams, rather than being concerned by quiet quitters.

Read more at …


OUTREACH & What’s the difference between centripetal mission (inward) and centrifugal mission (outward). #EdStetzer

by Ed Stetzer, adapted from Subversive Kingdom (2012, B&H Publishing Group).

… When Christ instructed his followers to head out under the Holy Spirit’s direction and empowering, bearing witness of him “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), this signaled a new chapter in kingdom work. No longer were God’s people to be continually drawn toward Jerusalem, as had been the case throughout the Old Testament. They were now being sent out from Jerusalem. The centripetal mission of bringing outsiders into an earthly city was being replaced by the centrifugal mission of taking heaven’s glories to the cities of the world. The indwelling Holy Spirit and his amazing visitation at the Pentecost celebration of Acts 2 meant the church was being empowered to pursue, not to be pursued.

This is why, when giving a talk at a missions meeting recently, I said rather facetiously, since it was a non-Pentecostal gathering, “What we need in our churches–in all kinds of churches–is more speaking in tongues.” (Insert nervous laughter here.) My focus–and what each of us along all points of the Christian spectrum should be able to concur with–is this: the church needs to be speaking the heart languages of all the world’s people groups, both at home and abroad. Rather than merely throwing open the doors of our building to a “come and see” festivity (and thereby considering ourselves fully compliant with a kingdom calling), we need to be going out into the darkness with a “here’s light” message of freedom for all kinds of people, in all sorts of life settings and situations.

So I say any church daring to call itself missional might consider doing three kingdom things: (1) serving locally, (2) planting nationally, and (3) adopting an unreached people group globally. Why? Because God wants his glory to be manifest before men and women everywhere through his covenant people on earth. He wants his found children wholeheartedly engaged in rescuing his lost children. He wants his people living and declaring his grace to those who are starting to see the pointlessness of human progress.

Read more at …

NONES & U.S. ‘nones’ will approach majority by 2070 if recent switching trends continue. #PewResearch #graph

Pew Research, 9/13/22.

… The Center estimates that in 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian. People who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious “nones,” accounted for 30% of the U.S. population. Adherents of all other religions – including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – totaled about 6%.1

Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. Over that same period, “nones” would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population.

… However, these are not the only possibilities, and they are not meant as predictions of what will happen. Rather, this study presents formal demographic projections of what could happen under a few illustrative scenarios based on trends revealed by decades of survey data from Pew Research Center and the long-running General Social Survey.

All the projections start from the current religious composition of the U.S. population, taking account of religious differences by age and sex. Then, they factor in birth rates and migration patterns. Most importantly, they incorporate varying rates of religious switching – movement into and out of broad categories of religious identity – to model what the U.S. religious landscape would look like if switching stayed at its recent pace, continued to speed up (as it has been doing since the 1990s), or suddenly halted.

Switching rates are based on patterns observed in recent decades, through 2019. For example, we estimate that 31% of people raised Christian become unaffiliated between ages 15 to 29, the tumultuous period in which religious switching is concentrated.2 An additional 7% of people raised Christian become unaffiliated later in life, after the age of 30.

Read more at …

3-STRand LEADERSHIP & Your guide to the 6 leadership “styles” and the difference between them and the 3 leadership “traits.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Most leaders gravitate towards leading in one of three ways: visionary/strategic, administrative/tactical or relational/operational. These are leadership “traits,” the natural way we lead and to which we fall back when under pressure. Most people have one trait that is the strongest. I’ve written much about this and even designed a short questionnaire to help you discover your mix of leadership traits here:

But in addition to leadership “traits” (which are innate, organic and the way you naturally handle leadership because of your personality and upbringing): there are leadership “styles.” And leadership “styles” are a bit more complex and are learned. Here’s a good overview to the types of learned leadership “styles.”

Your guide to leadership styles” by the editors of, 9/12/22.

… inthis guide to leadership styles, we’ll take a look at six of the most common styles of leadership.

#1: Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership is also sometimes referred to as authoritarian. In this leadership style, one person makes decisions and passes those decisions along to the rest of the team. These leaders tend to be decisive and do not require input from others to make difficult judgments.


… little time is wasted … leaders are extremely skilled at taking the reins, moving a project forward, and communicating the strategy to their team. There is also very little room for confusion in an autocratic style of leadership.


… team can feel unheard. For those who enjoy collaboration and discussion, it can be hard to work for an autocratic leader. Additionally, these leaders tend to dislike criticism of their decisions.


John, head of the marketing department, is told by his boss that the team needs to produce ten new leads each month from their digital marketing channels. Dave takes this information and decides on a strategy to make it happen. He then calls a team meeting and explains to each employee their role in enacting the plan. 

#2: Democratic leadership

The democratic leadership style is the mirror opposite of autocratic leadership. Also referred to as participative leadership, this style of leading is all about inviting others to help make decisions. A democratic leader will present problems and ask teams to collaborate on the solution.


Democratic leadership allows everyone’s voice to be heard. Employees who enjoy collaboration will feel that their input is valuable and that they have the chance to help steer the direction of the ship. This can lead to higher buy-in as employees begin to own their solutions.


While teams often enjoy adding their own input into the decision-making process, democratic leaders can slow down projects with indecision. Too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen can lead to ineffective strategies and confusion about project roles.


Susan is asked to pitch a new digital product to the C-Suite to solve a current user issue. Susan calls a meeting with her team, presents the problem, and asks for everyone’s input. She weighs the insights every team member brings to the table, and works with everyone to collaborate on their end solution. 

#3: Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is a style in which company policy and procedures take precedence over everything else. These leaders are usually leaders by title and prescribe to a set way of handling things. A bureaucratic leader will check every box and dot every “i,” always following the book. You’ll often see this leadership style in bureaucratic organizations, such as governmental agencies or long-established corporations.


There is an immense amount of stability with bureaucratic leadership. Employees can expect things to follow a specific format. This leadership style is also often rewarded in organizations where company policy is strict, and deviation from regulation or rule is prohibited.


With no room for thinking outside of the box, this leadership style can feel stifling for creative types. It also lacks room for innovation and can cause employees to feel trapped into doing things the way they have always been done.


Melissa is told that the new company policy requires every retail location to increase rental rates by 12%. One of Melissa’s store managers explains a set of reasons as to why this will damage the bottom line for their store. Melissa provides the employee with the corporate memo and lets her team member know that she expects them to abide by the policy regardless of how it will affect revenue. 

#4: Hands-off leadership

Commonly referred to as laissez-faire leadership, this style of leading focuses on letting employees work independently. A hands-off leader will explain a goal, provide necessary resources, and walk away. They will check back in when the project is due and will otherwise leave their employees unsupervised.


For those who thrive working independently, this can be a great leadership fit. Employees who are highly motivated, skilled, and problem solvers will be able to work on their own to tackle projects. This can lead to a high level of satisfaction, as employees see their work come to fruition.


A lack of accountability can spell trouble for employees who struggle with self-motivation or have difficulty with time management. Additionally, employees who crave coaching and mentorship will feel abandoned by this leadership style.


Ben tells his employee that all accounting reports are due at the end of the month. He hands over the data set his employee needs, along with the template for submitting the report. At the end of the month, Ben expects them to hand in the report on time. 

#5: Transactional leadership

A transactional leader functions off the methodology of entering into an agreement or contract with their employees. This style of leader will explain what needs to be done and, in return for pay, expects employees to obey. A transactional leader will also often use rewards and punishment to motivate employees.


With transactional leaders, everything is extremely cut and dry. For those who enjoy knowing their role and are motivated by rewards, this can be an effective strategy. Often, sales teams operate under a transactional leadership model.


For some, transactional leadership can feel heartless. Everything seems as if it boils down to numbers or agreements, and there is a lack of motivation to work beyond the transaction.


Bobby tells his sales team that if they exceed their monthly sales goal, he will throw an after-work party for the team. He explains, however, that if the team falls short of their goal again, no one will be receiving their quarterly bonus. 

#6: Transformational leadership

Also called visionary leadership, transformational leadership is about inspiring employees and motivating teams. Transformational leaders tend to have high emotional intelligence, integrity, and humility. These are the leaders who empower their team members to become their best, constantly working to move roadblocks and continually setting clear goals. Transformational leaders also welcome feedback and innovative ideas, always asking their teams to question the status quo.


Transformational leaders tend to be highly effective at building trust with employees and creating strong teams. They are a perfect fit for businesses undergoing change or looking to transform processes.


Transformational leaders believe in improving processes and are unafraid of change. Their bold approach can be intimidating and unsettling for those who enjoy the status quo.


Maria is in charge of leading digital transformation in her company. She motivates her team through a story that showcases the importance of helping lead this transformation. She asks each team member to consider how they can contribute and invites all ideas to the table. Later, she speaks with her team lead one-on-one, asking what roadblocks are in the way of him reaching his current goals and how she can help.

Read more at …

DRIVE TIMES & Here is a tool that computes how long it takes people to drive to your church.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In a previous posting I’ve stated the following:

Previously geography dictated a church’s size and potential for growth as per this research on face-to-face churchgoers.  

Not any more.

Now churches everywhere can overcome the “geographic wall” to attendance by developing their online ministry. In my book Growing the Post-pandemic Church I list tools and plans to accomplish this.

Drive times to church for face-to-face attendees are:

5 min or less = 21 %

6 – 15 min = 47 %. 

16 – 30 min = 22% 

30+ min = 9 %.

AMERICAN VALUES, MENTAL HEALTH, AND USING TECHNOLOGY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, Findings from “Church Commuting” by Kevin D. Dougherty, Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5 , 9/2017 (

Here is a website ( that allows you to compute the 15-minute zone from which will come 59% of your attendees.

Below are examples from two churches showing their 15-minute ministry field. In the app you can zoom in to see specific streets and neighborhoods.

For more see

3 STRand LEADERSHIP & Saving Management From Our Obsession With Leadership. #ForbesMagazine

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. For the past 20 years leadership articles have primarily focused on creating visionary leaders. But “administrative leaders” are actually just as critical to getting the vision accomplished. I’ve written about this numerous times citing a “strategic – tactical – relational matrix” of leadership personalities. Here’s an article that shows that unless a visionary leader partners with an administrative leader, the vision won’t usually be attained.

by Roger Trapp, Forbes Magazine, 8/31/22.

… so much emphasis is put on leadership — with all that entails in terms of vision, strategy and communication — that it is possible that we are overlooking the basics of just getting things done.

The evidence for this is all around us. Take, for example, the chaos at airports around the world as travel attempts to return to normal after the pandemic. We can all see that shortages of labour might have an impact, but management is all about dealing with constraints, so surely a well-run organisation would have — if it had not anticipated the issue — reacted to early problems and come up with a better plan for dealing with them. Or consider many aspects of the handling of the pandemic itself. From securing supplies of personal protective equipment at the outset to distributing vaccines later, the U.K.’s National Health Service and other bodies around the world were found wanting… It all smacks of putting vision and strategy before the basics of getting the job done.

The point is developed in an article just published in the MIT Sloan Management Review. In “Saving Management From Our Obsession With Leadership,” authors Jim Detert, Kevin Kniffin and Hannes Leroy write: “For decades, business thinkers and the executives who look to them for insight have elevated the visionary, inspirational leader over the useful yet pedestrian good manager. But evidence all around us suggests that we devalue management practices at our peril: What we’ve come to denigrate as mere management (done by those who are merely managers) is incredibly difficult and valuable.”

Moreover, they put the Great Resignation into context, pointing out that the people “quitting in droves haven’t done so because their company’s top executive is insufficiently visionary or inspirational. Rather, people have quit lousy jobs — jobs that lack autonomy, variety, or opportunities to grow; jobs that pay poorly and don’t reward performance fairly; jobs that aren’t clearly defined and structured; jobs that lack guardrails that prevent chronic overload and frustration.

Read more at …

LEADING IN LIMINAL TIMES & This is what’s really behind Quiet Quitting (and what leaders can do about it).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: We often notice that people are changing in their passion for a job as well as their performance level. But what do we do about it? Here are several good ideas from a recent article in Fast Company magazine.

“This is what’s really behind Quiet Quitting (and what leaders can do about it)” by Ben Reuveni, Fast Company, 8/31/22.

…Many leaders see ghost quitting, also known as quiet quitting, as a people problem, but that’s not the case. It’s a failure of traditional HR methods that don’t work anymore. The pandemic accelerated a shift in how employees think about work. People are demanding flexibility in their jobs as they give equal or greater focus to family, travel, or passion projects. Contributing to this trend is the fact that employees feel trapped and unfulfilled in the roles they hold today. According to one of our recent surveys, over half of employees say their current role doesn’t make good use of their skills. A separate report reveals that 43% say they don’t have enough opportunities for internal mobility.

…According to McKinsey, the top reasonpeople left their jobs last year was a lack of career development and advancement. HR teams, people managers, and senior leaders need to give their employees more flexibility, more visibility into internal growth possibilities, and agency to pursue them.

Double down on investing in developing people.

…The quiet quitter’s mindset is a symptom of a work environment where people feel cornered or stuck. Organizations must fundamentally change the way they think about work, proving their people come first. They can start by creating access to development and internal job opportunities. According to Gallup, companies that made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their people.

Try job sharing or peer mentoring.

… Since the pandemic began, many CHROs have reported a spike in employee interest in gigs and mentorships. Gigs offer people exposure to new leaders and coworkers in other departments and locations. They also provide the chance to add or reinforce skills that could lead to an internal career move. Through mentorships, employees and leaders can learn from each other without the stakes of a manager-direct report relationship.

Many companies are even embracing job sharing—splitting one job between two or more employees. Job sharing can help to beat quiet quitting by providing relief to employees who feel overworked, and connecting them to a complementary and engaging partner.

Read more at …


MUSIC & How the Gospel music of the Black Church influenced Blues and Soul Music – #Duke professor Mark Anthony Neal.

Chris Karnadi, Faith & Leadership Magazine, 8/24/22.

… Neal is the chair of Duke University’s Department of African & African American Studies and the author of several books, including “New Black Man.” He teaches courses on pop culture, black masculinity and the history of hip-hop, among other subjects.

He spoke with Faith & Leadership’s Chris Karnadi about the intersection between the black church and black music …

Mark Anthony Neal: I think when you talk about black music, the influence of the black church, particularly black church musical culture, is inescapable.

What we think of as early blues music was really nothing more than secular spiritual. When we think of the emergence of gospel music in the 1930s, it was really basically spiritual music with blues chords. And when you think about the emergence of soul music in the 1950s, it was really the coming together of traditional rhythm and blues and gospel music.

And the fact that so many of the iconic figures of soul music all literally came out of the churches — in some cases, like Sam Cooke, literally came out of gospel groups — that kind of connection is inescapable.

Read more at …

TRANSITIONING YOUR CHURCH TO LIVING COLOR & This graphic illustrates the difference between equity and equality by #PorterBraswell, #FastCompanyMagazine

by Porter Braswell, Fast Company Magazine, 7/19/22.

… Sometimes, it’s just so much easier to explain something with a picture.

This is the most commonly used graphic in the world of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) to explain the difference between equality and equity. So let’s dig into what it’s really saying.

Read more at …

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Adding online worship options is preferred by 57% of people 55 and under. Here is a chart that shows how the harvest fields have moved.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel, 8/11/22. Take a look at the chart below from my seminar, Growing the Post-pandemic Chruch. On the fourth line you will find research which research reveals two important points:

  • Churches offering only onsite worship are preferred by 50% (of all ages)

  • Churches offering both onsite AND online worship: are preferred by 57% (of ages 55 & under)
© the seminar, Growing the Post-Pandemic Chruch by Bob Whitesel PhD

This chart shows the harvest field has moved with the majority now preferring churches that offer both online and on site options. In my seminars (and book) I give many reasons for having onsite AND online options. Here are just a few:

  • People who “move away” can still enjoy and participate in the worship service to which they have become accustomed.

  • People with a disability may be able to attend an online church expression and participate more effectively.

  • People who are home-ridden due to illness or age can attend.

  • People who simply resonate with your “church’s personality” can attend your church.

  • Typically people will only drive 15 minutes to a church. But with an online option people from “anywhere on the globe, for any of the above reasons” can join you for worship.

For more reasons and ideas see Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.Church Guide.

BUDGETING & Churches are forgiving medical debt for pennies, here’s how “RIP Medical Debt” works.

by Joshua Eaton, Sojourners Magazine, 10/10/22.

…First Presbyterian, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, is one of many across the country raising money through the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to buy and forgive medical debts owed by people who can’t afford to pay them back. The church hopes to raise $50,000 as one of two mission components to its capital campaign — enough to forgive $5 million in medical debt. Douglas told Sojourners they should be able to forgive the $5 million by year’s end.

…according to a report released by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation last year. Of those, 11 million owed more than $2,000 and 3 million owed more than $10,000, the report found. And that burden fell most heavily on communities of color, the disabled, and those without health insurance.

… That’s where RIP Medical Debt comes in. Founded in 2014 by former debt collection executives Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, the nonprofit buys medical debt either directly from hospitals or from secondary brokers. Because RIP Medical Debt is buying debt the same way investors do, it gets the same steep discounts. That means it can forgive about $100 for every $1 it spends.

… On its website, the organization says it targets debt owed by people who owe more than 5 percent of their annual income or who make less than four times the federal poverty guidelines. (In 2022, the federal poverty guideline is $27,750 a year for a family of four living in the continental United States.)

… Once a church signs on, RIP Medical Debt sets up a page for the campaign on its website and handles all the bookkeeping. The church just has to get the word out. And once the debts are forgiven, RIP Medical Debt sends out letters to the people who owed it letting them know the good news.

… Because there’s no application people have to fill out to have their debt forgiven, they often don’t even know it will be forgiven until they get a letter in the mail.

“The sense that they’ve been given some grace is incredible,” Sesso said of the responses RIP Medical Debt gets from the people whose debts it wipes out.

Read more at …

HOMELESSNESS & New book invites Christians to rethink homelessness.

Kathryn Post, Religion News Service, 8/10/22.

… In his new book, ”Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness” (out Tuesday, Aug. 9, from Herald Press), the Fuller Seminary graduate says that many of his fellow Christians make the same mistake. Too often, they offer cash or bagged lunches instead of relationships. Or they avert their eyes and just move on.

Churches can be involved in creating and sustaining affordable housing by donating land or supporting initiatives and candidates in building more affordable housing. For those already doing programs addressing homelessness, I really encourage moving from transactional to a relational model. Rather than having volunteers all in a kitchen or behind a serving table, have them move out, sit and eat with the people there. Instead of offering a to-go meal, allow people to rest for a few hours.

“Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness”

Nye suggests trying to see people experiencing homelessness as if they were Jesus.

“If we actually saw Jesus on the side of the road, and recognized him as the Son of God, our savior, we probably wouldn’t just roll down our window and hand him a five,” Nye told Religion News Service in a recent phone interview. “We’d hopefully pull over and talk and enter into some sort of relationship where we are doing a lot more listening than talking.”

… In the merit-based model, people have to earn their way through a process that ends in independent housing. Often people need to be clean and sober to enter a shelter, then in the shelter, they follow the rules and can graduate to shared housing. If they keep staying clean and sober, and keep attending the treatment plan laid out for them, they can graduate to maybe interim housing. Long-term, if they stay the course, they can finally receive housing.

One thing to note is that it just doesn’t work, statistically speaking. People are more likely to end their homelessness on their own, without any help, than to end their homelessness with programs like that. Ultimately, that model has so many barriers and provides so many opportunities for people to fail. The moment they do, programs like that put blame on that person for falling out of the program rather than asking, is this program flawed?

… Housing first is proven to work far more effectively, and it’s common sense. If you provide someone with a baseline of safety, security and a place where they can sleep well every night behind a locked door, receive mail and have neighbors, then they are far more capable of building their lives back, whether that’s finding work or getting treatment for mental health, substance use or for a physical disability.

Housing becomes the springboard for people to flourish.

… Churches can be involved in creating and sustaining affordable housing by donating land or supporting initiatives and candidates in building more affordable housing. For those already doing programs addressing homelessness, I really encourage moving from transactional to a relational model. Rather than having volunteers all in a kitchen or behind a serving table, have them move out, sit and eat with the people there. Instead of offering a to-go meal, allow people to rest for a few hours.

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GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Church average attendance has dropped from 137 in 2000 to 65 today! Here’s a chart and links to best practices to address that …

by Bob Whitsel D.Min., Ph.D., 7/25/22.

Generally the church has declined from an average of one 137 attendees, 20 years ago to 65 attendees today.  Below is a chart that illustrates that. This means if you were involved in a church 20 years ago, either as a pastor or attendee, you would see the average church drop to 50% smaller than it was!  That’s scary for many congregants.  

But, it’s important that people understand this is a societal motor (yet something we as leaders must address). However, this drop is not fully the fault of the local church. A church can remain comparatively plateaued, but be declining in attendance because of societal motors.

Here’s the handouts from the seminar, “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” with field-tested solutions. And here is a visual from that seminar on the “average” sized church according to the Hartford Institute’s American Religious Identification Survey (one of the most exhaustive surveys available today).


DOING GOOD & This study suggests that the boundaries between self-interest and altruism aren’t tidy: Doing good for others makes us feel good, and we engage in all kinds of pro-social behaviors to get that warm glow, a kind of morally informed dopamine hit.

The Joy of Saving the World: Research suggests a surprising motive for environmentalism: feeling good.

By Liza Featherstone, The New Republic Magazine, June 28, 2022.

… “Warm glow” scholarship like Shrum’s has, over the last few decades, been helping to complicate the economics profession’s view of human nature as purely self-interested. This line of inquiry began in 1990 with a study that found that donating to charity gave people a warm glow. This scholarship suggests that the boundaries between self-interest and altruism aren’t tidy: Doing good for others makes us feel good, and we engage in all kinds of pro-social behaviors to get that warm glow, a kind of morally informed dopamine hit.

… This might be why environmentalists, despite the dour messaging, “are actually really happy,” says Shrum, who in addition to her academic career is the founder of an environmental nonprofit. “They have a higher level of life satisfaction, counter to the stereotype of the angry environmentalist.” More recently, she says, “we’re starting to see that not only do people feel good about themselves when they do something good for the environment, but this anticipation of that warm glow, the anticipation of feeling good about being green is one of the strongest drivers of pro-environmental behavior.” Those who experience warm glow after a small beneficial act—in her experiment, performing a task that raised money for an environmental organization—want to do more. In other words, says Shrum, the warm glow from environmental action leads people into a “virtuous cycle.” Shrum’s research also suggests that the warm glow can be strengthened and reinforced (by praising and thanking people, making them feel appreciated).

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Below is the research article …

Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving

by James Andreoni, The Economic Journal, Volume 100, Issue 401, 1 June 1990, Pages 464–477,

LEADERSHIP & Stop saying ‘I’m sorry’ at work—and use these 3 phrases instead, says Wharton psychologist.

by Megan Sauer, NBC, 7/14/22.

…”[Saying sorry] is a very kind thing to do, but it can also put us in what we characterize as a one-down position,” Schweitzer tells CNBC Make It. “It’s not authoritative, it’s not assertive, and sometimes people appear more powerful when they don’t apologize…”

Replace I’m sorry with…

Schweitzer says it’s important to communicate intentionally when things don’t go as planned. For instance:

  • Replace “I’m sorry for this mistake” with “I’m taking responsibility for this, and here’s how I plan to fix it.”

It’s an apology that still acknowledges a misstep without conveying unnecessary vulnerability. “If you recognize a mistake, it takes assertiveness to say, ‘Here’s the error. I want you to know about it and I’m going to take these corrective actions,'” Schweitzer says. “Stating your intentions specifically, I think, is a powerful and often constructive thing to do.”

In other situations, you might not want to explicitly apologize at all. For example:

  • Replace “I’m sorry for being late” with “Thanks for your patience”
  • Replace “I’m sorry you’re stressed” with “I noticed you have a lot on your plate. Can I help you? Do you need a break?”

The key, Schweitzer says, is to practice accountability while suggesting solutions that can help you move forward, rather than dwelling on past mistakes.

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