COMMUNICATION & How to Write Email Subject Lines that Get a Response: If you want action, you need to tell your reader what you want.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: More and more communication is taking place online. The weekly or monthly printed bulletin mailed to congregants has become more expensive, too time-consuming and less effective. But in this new hybrid church world, people are increasingly bombarded with more communication due to the ease of email. Therefore, here are insights for helping congregants open your email amid today’s cluttered communication channels.

“How to Write Email Subject Lines that Get a ResponseIf you want action, you need to tell your reader what you want,” by Elizabeth Danzinger, Inc. Magazine, 5/16/22

… Here are three elements to include in your subject line to trigger a response from reluctant readers.

1. Tell the reader what to do.

⁃ Tell the Reader What to Do. By writing “Please Respond” or “Action Required” at the beginning of a subject line, clients tell me that their response rates soared.  In your subject line, write phrases like:

• Please Respond

• Response Required

• Immediate Action Required

• Please Approve

• Please Confirm

• Please Respond: Closing your file.

2. Tell the reader when you need it.  

People respond to deadlines. When everything seems urgent, how do people decide whom to respond to first? Often, the message with a credible deadline moves to the top of the pile.

So your subject line might say:

• Friday Approval Needed: Purchase of new scanner

• Respond by 5:00: Audit report review

• Please Confirm Now: Lunch Today at 1:00?

3. Tell the reader why it matters to them.

Adding a “hot button” spin to the subject line will generate more responses.  How will your reader benefit by opening your email? What will it cost him to ignore you? Don’t be manipulative or salesy when you touch hot buttons. For example, you wouldn’t write Act now while supplies last! because that sounds like spam. But you could write Send docs today to avoid late fee.

If you met a person and exchanged email addresses, remind them briefly in the subject line to remind them that you are a person they want to know.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/elizabeth-danziger/how-to-write-email-subject-lines-that-get-a-response.html

CHURCH HISTORY & The backstory and the purposes behind Paul‘s letter to “the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae” (1:2). #FullerDePreeCenter

by Mark D. Roberts, Fuller De Pree Center, 3/6/22.

… The New Testament book we call “Colossians” is a letter from the Apostle Paul to “the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae” (1:2). Paul was not the one who planted the church in this city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Rather, it appears that a colleague of Paul named Epaphras did the church-planting honors in Colossae (Colossians 1:7), perhaps also in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:12-13).

From what we read in Colossians, the Christians in that city were doing well overall. The gospel that came to them through Epaphras was “bearing fruit among [the Colossian believers] from the day [they] heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God” (Colossians 1:6). It does appear, however, that the Colossian Christians were being harassed by teachers who sought to “take [them] captive through philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8). These false teachers attempted to draw the Colossians away from focusing on the uniqueness, deity, and adequacy of Christ (2:4, 8-19, 2:-23). In particular, they were imposing upon Christians various Jewish ceremonial practices as well as other peculiar things, such as the “worship of angels” (2:18).

Paul responded to the false teaching in Colossae by underscoring the uniqueness and centrality of Christ, who alone is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Christ alone is the one through whom God “was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” (1:20). Thus, those who “ have received Christ Jesus the Lord” should “continue to live your lives in him” (2:6).

Living in Christ involves seeking the things of Christ (Colossians 3:1). When we do this, we “put to death” the earthly, sinful parts of ourselves and our behavior (3:5-8). When we received the grace of God through Christ, we “stripped off the old self with its practices” and “clothed [ourselves] with the new self which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (3:9-10). It’s likely that the language of stripping off and putting on had its origin in the baptismal experience of the Christians in Colossae (and elsewhere; see 2:11-15). When people said “Yes” to the gospel, they took off their old identity and lifestyle so that they might clothe themselves with a new identity and way of living, one defined by their relationship with Christ.

This act of putting off and putting on happened decisively in the past when the Colossians first received God’s grace in Christ. But that wasn’t the end of the process of putting on. Those who believe in Jesus have more clothing to wear. Thus, Paul writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion. . . . Above all, clothe yourselves with love . . .” (Colossians 3:12, 14). What we find in Colossians 3:12-17 is our new wardrobe, which we are encouraged to put on as we seek to live with Christ as the center of our lives.

Reflect

In what ways is your life based upon and centered in Christ?

Are you ever tempted by teachings that move Christ out of the center?

As you think back to when you first became a Christian, did you experience any “putting off” and/or “putting on”? (Depending on your own faith journey, this may not really have happened, and that’s okay. I first accepted God’s grace in Christ when I was six years old. My first experience of “putting off” and “putting on” was rather limited.)

What in Colossians 3:12-17 strikes you today?

Read more at … https://depree.org/?s=Live+who+you+are

COMMUNICATION & Leaders: This is exactly what ‘more communication’ should look like.

by Dustin York, Fast Company Magazine, 2/13/22.

The first thing to keep in mind is that a shotgun approach isn’t effective, and employees don’t want just more communication willy-nilly. It has to be directed with a specific purpose, and that purpose should be transparency. Transparency is going to have to be the defining theme for communication throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond, and I need to stress the word “beyond” because I assure you, we are never ever going back to the way things used to be in the workplace pre-pandemic with regards to leadership and communication.

What do employees want transparency about, exactly? Anything going on that affects them such as where they’re going to work, how they’re going to work, what they’re going to be working on, and so on.

… Three keys of good internal communication

Next, there are three keys to keep in mind with transparent communication: make it asynchronous, scheduled, and multimodal.

Synchronous communications can force employees to waste their most productive hours in Zoom meetings and are what often lead them to make grumbled comments like, “This could have been an email.” It’s not because they don’t want to know the contents of the communication; it’s because they want to be able to get to it according to their own rhythm. So make it asynchronous.

… The other problem with synchronous communication is that it tends to be limited to one format, but employees have their own preferences for how they best process information. That could mean a video for some, an audio recording or company podcast for others, and, yes, an email for perhaps others.

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90721047/exactly-what-more-communication-should-look-like?

CONFLICT & How to Show Grace in Disagreement

by Rick Warren, Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope, 2/15/21.

… Unity is not uniformity. When God says he wants his followers to be united, it doesn’t mean he wants us all to be alike. If he had wanted that, he would have created us all the same!

For unity’s sake, we must never let differences in the church divide us. We should celebrate those differences while staying focused on what matters most: learning to love each other as Christ has loved us and fulfilling God’s purposes for each of us in his church.

But what about all those differences in church members who annoy you? How can you be unified with someone who irritates you to no end?

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently” (Romans 14:1 The Message).

In church—or anywhere—be quick to listen and slow to anger when you have a disagreement. Why? Because most people tend to look at how far a person has to go rather than recognizing how far they’ve already come.

If you knew how much someone had already overcome in life, you’d probably be rejoicing with them instead of criticizing them for where they are now.

When you have conflict with someone whose background you don’t know, don’t dismiss them or judge them for behavior that you don’t understand. Stop thinking, “What is wrong with this person?” Instead, ask, “What happened to them?”

Someone’s behavior might be shaped by trauma or crisis. Hurt people hurt people. When you find someone who’s hurting other people, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that they also have been hurt.

Read more at … https://pastorrick.com/how-to-show-grace-in-disagreement/?

COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION & These innovative (and award winning) ministries that are transforming their communities in creative ways. #DukeDivinitySchool #TraditionedInnovationAwards

Duke Divinity School, 1/18/22.

Leadership Education at Duke Divinity grants Traditioned Innovation Awards to initiatives that engage in experiments to transform communities by living out the convictions of an ancient faith in the current challenging circumstances.

They are:

Green The Church in Oakland, California encourages African American congregations to commit to an environmental theology that promotes sustainable practices and helps build economic and political change.

The Learning Tree is an association of neighbors in Indianapolis, Indiana, who employ the practices of Asset Based Community Development to improve the quality of lives of people, communities, schools and businesses.

The Coalition for Spiritual & Public Leadership is a Chicago, Illinois-based not-for-profit, multi-racial, multi-ethnic grassroots-led coalition that includes parishes, institutions and communities to address racial, social, economic and environmental injustice by building community power that is rooted in the vision of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Industrial Commons in Morganton, North Carolina, founds and scales interconnected employee-owned enterprises and industrial cooperatives that solve industrial problems for businesses and workers, and manufacturers hope for the people of Western North Carolina.

Read more at … https://leadership.divinity.duke.edu/what-we-offer/grants/traditioned-innovation-awards/?

CRITICISM & Casey Stengel’s advice on what to do with the critics on your team.

by Tom Crenshaw, church leader, author and soon-to-be certified member of the http://www.MissionalCoaches.network, 1/18/22.

How does one become wise? The answer is simple. He walks with wise people. The Bible reminds us that, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).

… I love the old story told by the late Casey Stengel, who managed the New York Yankees to numerous World Championships. One day, Billy Martin, a former player and manager himself, asked Casey the secret of managing success.

Stengel’s response to this rookie manager was classic. He said,

“On any team you will have 15 players who love you and who will run through a wall for you. You will also have five players who will hate your guts and fight you every step of the way, and finally you will have five who are undecided about how they feel about you. The secret of success is to keep the five guys who hate your guts away from the five who are undecided. When you make out your rooming list, always room your losers together. Never room a good guy with a loser. Those losers who stay together will always blame the manager for everything, but it won’t spread if you keep them isolated.”

Casey Stengel, famed NY Yankee manager.

What was Stengel saying? Simply this, “Bad company corrupts good character,” or as one pastor friend of mine puts it, “Holy friends hinder bad behavior.”

The Bible teaches, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17) Putting ourselves in touch with wise, stimulating, faith building, positive thinking, moral living, people will help us move ahead in our own Christian life.

Thomas Fuller was right when he said, “it is best to be with those in time we hope to be with in eternity.”

If you enjoy this you may want to follow Tom Crenshaw’s articles on Biblicalleadership.com at https://www.biblicalleadership.com/contributors/tomcrenshaw/ Tom is a certified Missional Coach and part of the MissionalCoaches.network

CHANGE & My video introduction to “The 4 Forces that Control Change” 

Here is a video introduction to articles I have written (for anyone) and assignments (for students in LEAD 600, etc.) that deal with controlling change (which we call theories of changing). It introduces the viewer to “The Four Forces that Control Change” and how to manage each.

https://video.wordpress.com/embed/IXdD6Gvt?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&loop=0&preloadContent=metadata&muted=0&playsinline=0&controls=1&cover=1

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

Articles mentioned in the video as well as additional articles are available at the following links:

Download the Church Executive article by Bob Whitesel here:  ARTICLE_Four Forces-Whitesel (Church Executive Article)

Fownload the article in the Journal of the Great Commission Research Network here: article-whitesel-gcrn-toward-a-holistic-and-postmodernal-theory-of-change-in-cg-literature-gcrn . To subscribe and/or receive more information about The Great Commission Research Journal (the new name) click here: http://journals.biola.edu/gcr/

And find more “theories of changing” articles on ChurchLeadership.wiki here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=four+forces

CHURCH REVITALIZATION & For dying congregations, a ‘replant’ can offer new life.

By Bob Smietana, Religion News Service, 1/7/21

…LA City Baptist Church is what’s known as a “replant,” an attempt to restore an older, dying congregation to health using some of the lessons gleaned from startup congregations known as church plants. Replanting often involves adding a new pastor who has been trained in how to do outreach, as well as funding and sometimes an influx of volunteers. The idea is to provide resources and new energy to an old congregation, rather than shutting the church down and starting over.

Although not widespread, church replanting is growing in popularity and the approach has been adopted by denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, whose North American Mission Board is supporting Lee’s work to replant LA City Baptist. In 2020, NAMB helped fund 50 such replants, according to the latest data available. The agency hopes to work eventually with about 200 replants a year, said Mike Ebert, a spokesman for NAMB.

According to data from the Faith Communities Today 2020 survey, there are lots of churches in the same boat as LA City. The median worship attendance for congregations is 65, down from twice that number in 2000 — leaving many congregations wondering what their future will look like.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/01/05/for-dying-congregations-a-replant-can-offer-new-life/?

CONFLICT & A video intro to church conflict resolution & handling power-plays.

The video was recorded at the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) which I was attending in Detroit. Dr. John Perkins (founder of the CCDA) has greatly influenced my thinking as evident from these excerpts that reflect Dr. Perkins’ influence on my articles and books.

©️Bob Whitesel used by permission only.

CREATIVITY & Are creative leaders more unethical? Researchers say “yes” for these 3 reasons.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Have you ever had a leader who creates a lot of innovative programs – but seems to bend the rules or even sometimes outright break them? This penchant for creativity coupled with unethical actions has actually been confirmed by researchers to be a sign of creativity (in a meta-study of 6,783 participants across 36 studies from 19 articles).

Unethical behavior in creative types may also be a sin of that creativity. And we as leaders need to help the creatives we know overcome it.

Read this article to understand the thinking of creative types.

More creative people tend to also be more unethical, according to a meta-analysis of 36 studies.

by Mane Kara-Yakoubian, PsyPost.org January 1, 2022.

According to a meta-analysis published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, creativity and unethicality are positively related. The researchers argue that some studies have failed to find this association due to the use of self-report measures in assessing unethical behavior.

There are several theoretical explanations for the positive relation between creativity and unethicality. The first is that “creative individuals tend to have a strong sense of entitlement when anticipating the high value of their future realization, which makes them more willing to cross the lines to reach their goal.” When engaging in a creative task, they foresee the benefits of their product, prompting the legitimization of unethical behaviors that can facilitate attaining this goal. “In other words, creative individuals tend to think that the end justifies the means,” the authors write.

The second argument is that creativity helps generate justifications for unethical deeds, in turn, increasing the likelihood of engaging in such behaviors. Creative individuals tend to be more skilled in justifying unethicality given their greater cognitive flexibility, which allows them to approach problems from numerous perspectives.

The third case for this positive correlation is that both creativity and unethicality “involve rule breaking and nonconformist processes.” From this perspective, these constructs are positively associated because they involve the same cognitive processes.

Read more at … https://www.psypost.org/2022/01/more-creative-people-tend-to-also-be-more-unethical-according-to-a-meta-analysis-of-36-studies-62307

CLOSURE & ‘Go in peace’: US church founded in 1800 holds last service. #AP #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) 12/26/21 — A Pennsylvania church with a 221-year history held its final service and is scheduled to close at the end of the year because of declining membership and attendance.

The First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte, which is nearly as old as the borough itself, held the final scheduled service on Christmas Eve after having welcomed generations of families over the course of more than two centuries.

“There’s just such a love among this congregation. We’ve all known each other so long and we know each other’s foibles,” church elder Candace Dannaker told the Centre Daily Times. “I’ll miss our personality, our laughter and our joy in just being together. And, of course, the faith aspect of sharing that with other like-minded people.”

Dannaker estimated the church had about 40 members before the pandemic, a number that is down to about 25, and had no in-person worship from March 2020 until Easter Sunday. When Dannaker joined 34 years ago, she said, there were about 200 people in attendance then.

Pam Benson, 77, a member for 73 years, said that when she was born during World War II, many businesses were closed Sunday and few events were scheduled… Benson said. “It’s just change, it’s progression. It’s what happens. Not that I like it, but it is what it is.”

The 15,000-square-foot church is scheduled to close for the last time Dec. 31. Dannaker said the future of the building hasn’t been determined.

Video of the final service posted on the church’s Facebook site included references to “the pain of saying goodbye to one another” but a reminder that “challenges aren’t anything new to humanity” and saying the Christmas message of hope “is just as timely and essential today as it was 2,000 years ago.”

Before the final hymn, members lit and raised candles to these words: “And the light has splintered the darkness. And hope is ours once more. And this light does call us forward, remembering the past, and walking confidently into the future. And now go in the peace of Christ.”

Read more at … https://news.yahoo.com/peace-us-church-founded-1800-155717157.html

CONTEXT & How NOT to Exegete It (a humorous video).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In a course I taught at Kingswood University in Sussex, NB, Canada we discussed cultural exegesis.

Kevin, a Presbyterian pastor and one of my students, provided a link to this video. It shows that even the movie industry has noticed that we often culturally exegete insufficiently and/or poorly.

Watch this video as a reminder of what not to do:

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AwROL7OBkc

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Only 8 percent of young U.S. Catholics said their faith was weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, but nearly one-third expect to attend Mass less often after the pandemic than they had before.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This research by our Catholic colleagues supports previous research that people under the age of 55 say they are less likely to attend an on-site church in the future, preferring online church instead. Take note of this corroborating research. Then strengthen your online ministry – because that is where most of the younger generations are building relationships.

Survey: A third of young Catholics expect to attend Mass less often after the pandemic

by Robert David Sullivan, America: The Jesuit Review, November 10, 2021

Only 8 percent of young U.S. Catholics (ages 18 to 35) said their faith was weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a national survey released on Nov. 9 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, but nearly one-third expect to attend Mass less often after the pandemic than they had before. Perhaps of greater concern to the church, 73 percent agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that they could be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday. And only 39 percent agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that they could never imagine themselves leaving the Catholic Church.

The survey indicated that 13 percent of Catholic young adults attended Mass at least once a week before the Covid-19 pandemic, and 6 percent of respondents said they had been “very” involved with parish activities other than attending Mass. The crisis of Catholic clergy sexually abusing minors was the most frequently given reason for not being more active in parish life.

Read more at … https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/11/10/cara-survey-young-american-catholics-241803?

COMMUNICATON & 9 Rules of Winning Arguments

by Bill Murphy Jr., Inc. Magazine, n.d.

… This is a story about emotional intelligenceand winning arguments. If you find it convincing, I hope you’ll check out my free ebook, Improving Emotional Intelligence 2021, which you can download here

Rule #1:     Before you start arguing, decide how you want it to end.

But like so many things in life, people often fail miserably here because they haven’t taken the time to think deeply about what success would look like. (Put differently: Follow the Z-Y-X Rule.)

Rule #2:    Think how you can make it end well for the other side.

Rule #3:    Control the circumstances.

When are you talking? How are you talking? Who’s initiating the call or traveling to the other person’s location? Is this all over email or text? Are other people listening in?

Rule #4:    Control the emotions.

But also, keep an eye on the other person’s emotions.

Rule #5:    Do not skip the small talk.

Your small talk might be brief, but it’s nevertheless important. It’s an early opportunity to find common ground.

Rule #6: Adjust (not react) in real time.

Rule #7:    Listen — and look as if you’re listening.

Perception is important. Even if you’re a pro at multitasking, think through what it looks like if you check your phone five times during the discussion, or if your assistant interrupts you twice to ask you questions.

Rule #8:    If you interrupt, do so strategically.

“Think about how you strategically interrupt,” suggested O’Shea Brown. “Maybe, ‘I hear you have a lot to say in regard to your feelings. We both want a solution, so let’s pivot toward solutions.’ Your tone is everything. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, they might not remember what you said, and they might not remember what you did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

Rule #9:    Seek to understand

Tactically speaking: Ask open-ended questions, and even repeat back to the other person some of what they say. You want to know where they’re coming from so that you can better articulate your own points, and improve the odds of emerging closer to your goals.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/why-emotionally-intelligent-leaders-use-9-secret-rules-of-winning-arguments.html

WOMEN IN MINISTRY & Reexamining 1 Corinthians 14, Context and Words Matter.

by Bill Rudd, CBE International, 9/29/21

For forty-five years I believed women should not be pastors. After changing my position, I wrote a book to describe my journey and to analyze every relevant Bible passage.1 Many of my friends refused to read it because they confidently asserted that “the Bible is unmistakably clear that women cannot be pastors.”

Their “unmistakably clear” evidence invariably included Paul’s stunning prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak . . . for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” Obviously, if women must be silent in church where it is disgraceful for them to speak, they cannot be pastors.

While there are multiple challenges in this passage, this article will focus on two: the context of the passage and the meaning of key words.2

Context Matters: Three Parallel Groups

1 Corinthians 14 is part of Paul’s extended teaching about the distribution, use, and abuse of spiritual gifts in the church.

All of the gifts identified in chapter 12 are given by the Spirit to believers regardless of gender. When Paul envisioned a church gathering (14:26) in which “each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation,” he did not exclude women from any of those speaking gifts.

Then, because “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (14:40), Paul immediately addressed disorderly behavior in churches where a few monopolized the gatherings by their continuous talking.

This involved three groups: tongues-speakers without interpreters, prophets not giving others a turn, and women talking nonstop. By addressing these groups, Paul did not assume that every tongues-speaker, prophet, or woman was part of the problem. It is likely that these three parallel scenarios involved a few people who needed to stop speaking so others could participate.

Paul did not command that no man or woman should ever speak in tongues or prophesy (14:39).3 Rather, tongues-speakers could resume speaking when interpreters were present, and prophets could take another “turn” after others shared their revelation.

Why then, in the third scenario, do many interpreters insist that women must not speak in church at all, rather than, as the parallel structure requires, that women were also to temporarily stop talking until others had opportunity to participate?

This leads to the second consideration.

Read more at … https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/mutuality-blog-magazine/context-and-words-matter-reexamining-1-corinthians-14?

COMMUNICATION & SOCIAL MEDIA USE IN 2021: Facebook and YouTube are the two most used platforms among older populations, but here’s how the under 35 crowd is communicating. #eReformation

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: During the pandemic many churches have started to use Facebook and YouTube to stream their services and communicate with their congregants. And this is a good strategy to communicate with existing churchgoers.

Most of the younger generations are less frequent in their church going than their parents. And, they don’t communicate through Facebook or YouTube. They know that’s where the older generations are and they typically avoid them.

The under 30 crowd typically uses media forms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TickTock. Check out this article to find what they are listening to and then communicate through them.

Social Media Use in 2021

A majority of Americans say they use YouTube and Facebook, while use of Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok is especially common among adults under 30.

By BROOKE AUXIER and MONICA ANDERSON, Pew Research, April 7, 2021.

Despite a string of controversies and the public’s relatively negative sentiments about aspects of social media, roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they ever use any kind of social media site – a share that has remained relatively stable over the past five years, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults.

Growing share of Americans say they use YouTube; Facebook remains one of the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults

Beyond the general question of overall social media use, the survey also covers use of individual sites and apps. YouTube and Facebook continue to dominate the online landscape, with 81% and 69%, respectively, reporting ever using these sites. And YouTube and Reddit were the only two platforms measured that saw statistically significant growth since 2019, when the Center last polled on this topic via a phone survey.

When it comes to the other platforms in the survey, 40% of adults say they ever use Instagram and about three-in-ten report using Pinterest or LinkedIn. One-quarter say they use Snapchat, and similar shares report being users of Twitter or WhatsApp. TikTok – an app for sharing short videos – is used by 21% of Americans, while 13% say they use the neighborhood-focused platform Nextdoor.

Even as other platforms do not nearly match the overall reach of YouTube or Facebook, there are certain sites or apps, most notably Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, that have an especially strong following among young adults. In fact, a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram (71%) or Snapchat (65%), while roughly half say the same for TikTok.

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/

CHURCH PLANTING & These #Post-Pandemic Churches are done with buildings. Here’s why.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Almost 15 years ago when analyzing healthy planted churches, I found that most planted churches preferred to lease or rent their space rather than build buildings. This freed them up for flexibility and to put their financial resources into meeting the needs of others. I’ve been a big advocate of this since the award-winning book of mine was published by Abingdon Press: Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations.

Here’s another article that confirms the continued importance of growing the post-pandemic church by utilizing non-facility-based community. After all, churches are people, not a facility.

by Mya Jaradat, 7/18/21, Deseret News.

…Being online means being unencumbered by financial concerns that come with maintaining a facility, he said, noting that the congregation is free to focus on values — like social justice and spiritual formation — rather than the bottom line. It’s also allowed the group to attract worshippers who wouldn’t be able to attend in person, including people from California, London and Australia, the Rev. Whang said.

“A church is a network of relationships,” he said. “It’s the people,” not where they meet.

… However, now that it’s safe for many Americans to return to in-person worship, some religion experts are questioning why virtual church enthusiasts want to remain online. Online worship can be gratifying, but, both spiritually and sociologically, it often leaves something to be desired, said Dr. Andrew Newberg, a physician and neuroscientist who studies religious experiences.

“From what we know in general about how the brain works there is a kind of resonance that occurs when we’re with other people,” said Newberg, a pioneer in neurotheology. “The brain is designed to be social.”

… The power of in-person church

Newberg pointed to the power of sacred architecture to illustrate his point. “If you walk into the Vatican — I don’t care what religion (you are) — when you walk into the Vatican, it’s hard not to feel something because of its grandeur,” he said.

Even smaller houses of worship create a sense of awe, he added, noting that vaulted ceilings contribute to a feeling of “spacelessness” in the brain — a sensation that might help us feel a little less connected to our earthly concerns and more connected to the people around us and God.

Seeing the Vatican through a screen, Newberg added, doesn’t pack the same neurological punch, in part because other sensory cues, like smell, are missing. Online worship, no matter how well it’s done, likely can’t affect us as deeply as in-person church does, he said.

Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist and the director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, said that while researchers still don’t know exactly what accounts for the potency of in-person, group worship — “the research is a little behind there,” he said — it probably activates circuitry in the brain’s reward pathway. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine are likely involved, he said. 

Research has also shown that being with a group — particularly when that group is engaged in some sort of activity that makes a positive contribution to society, like volunteering — leads to physiological changes that create a feeling of warmth. The metaphorical warmth that stems from being with others “has a physiological basis,” Koenig said. 

Prior to COVID-19, almost all in-person services incorporated some element of touch, as well, which also creates a sense of well-being, he added. 

“As a psychiatrist, even though we’ve got COVID-19, I always touch (my patients) when they leave the room. That physical touch is critical,” Koenig said. 

In general, face-to-face interactions and group activities, including worship, create “collective effervescence,” wrote Adam Grant recently in The New York Times, using a coin termed by the famed French sociologist Émile Durkheim. Take the collective out — or put it behind a screen — and the experience is flattened. 

However, Newberg noted that religious believers who live in isolation, like some monks and nuns, certainly do have religious experiences. So while the in-person, group aspect of worship is important, it’s not essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a religious experience. 

Similarly, Teresa Berger, a professor of liturgical studies and Catholic theology at Yale Divinity School, said just because someone comes to an in-person worship service doesn’t mean they’re mentally engaged. 

“Some of them, quite honestly, in their minds are going to be elsewhere,” she said. 

Theologically speaking, Berger added, “The decisive element is a community gathered — and I don’t mean gathered only physically but gathered in a multitude of ways, some of them could be digitally mediated — around seeking to encounter a divine presence.”

Read more at … https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/7/18/22575707/are-churches-done-with-buildings-online-virtual-worship-congregations-covid-19-pandemic

CHURCH GUESTS 101 & Don’t Say That – Say This! Revitalize a church with the words you speak. Here is a list of things not to say when you want to connect with your visitors.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/27/21.

Learn more about the changes needed in your hospitality ministries in the course, Church Guests 101 part of ChurchLeadership.university on uDemy.

When leading a church it is very easy to miscommunicate your intentions. It usually happens because you’re concerned about pressing organizational needs as well as the needs of the believers you shepherd. Subsequently, we often use phrases that appear to prioritize the needs of the saints over the needs of the non-churchgoer.

I’m going to show you how this happens in your greetings, your announcements and even your church vision statements … and what you should say instead.  

Jesus’ message of compassion for the not-yet-believer.

Jesus emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with him. The “parable of the sheep” (Matthew 18:10-14) where the shepherd leaves the 99 to retrieve the one lost lamb, visualizes this. And in his actions, Jesus demonstrated a deep concern for the wellbeing of not-yet-believers (Mark 1:33-34, Luke 5:1-11). Mark records a poignant image of this when the crowds followed Jesus and his disciples to the seashore. Jesus saw their desperate needs and Mark noted: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:32-34).

Your message for the not-yet-believer.

Many times those first messages a visitor receives will inadvertently push them away, rather than draw them in. This is because when welcoming church visitors, leaders use phrases often tainted by the concerns of the congregation. Church leaders are worried about church finances, not having enough volunteers or reaching a new culture of people. And, this comes out accidentally, but clearly in your welcome. The result is often an unintended pushback by church guests.

I don’t believe that most churches are intentionally putting the church family’s needs over the needs of non-churchgoers. It’s only that we spend so much time every week deliberating on the church’s internal needs that this colors the things we say. And though we intend to reach out to newcomers and help them experience a new life and growth in Christ, we often share those concerns in a way that communicates the organization is more important than the people who need Christ.

What is the most important type of church growth?

Donald McGavran, the Fuller Theological Seminary professor credited with founding the study of church growth, said there were three types of church growth – but only one was desirable. 

Biological growth:  This is a church that grows because families within the church are expanding. 

Transfer growth: These are people who are moving into the area and transferring their attendance or membership. In my research I believe this may be the largest contributor to church growth in America. Often we find growing churches in growing suburbs. The growth is often fueled by transfer growth, not by new believers. McGavran said that this type of growth means, “The increase of certain congregations at the expense of others… But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.” Transfer growth grows one church at the expense of other churches.

Conversion growth: The third type of growth is what McGavran calls conversion growth. This is a church that is growing because people are being spiritually transformed from their former lives and embarking upon a new Christ-centered journey. McGavran stated, “The third kind is conversion growth, in which those outside the church come to rest their faith intelligently on Jesus Christ and are baptized and added to the Lord in his church. This is the only kind of growth by which the good news of salvation can spread to all segments of American society and to earth’s remotest bounds.”

3 categories of crises that push people to want to change their lives.

Researchers (using the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Scale) have found that people who are interested in changing their lives are usually motivated by a combination of three categories of crises. 

Concern about death and the afterlife. The first crises that drive people to seek to change their lives is a concern about death and dying or a loved one’s death. They have questions about eternity and heaven. They wonder if their loved one went to heaven and who will help them with their grieving. Churches can meet these needs in part by preaching/teaching on the afterlife and offering grief share ministries.

Family or marital difficulties. A second area that drives people to want to change their lives is marital or family difficulties including marriage problems, child-rearing difficulties, divorce, adultery, etc.. Many times they feel inadequate or a failure due to such difficulties. They come to the church seeking to change their life and to be a more adept and competent person. Little wonder that child-rearing classes, marriage enrichment seminars and divorce care have been helpful (and popular) programs in our churches. 

Concern about illness: The third category that pushes people to change their lives is illness they are experiencing or someone they know is experiencing.  They have questions about healing, helping others and improving their outlook on life.  Need-meeting congregations have embraced prayer ministries, counseling programs and support groups for those who are suffering.

Because these three major categories cause people to want to change their lives, we must welcome guests and greet them in a way that shows we know they have needs and we are here to meet them.

THE LIST: Don’t Say That – Say This!

To help understand how to communicate your true intentions (of meeting the needs of others) I have created a list I call: “Don’t Say That – Say This!” Consider each statement and then notice how one better communicates your true intentions.

Don’t Say That: “I’m glad you are here” or “We are glad you are here.”

Say This: “How can I help you?” “How can we help you?”

Why: When you say, “I’m glad you are here,” it is usually a true statement. You are glad that they are present. You see their potential to encounter Christ and become a committed part of the faith community. But what they hear is a statement focused upon you and the believers, it’s not about helping them, but it’s about us being happy. Remember, people often come to a church because they have needs and crises in their lives. And healthy church growth comes from people’s lives being transformed for the better through the community of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Don’t Say That: “We want to tell you about the church.”

Say This: “We want to know how we can help you.”

Why: The purpose is not to tell them about the church, but for them to tell us about their needs. Though it is helpful to offer information on the history and theological perspective of the church, guests are usually not ready to learn about this unless they are engaged in transfer growth. Most guests want to let you know why they came to church and what they’re looking for.

Don’t Say That: “I love being in the house of God.”

Say This: “God is here and he wants to connect with you (or help you, or fulfill your life).

Why:  As Christians who are growing in our faith journey, we often talk about our growing enthusiasm as we know God better. But for people who are just beginning their journey of discovery about God’s love, we may seem too far ahead of them to lead them forward and be a relevant leader. Though you love being in God’s house, re-phrase that statement in the context of God‘s presence being there and that he wants to connect with them.

Don’t Say That: “We have a gift for you.”

Say This: “We would like to know how we can help you. So please visit one of our guest services booths so we can help.”

Why: Even though you want to show your gratitude, an appreciation gift can inadvertently create a sense of this-for-that at best, and manipulation at worst. In the leadership world we call this transactional leadership. You give something in order to get something. A person gives 40 hours or more a week at their job and they get a salary. If a better job comes along, they might leave because their motivation is based upon a transaction: giving their time in order to get money. Can you see how a gift might be perceived as a lure to sign a card or visit a booth can feel transactional? One former student of mine offered a $100 gift card to be drawn from the names of newcomers who visited each month. I know him and his generosity is exceptional (they have a region-wide food pantry in their smallish church). But the message he was sending was not helpful to the newcomers. Instead tell them you want to know about their needs and see if we can help meet them.

Don’t Say That: “I don’t know.”

Say This: “Let me find out.”

Why: Many people have heard about the art of hospitality practiced by the Walt Disney organization. Part of their Disney hospitality is to never say, “I don’t know,” and instead to respond along the lines of, “Let me find out for you,” or “That is a good question. I will find out.” This takes the emphasis off of the lack of knowledge of the hospitality person. And instead it puts the emphasis upon the hospitality person’s desire to help the newcomer find an answer to the problem.

Don’t Say That: Our mission statement is Belong – Begin – Become

Say This: Our mission statement is Begin – Become – Belong

Why: “Belong – Begin – Become” is focused on how the organization sees the newcomers journey. The organization expects a commitment, to which the organization will respond with tools and community for the newcomer to become a new person. But look at this from the newcomer’s perspective. They want to know more about you first. Unless they are transfer growth, they are not ready to “belong” in their initial step. Rather, starting this mission statement with “begin” reminds new travelers that there is a process in getting to know one another, experiencing the community of faith and encountering Christ. One of my former professors, John Wimber, described this relationship as dating. When a person first learns about the Good News, your relationship with them is similar to dating. There is no commitment, but you’re getting to know one another. The next stage of the relationship is engagement, and that’s where a new believer begins to give of themselves and the church responds by giving back even more. Finally, marriage serves as Wimber’s metaphor for when a person is ready to make a commitment to both Christ and the church. So, check your mission statement. Even run it by people who are not churchgoers. Look closely and you may find that its focus is on inspiring churchgoers rather than informing those who are just beginning their journey with Christ

Don’t Say That: “You’re welcome.”

Say This: “I am happy I was able to help.”

Why: Of course if you’ve helped people at your church they will be appreciative. They will usually say, “Thank you.” And the most common reply is to say, “You’re welcome.” But that has become so overused that it’s almost like adding a period to a sentence, rather than opening up to converse further. Instead it’s better to say, “I am happy I was able to help you.” That lets them know that you derive your happiness in part because of your ability to help them. Though it may be focused on your happiness, that happiness is based upon your ability to help others.

Don’t Say That: “Come back soon (or next Sunday).”

Say This: “This week, think about ways we can help you.”

Why: As we’ve seen above we want to leave the message, and especially with our parting words, that we are here to help.

Now, make your own list!

This list is not mechanical phraseology to be memorized or anemically repeated. Instead this list is designed to remind leaders how our intentions can be miscommunicated due to the words we use.

Rather than memorize this, do these three things.

1. Re-read the list often and add more phrases to it. Create an ever-expanding list of things you don’t want to say and things you should be saying to better communicate your heart. And, you can join together as a ministry team and create a ministry team list. At your meetings add an agenda item to add to your list and ask people for their suggestions.

2. Re-write and edit the short paragraphs that explain each of your list items. Help someone who is reading your list for the first time to understand why one phrase is preferable over the other.

3. Resist shaming or criticizing others who say the wrong thing. Everyone goes through cycles where their own pressing needs cloud what they want to say. After years of doing this I still catch myself saying things because it’s customary or because my own needs are driving my attention. Have grace in the way you encourage one another. Don’t criticize or tease those who speak out of their needs rather than the needs of others. Rather, use this exercise and your expanding list as a reminder about how to keep the needs of others first.

CHURCH REVITALIZATION & Why it is needed more than ever! Researchers discover more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate. Pre-pandemic 75-150 churches close per week!

I have helped 100s of churches turnaround. And I’ve written & taught DMin courses in three seminaries on “How to Turnaround a Church.”

If your church wants to preserve its legacy and grow … then contact me today at http://www.Leadership.Church

“Study: More churches closing than opening” by Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service, 5/22/21.

A new study from Lifeway Research suggests more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate.

The study, which analyzed church data from 34 Protestant denominations and groups, found that 4,500 churches closed in 2019, while about 3,000 new congregations were started. The 34 Protestant denominations account for about 60% of U.S.-based Protestant denominations.

“Even before the pandemic, the pace of opening new congregations was not even providing enough replacements for those that closed their doors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.

The study also pointed to the hastening of church closures. In 2014, it found, there were 3,700 church closures, compared with 4,500 in 2019.

…That study, published in April, estimated that in the decade ending in 2020, 3,850 to 7,700 houses of worship closed per year in the United States, or 75 to 150 congregations per week. It also projected those numbers will double or triple in the wake of the pandemic.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/05/26/study-more-churches-closing-than-opening/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Study%3A%20More%20churches%20closing%20than%20opening&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter