PREACHING & #SundayChurchHacks – Many preachers use #SermonSeries by famous preachers. These series are insightful, but be careful not to make it appear that you wrote them. #FactChecking means many listeners will eventually discover the original author. Implying (even subtly) authorship can undermine your credibility.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I regularly visit and coach churches that are growing and/or have multiple venues. I’ve noticed that the same sermon content, same visuals and even the same promotional artwork is used by various church preachers. I can’t help but believe that churchgoers also notice this similarity. This will cause suspicion of plagiarism.

But these are helpful and powerful sermon series. And they are available from gifted communicators such as Craig Groeschel. I interviewed Craig Groeschel for my book “Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Congregation” (Abingdon Press).

These series make sermon preparation easier. Craig Groeschel offers “thousands of free video-based sermon series along with corresponding artwork, notes, transcripts, mailers, social media assets, and promo trailers.” This means a smaller church or a busy leader can give a sermon series attractive promotion and more importantly life-changing content; but the potential the listener will misperceive the author will increase.

I believe such sermon series have great insights that other preachers can learn and teach.

But as a communicator, you must ensure that you don’t take credit, saying things such as, “When I wrote this…” or “Here is my sermon for today.” Taking, even informally, credit for content can undermine your authority when listeners Google the topic.

Sermons series by Craig Groeschel

Consider the Paul’s words in Romans 13:7 (NASB).

Pay to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Why Everyone Is So Rude Right Now: Our “Fight” Instincts Are Triggered. #Time

“Half the people fear COVID,” says Golden. “Half the people fear being controlled.”

Bernard Golden, psychologist

BY BELINDA LUSCOMBE  Time Magazine, 10/15/21/

September 2021 was a bad month for manners. On the 21st, a woman pulled a gun on servers at a Philadelphia fast food restaurant when they asked her to order online. On the 16th, several women from Texas pummeled a hostess at a New York City family-style restaurant. A few days prior to that a Connecticut mother was investigated for slapping an elementary school bus driver and that same week, a California woman was charged with felony assaultfor attacking a SouthWest airlines flight attendant and dislodging some of her teeth.

Re-entry into polite society is proving to be a little bumpy…

Our ‘fight’ instincts are triggered

“We’re going through a time where physiologically, people’s threat system is at a heightened level,” says Bernard Golden, a psychologist and the author of Overcoming Destructive Anger. This period of threat has been so long that it may have had a damaging effect on people’s mental health, which for many has then been further debilitated by isolation, loss of resources, the death of loved ones and reduced social support. “During COVID there has been an increase in anxiety, a reported increase in depression, and an increased demand for mental health services,” he adds. Lots of people, in other words, are on their very last nerve. This is true, he adds, whether they believe the virus is an existential threat or not. “Half the people fear COVID,” says Golden. “Half the people fear being controlled.”

Read more at … https://time.com/6099906/rude-customers-pandemic/

POLITICAL AFFILIATION & Distribution of party affiliation in various denominations. #graph via @RyanBurge

In the 2020 CCES, there are 44,131 white respondents. There are 1,892 Southern Baptist Republicans. There are 1,107 non-denom Republicans. There are 1,102 United Methodist Republicans. Democrats in the UMC, ELCA, ECUSA, ABCUSA, DoC, CoC, and PCA combined are 1,296.

PRODUCTIVITY & How to Focus on What’s Important, Not Just What’s Urgent.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When coaching churches, I am often asked by the lead pastor to help staff members become more productive. Here are some practical insights to accomplish this.

by Alice Boyes, Harvard Business Review, 7/3/18.

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people typically chose to complete tasks that had very short deadlines attached to them, even in situations in which tasks with less pressing deadlines were just as easy and promised a bigger reward.

… implement strategies that will incrementally move you in the right direction but don’t require much effort.

Schedule Important Tasks, and Give Yourself Way More Time Than You’ll Need

Research shows that scheduling when and where you’ll do something makes it dramatically more likely that the task will get done.

For very important and long-avoided tasks, I like a strategy that I call “clearing the decks,” which means assigning a particular task to be the only one I work on for an entire day.

Isolate the Most Impactful Elements of Important Tasks

…If you habitually set goals so lofty you end up putting them off, try this: When you consider a goal, also consider a half-size version. Mentally put your original version and the half-size version side by side, and ask yourself which is the better (more realistic) goal. If your task still feels intimidating, shrink it further until it feels doable. You might end up with a goal that’s one-fourth or one-tenth the size of what you initially considered but that’s more achievable — and once you start, you can always keep going.

Anticipate and Manage Feelings of Anxiety

…Broadly speaking, working on important things typically requires having good skills for tolerating uncomfortable emotions. Here’s a personal example: Reading the work of writers who are better than I am is useful for improving my skills, but it triggers envy and social comparison. Acknowledging and labeling the specific emotions that make an experience emotionally challenging is a basic but effective step for reducing those emotions.

Spend Less Time on Unimportant Tasks

Unimportant tasks have a nasty tendency of taking up more time than they should. For example, you might sit down to proofread an employee’s report — but before you know it, you’ve spent an hour rewriting the whole thing. In the future, you might decide to limit yourself to making your three most important comments on any piece of work that’s fundamentally acceptable, or give yourself a time limit for how long you’ll spend providing notes.

Prioritize Tasks That Will Reduce Your Number of Urgent but Unimportant Tasks

In modern life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being “too busy chasing cows to build a fence.” The sorts of scenarios you most want to avoid are fixing the same problems over and over or giving the same instructions repeatedly. To overcome a pattern of spending all day “chasing cows,” you can outsource, automate, batch small tasks, eliminate tasks, streamline your workflow, or create templates for recurring tasks. Look for situations in which you can make an investment of time once to set up a system that will save you time in the future, such as setting up a recurring order for office supplies rather than ordering items one at a time as you run out.

One specific strategy I cover in The Healthy Mind Toolkit is retraining the “decision leeches” in your life. Decision leeches are people who defer decisions to you. For example, you might ask someone else to make a decision, but instead of doing it, they email you a list of options for you to look at, putting the responsibility back on you. Instead of automatically answering the person, ask them to make a clear recommendation.

Pay Attention to What Helps You See (and Track) the Big Picture

When we’re head-down in the grind, it’s hard to have enough mental space to see the big picture. Pay attention to what naturally helps you do this. Something that helps me is travel, especially taking flights alone. There’s nothing like a literal 10,000-foot view to give me a clearer perspective on my path. Spreadsheets help me see the big picture too. As much as I hate bookkeeping and taxes, doing them helps me pay attention …

Another thing that helps keep me focused on my important goals is catching up with colleagues I see every six months or so. Invariably this involves giving each other an update on what we’ve been doing and what we’re trying to get done. Likewise, when it comes to money, there are certain personal finance bloggers I like to read from time to time to help me stay on track.

If you’re struggling with prioritizing the important over the urgent, don’t be too hard on yourself. The number of deadlines and decisions we face in modern life, juxtaposed with the emotionally (and cognitively) challenging nature of many important tasks, makes this struggle an almost universal one. I’ve written entire books on how to focus on the big picture and stop self-sabotaging, and I still find it difficult. I consider success as taking my own advice at least 50% of the time! This is a reasonable rule of thumb that you might adopt, too.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/07/how-to-focus-on-whats-important-not-just-whats-urgent?

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & 4 out of 5 churches have returned to in-person services, with attendance levels hovering around 36% of normal capacity.

by Ericka Andersen, USA Today, 3/28/21.

… Attendance at worship in decline

…How eager has the rest of the country been to file back into the pews as churches ticked open nationwide?

Not very. All but 3% of churches in the United States closed their physical doors when the pandemic began last March. As of late 2020,

…Despite the option of in-person attendance, most people still opt out. In large part, that is because of the continued danger of COVID-19, but if habit is any measure, pre-COVID attendance levels may take awhile to resume in a fully vaccinated world.

…Barna, a Christian research firm that has done extensive analysis on church trends amid COVID, found that 79% of practicing Christians went to church weekly before COVID, but that number has dropped to 51% during the pandemic. Another survey found that one in three practicing Christians nationwide had stopped attending church online or in person. When even the “church people” are skipping church, it’s bad.

…Given the data on the comprehensive good that attending religious services brings to society, pre-COVID worshippers must reprioritize faith and urge others to join them if we hope to swiftly revitalize a public oppressed by collective trauma.

As Americans make plans for a post-COVID world, putting church back on the agenda should not be overlooked as a healthy step forward.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/03/28/how-attending-church-during-holy-week-can-boost-your-mental-health-column/4764317001/

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Practical solutions any church can adopt from my interview with Serving Strong.

My colleague Scott Couchenour at ServingStrong.com has a video-cast of practical ideas for missional impact. I was honored to be one of his recent guests.

In this 30-minute interview I describe how churches can emerge post-pandemic stronger if they adopt certain strategies of a hybrid church.

Check out his website and the video here:

https://youtu.be/fwZl907yNKI

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & The 4 Main Themes People Engaged With the Bible in 2020 on Bible Gateway.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: It is important that while we are thinking about re-opening our churches, we also address re-orienting our ministry to unite the divisions in society. I’ve written about this in the book “Growing the post-pandemic church” in the chapter, “The one thing churches aren’t doing as they prepare to reopen: reconciliation.”

Read this article below to see what biblical topics people are searching for at this time.

Chart of the four key themes in Bible searches on Bible Gateway in 2020

Blog / The 4 Main Themes People Engaged With the Bible in 2020 on Bible Gateway

Critical news events of 2020 corresponded with extreme spikes in keyword/keyphrase searches of the Bible over 2019 on Bible Gateway—the world’s most visited Christian website—and can be grouped into the four main themes of social, pandemic, political, and end times.

[Read the Bible Gateway post, 2020 in Review]

Searches in each of the four areas occurred at least ten times more in 2020 than last year, with social-related terms searched more than 100 times following the death of George Floyd. With the ensuing and ongoing protests, Bible search terms included such topics as racism, justice, equality, and oppression, and notable Scripture verse results included “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15) and “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow”(Isaiah 1:17).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Bible-Related Research]

Read more at … https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2020/12/the-4-main-themes-people-engaged-with-the-bible-in-2020-on-bible-gateway/

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & An overview of Rainer & Whitesel’s advice on growing the post-pandemic church.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. In this article, a colleague described how much Thom and I agree on the future of the church. And though I purposely don’t read Rainer’s (or other Christian leaders’) writings on a topic when writing my own analysis, I am always happy to see so much agreement. I admire Thom’s intellect and influence. We go way back, to when I was the president of the Great Commission Research Network and Thom received the McGavran Award from that association at its annual conference held that year at Indiana Wesleyan University. When someone you admire so much agrees with you, you feel blessed and bolstered.

Leadership Thought: What the Post-Pandemic Church May Look Like

Dear Friends,

The church has changed more in the last year than at any time in the past 100 years, and it will continue to change according to those who study church trends. The Covid 19 pandemic has radically transformed the way we do church, and some of the change that has been wrought within the church may be more than just  temporary  interruptions; they may become permanent in naturel. In reading and listening to those who make a study of the church, there are a some changes that many of them agree on, and this morning I would like to share some of them.

Church change will happen faster than ever before. Our world is in a time of rapid change, and because of this  people are more open to change than ever before. If the church has been considering making major changes in its ministry, including staffing or  facilities, now is the time to do it as there will be less resistance to change than ever before.
“The core of the church will grow stronger and the fringe of the church will become looser,” was a statement I heard expressed on a recent pod cast. In plain terms, there will be a winnowing of the church. Some who have been attendees will not be coming back. It has been suggested that one third of the church will return, one third is still evaluating their return and one third may never return.

The church will simplify. There will be a concentration on doing a few things well rather than offering a lot of varied programs and services.
There will be a greater focus on training the laity to do ministry and the result will be more trained laymen  filling key leadership roles in the church. This certainly is a good thing for it is in keeping with the equipping mandate given the church in Eph. 4:11-12.

There will be an increase in bi vocational pastors who will split their time between secular work and church responsibilities.There will be a major shift in staff alignments as some  pastors will be leaving the ministry as a result of what has been called “decision and opinion fatigue.” This is a stretching time for pastors and with many of them being taken out of their comfort zones,  some may choose to explore other vocations.

There will be less of an emphasis on academic degrees and more emphasis placed on online certification. This has already been happening and seminaries are presently being forced to change their traditional ways of doing education. Those looking for pastors will be more interested in past certification and personal experience than in a seminary degree.

Younger pastors will be leading churches, simply because many of them will have the technical experience to function more comfortably in our fast-changing digital  world.There will be a greater emphasis  on the development of small groups within the church which will meet for study, training and mutual support  and which will often align themselves around a particular mission or para church ministry.

There will be a more churches closing or being adopted by larger and healthier churches. The concept of “fostering churches” will become a reality, and stronger churches will support smaller churches by training and equipping its leaders.There will be fewer senior or lead pastors heading up churches as many of them will choose to lead smaller or “micro churches” of 30-40 people. The church “will grow horizontally” as different small groups or micro churches are formed, and it will “shrink vertically” as larger churches see  diminishing number of attenders. 
Denominations will continue to decline,  something that has been happening for many years, but with the pandemic, the decline will be accentuated.

Big attractional church events and major productions will diminish in significance unless churches are able to plan them to maximize opportunities for relationship building, something that today’s younger attenders are seeking. 

The church will find new ways to educate, train and nurture those families who choose to  insulate themselves from normal church activities by doing “church at home.”

There will be an emphasis on training church members to do ministry  in their respective neighborhoods. Small groups may coalesce around ministries specific  to their neighborhoods. For more information see The Art of Neighboring-Building Relationships by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.

Some larger churches with significant size facilities may be forced to rent out parts of their building to both church and or non-church  programs. Some churches will experience shrinking income with diminishing memberships, as government stimulus support is eliminated.
The church will discover new and innovative ways to reach out and better serve their communities. 

All of the above are not givens and the post pandemic church may turn out to be a lot more similar to the church as we know than some of the changes church experts are portending. Only God know what the church will look like, but one thing we know is that it is Christ who has built the church foundation and His promise is that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against .Whatever form or shape the church takes, it’s  goal will always remain the same as the goal of its Master-“to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded,…..’remembering,” I am with you always to the end of the world.”

For more information on the thoughts above you might with to check out Thom Ranier’s The Post Quarantine Church or Growing the Post-Pandemic Church by Bob Whitesel.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom 

PARENTING & Multiple research confirms the danger of too much of the wrong type of screen time.

“Screen Time Guilt During the Pandemic?” by Laura Wheatman Hull, JSTOR Daily, 9/10/20.

Moving Beyond Screen Time: Redefining Developmentally Appropriate Technology Use in Early Childhood Education by Lindsay Daugherty, Rafiq Dossani, Erin-Elizabeth Johnson and Cameron Wright, outlines some of the “potential pitfalls” of screen time. Research indicates that “technology use in ECE may have a negative effect on the development of social and gross motor skills, contribute to obesity, and diminish skill development in areas beyond digital literacy.” Too much passive screen time is harmful for little kids’ development.

Regarding teenagers, the headline of an article from the 2015 British Medical Journal by Nigel Hawkes says it all, “Every hour of daily screen time knocks two grades off teenagers’ exam time, study shows.” We want our kids to be smart, to perform well, so limiting screen time seems an easy way to do it. Go outside, read a book, problem solve with peers, do hands-on projects. “Experiential learning” is an expression used often in education, especially at the middle school level. Getting into the world to learn something is more effective than watching a show about it, no doubt.Memes glibly tease parents who rely on screens, telling them that the best thing kids can do right now is pick up a book.

…Yet, pediatricians are STILL urging parents to avoid too much media. A news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics came out at the beginning of the shut downs on March 17, 2020. It is entitled, “Finding Ways to Keep Children Occupied During These Challenging Times” and the main thesis is that parents should find “creative ways” (read: screen-free) to keep kids busy. They say, “the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences.” Memes glibly tease parents who rely on screens, telling them that the best thing kids can do right now is pick up a book. The AAP article does acknowledge that “kids’ screen media time will likely increase,” but wants parents to monitor content closely and try to make the content as meaningful as possible. Sounds lovely, but parents may be overwhelmed with trying to manage media and everything else. More likely, parents are letting go of strict screen-time rules and feeling guilty about it.

If history reminds us that, once upon a time, people believed reading books was a bad habit, history will perhaps see “screen time” the same way in future generations. Anna North imagines, “In 50 years, maybe we’ll be lamenting our failure to read enough Internet.” In Moving Beyond Screen Time, the authors explain that digital literacy is an important skill. They say it “plays an important role in the child’s ability to exceed in school and beyond.” The authors argue that it’s not how much screen time a child receives, but what kind. Focused, educational screen time, whether it be shows, apps, or games, is beneficial to kids’ knowledge base and ability to succeed in a technology-driven world.

…Instead of asking parents to, as the AAP says, “Consider what offline activities are enjoyable for your family. Help other families by sharing those ideas,” pediatricians and teachers should focus on helping educate parents on where to turn to get quality screen time. Several school districts got access to apps such as ABCMouse, DreamBox, and Lexia to help students learn through playing video games during distance learning. Furthermore, turning on a fairy tale movie for your kid while you have a Zoom meeting is fine. Parents should let go of the pressure to print worksheets and be a teacher while they’re also doing whatever else it is they do as an adult. Even better than turning on a movie and letting go of the guilt is if parents talk about what the kids watched. Talk about story structure, morality, characters. Talk about artistic style, acting skills, and music. Film as literature is a legitimate form of education. Digital literacy is a valid form of literacy.

Read more at … https://daily.jstor.org/screen-time-guilt-during-the-pandemic/

PHYSICAL CHALLENGES & A Case Study: At this church, ‘special needs’ are nothing out of the ordinary

HELEN JERMAN, Baptist News Global, 9/2/20.

For many families, the most challenging aspect of going to church on Sunday morning is getting out the door: making sure everyone is dressed, fed and in the car on time and in one piece. For families who have children with special needs, going to church is fraught with additional challenges:

  • Will we be welcome and included?
  • What, if any, support for my child’s needs will be available?
  • Will I have to stay with my child during the service, or will qualified and trained individuals be able to care for my son or daughter so I can attend service alone?
  • Will my child be invited to participate in religious activities, and in the way that meets his or her needs?
  • Will other members of the congregation welcome and accept us, or look at us as “special” and “other”?

At Irving Bible Church in North Texas, those fears are quickly put to rest.

“The needs are so diverse, and the kids are unpredictable,” said Lori Baldridge, a church member who has a 16-year-old daughter with Down’s syndrome and a 10-year-old son who is typically developing. “What I’ve seen is that these kids come away feeling loved and they know they’re accepted. We know she’s in a place where she’s safe.”

And not only safe, but loved and accepted.

“This is not a pity ministry,” said Shannon Pugh, director of the special needs ministry at IBC. “We need to make sure those parents can go to church. And it’s also about empowering and including people with special needs of any kinds to use their gifts and teach others about God.”

An ever-evolving ministry

Getting to that point has taken years of hard work and intentionality, Pugh said.

When Pugh joined IBC as a congregant, the church had a respite program that offered free care for individuals with special needs so that their caretakers could have a few hours to themselves. Then, families who had children with special needs formed sort of a buddy system, she said. Volunteers looked after kids with more intensive needs in a separate room.

“There was not a really cohesive ministry,” Pugh said. “It was fragmented. The church saw a need and that the ministry was starting to grow. Kids were getting older, and it was no longer a children’s ministry but a children’s and teen ministry. In 2012, the church thought it would be better for one person to provide vision and direction.”

Pugh, who had training as a special education teacher and who had volunteered with the program for several years, took the job.

Although the role was part time, “it was a big step for IBC because a lot of churches that have a special needs ministry don’t have a specific person on staff,” she noted.

Since that time, the ministry has grown — so much so that it has its own name, Arise, and its own website.

Today, Irving Bible Church includes about 25 families who wouldn’t be able to attend worship services in a regular church setting. Lucy Holden, who asked that her real name not be used to maintain her family’s privacy, is one of them. Her son, Jacob, (also not his real name) has autism.

“We adopted our son, and going into it, we knew he had special needs,” Holden said. “Our old church was super supportive throughout our adoption, but once we started going to church, it became apparent that he wasn’t able handle our church environment. The people at our old church expected him to adjust to the classroom where he was, and he just couldn’t.”

After that, Holden and her husband started alternating who would go to church each week and who would stay home with their son. Soon, though, they began to pray about finding a church that already knew how to deal with Jacob’s issues. That led them to Pugh and IBC.

‘Such a normal question’

“When I dropped him off at IBC, Shannon had someone lined up to be his buddy, and she asked, ‘What does Jacob enjoy doing?’” Holden said. “And it was such a normal question that it was such a relief to me to know why we were there.”

One major program at IBC is a respite ministry, which offers monthly activities and child care for kids with special needs and their siblings — allowing the parents to take some time for themselves to rest, recharge or take care of personal business.

“It’s easy to become isolated if you have kids with special needs.”

The respite program has been particularly helpful for Baldridge and her husband.

Read more at … https://baptistnews.com/article/at-this-church-special-needs-are-nothing-out-of-the-ordinary/#.X0_DLi2z0q9

PRESCRIPTIONS FOR THE CHURCH & Healthy churches must have outward focus, Whitesel tells Presbyterians.

Emily Enders Odom – August 7, 2013

Move over, Dr. Phil. The church doctor is in.                             

Bob Whitesel, the award-winning author and change theory expert, offered a much-needed prescription for today’s ailing churches in his Aug. 3 luncheon address based on his book, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health.

“You’re here because the church is facing a very challenging time in North America,” Whitesel told his audience here at the Healthy Ministry Conference under the Big Tent. “If you look at all of the research, you’ll find that the common church is not usually a vibrant, growing, healthy church. The common church is usually a church struggling with different growth, multi-cultural, and age issues. My burden and my passion has been for almost 40 years now to go and study churches that are making a difference and are growing.”        

In his 11 books, Whitesel outlines the factors he says prevent churches from being a “force for unity and maturity in Christ.” He also addresses the necessary changes to help churches become healthier organizations. By “healthy,” Whitesel means churches where spiritual growth is taking place, not necessarily larger congregations. 

“Many congregations don’t have to grow numerically, but they do need to grow in their maturity, their acceptance and their reconciliation of different ethnicities, cultures and races,” he said. 

Today’s congregations have to work hard to overcome 200 years of history in which churches functioned first and foremost as social clubs, Whitesel said. 

“I as the church don’t want to compete with other social clubs because I believe we offer something spiritual and eternal,” he said.

Even most new church plants cease being effective at winning new people for Christ after 18 months because that’s when the churches “stop focusing on community and start worrying about their own organizational well-being,” Whitesel said. 

The four cures that Whitesel offers to today’s ill churches all involve changing a congregation’s focus from inward — focusing on organizational issues — to outward. In his address, he covered the cures: need-based outreach; “up-in-out” groups; transformational programming; and measuring learning, not attendance. 

In doing his first doctorate, Whitesel analyzed fast-growing churches in America to find out what they were doing alike. “All of them didn’t want to grow, and they grew, because what they wanted to do was meet needs,” he said. 

Such a change in focus will bring a change in vocabulary, among other results. As an example, Whitesel cited how church visitors are most often greeted. “Instead of saying to visitors, ‘We’re glad to have you here,’ say ‘Jesus is here to meet your needs and we’re here to help,’” he said. 

As for “up-in-out groups,” Whitesel advocates that every small group in a church grow “up” (toward God), “in” (by praying for each other), and “out” (by serving the community). He also calls this cure “missionalizing small groups,” in which they become not just groups doing tasks, but actual discipleship groups. 

The third cure he presented to his audience was transformational programming. By this, he means programming that’s designed to make the church the place that changes people. 

“That’s what Jesus desired the church to be,” he said. “It should be a place where people get changed. Today, people go to Dr. Phil. They turn on the TV. We want our churches to be known in the community as the place that helps people change. That’s what we want people to know about being Presbyterian.” 

Big Tent, Aug. 1-3, was a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It was composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

Read more at … https://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/8/7/prescriptions-church/

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PRAYER & #SundayChurchHacks: Include a “prayer chat” on your worship streaming page. And, keep it going during the week, monitored by the prayer team. This client church has a robust online prayer session during the Sunday worship.

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 12.25.31 PM.png

This does not need to be limited to live streaming sessions. Because a prayer chat can be monitored by the prayer team and continue during the week or at designated times.  The idea is to offer more opportunities for people in need to connect with congregational members with the gift of intercessory prayer, c.f. James 5:14-16, 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Col. 1:9-12, 4:12-13.

PLANNING & How to Get People to Accept a Tough Decision. #HarvardBusinessReview

by David Maxfield, HBR, 4/19/18.

Every leader has to make tough decisions that have consequences for their organizations, their reputation, and their career. The first step to making these decisions is understanding what makes them so hard. Alexander George, who studied presidential decision-making, pointed to two features:

  • Uncertainty: Presidents never have the time or resources to fully understand all of the implications their decisions will have.
  • “Value Complexity”: This is George’s term to explain that even the “best” decisions will harm some people and undermine values leaders would prefer to support.

The decisions that senior leaders, middle managers, frontline employees, and parents have to make often have the same features. Uncertainty and value complexity cause us to dither, delay, and defer, when we need to act.

What steps can leaders take to deal with these factors when making decisions?

Overcoming Uncertainty

Our initial reactions to uncertainty often get us deeper into trouble. Watch out for the following four pitfalls.

  • Avoidance. It often feels like problems sneak up on us when, in reality, we’ve failed to recognize the emerging issue. Instead of dealing with problems when they begin to simmer, we avoid them — and even dismiss them — until they are at a full boil. For example, perhaps your plants have been running at near capacity for a while and there have been occasional hiccups in your supply chain. Instead of addressing these issues, you accept them as normal. Then, “suddenly,” you’re unable to fill orders.
  • Fixation. When a problem presents itself, adrenaline floods our body and we often fixate on the immediate threat. In this fight or flight mode, we’re not able to think strategically. But focusing exclusively on the obvious short-term threat often means you miss the broader context and longer-term ramifications.
  • Over-simplification. The fight-or-flight instinct also causes us to oversimplify the situation. We divide the world into “friends” and “foes” and see our options as “win” or “lose” or “option A” or “option B.” Making a successful decision often requires transcending simplifications and discovering new ways to solve the problem.
  • Isolation. At first, we may think that, if we contain the problem, it’ll be easier to solve. For example, it may feel safer to hide the problem from your boss, peers, and customers while you figure out what to do. But as a result, you may wait too long before sounding the alarm. And, by then, you’re in too deep.

To avoid these pitfalls — or to get out of them once you’ve fallen into them — it’s best to take incremental steps forward without committing to a decision too quickly. Below are five things you can do to reduce uncertainty as you evaluate your options.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/04/how-to-get-people-to-accept-a-tough-decision?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hbr

POVERTY & What one pastoral couple did to address the problem.

by The Highbury Centre, Islington, London, 8/13/19.

In 19th century London, the gap between the very richest and the poorest of the poor seemed unbridgeable. Aristocratic families flitted between their country estates and their town houses, enjoying the very best that society had to offer, while the newly wealthy middle classes flocked to the West End’s department stores to fill their houses with the latest must-have artefacts. In stark contrast to this conspicuous consumption, poor and working-class people lived crowded together in the most abject poverty, with no sanitation, in crumbling and dangerous housing.

Poor children were fortunate to live until their fifth birthday. Cholera, typhus, dysentery, smallpox and TB were all killers. Their parents fared no better, often dying from over-work or disease.

In 1865, a married couple, William and Catherine Booth, both ardent Methodists, felt called to take the good news out on the streets. They offered practical support to those who needed it most, “soup, soap and salvation.” By 1878, they were known as the Salvation Army and became a familiar sight in the poorest districts of London.

By 1893, the year of the foundation of the Foreign Missions Club in Highbury New Park, the Salvation Army had expanded hugely, taking the news of God’s love out on the streets to thousands. Extreme poverty and its related issues, addiction, hunger, malnutrition, desperation and crime was rife in the capital, leading William Booth to deliver passionate speeches to his growing ranks about the need for help. “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!”

The work of the Salvation Army, started over 150 years ago, still goes on worldwide. William and Catherine Booth are buried at Abney Park in Stoke Newington, just over 1.5 miles from The Highbury Centre. Their legacy of love, practical care and salvation for all lives on in our century, where sadly want and poverty are still very much a part of our society.

At The Highbury Centre, our heart has always been to offer Christian accommodation, rest and relaxation to missionaries, workers for the Lord and anyone in need of a comfortable bed for the night. A great deal of things have changed since we first opened our doors in 1893, but much remains the same. We are proud to offer good value, welcoming and accessible accommodation in the heart of North London.

If reading this has interested you, you can find out more about the work of the Salvation Army by clicking on this link: www.salvationarmy.org.uk/

Find out more about the Highbury Centre, an affordable guest house in London, at https://www.thehighburycentre.org

PARENTING & How to teach kids humility (and to understand it ourselves)

by Laura Hanby Hudgins, Aleteia, 7/19/19.

…C.S. Lewis defined humility as “… not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”

  • Teach gratitude. Perhaps the best way to teach the virtue of humility is to foster in our children a deep sense of gratitude, first to God for all His blessings, but also to the people (parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches) who help cultivate the gifts He has given us…
  • Teach kids to know themselves. Sometimes as parents we think it is our job to tell our children they can do anything they want to do and be anything they want to be. But St. Augustine described humility as knowing the truth about oneself. This doesn’t mean squashing our kids’ dreams our discouraging their goals. But it does mean helping them to take a realistic look at where their gifts and talents lie, where they need to put in extra work, and even where they might be wasting their time. It also means gently helping them recognize, not only their own limitations, but also their flaws and faults — not so they can give up, but so that they can work to improve and to grow in whatever habits or virtues they need to develop.
  • Reject the cockiness culture. Not only is humility a virtue, but pride is actually considered one of the seven deadly sins (the sins that lead to all others). Yet, walk through any middle school in America, and unless the kids are required to wear a uniform, many of them will likely be wearing t-shirts boldly proclaiming their own greatness with sayings like You Can’t Spell AWESOME Without ME; Not Braggin’ Just Swaggin’; and THIS Is What a Winner Looks Like. These trendy tees might be fun and seem harmless enough, but could they be promoting a culture of cockiness that is further reinforced by many of our kids’ favorite athletes and celebrities?…

  • Be willing to go unnoticed. This is a tough one. No one likes to go unnoticed for an achievement. Maybe we can start by teaching our kids that it’s okay to go unnoticed in a conversation. They don’t always have to tell a funnier joke, one-up a friend’s really cool story, or have the last word in an argument. It’s okay sometimes to just listen…
  • Look for the gifts of others... Sometimes as parents we get so caught up in telling our kids how awesome they are, we fail to help them see the awesomeness of others. Start by talking about what you appreciate and admire in your own friends, and encourage your kids to look for what is noteworthy and admirable about their friends too.
  • Pray. There’s an old joke that it is a bad idea to pray for humility because the last thing you want is to be humbled by God. There may be some truth in that, but often life has a way of humbling us whether we’ve prayed for it or not. It is far better for any of us to be humbled by our Loving Father than by our peers, or worse, our enemies. Praying a prayer for humility is a beautiful way to help every family member grow in this all-important virtue.

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/07/19/6-tricks-to-teach-kids-humility-and-to-understand-it-ourselves/

PREACHING & Preach to a procession… in a way that will be an initial invitation to those who don’t know Christ and an encouragement to those who do. #Remembering #LloydJohnOgilvie

In a 1989 interview with Leadership Journal, Lloyd John Ogilvie said:

I preach to a procession: church members who need a fresh touch of the power of God, people who don’t know God and aren’t part of any church, Christians who’ve just come to visit, and others who are facing perplexing problems. … My big challenge is to present the gospel in a way that will be an initial invitation to those who don’t know Christ and an encouragement to those who do and who need to get on with the responsibilities of discipleship.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/1989/summer/89l3016.html

PERSONALITY & Why Self-Compassion Beats Self-Esteem

by Carley Sime, Forbes Magazine, 4/30/19.

Firstly a definition of self-compassion. This is taken directly from a paper written by Kristin Neff, a hugely influential researcher in the field of self-compassion: 

“Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding towards oneself when encountering suffering, inadequacy or failure, rather than ignoring one’s pain or flagellating oneself with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced”

Through her research, Neff has found that individuals who are self-compassionate often benefit in several ways. They tend to have better psychological health and also greater resilience when compared to those with lower levels of self-compassion. Neff also found that self-compassion is positively associated with life-satisfaction, emotional intelligence and social connectedness. What is it negatively associated with? Depression, anxiety, rumination, thought suppression and perfectionism. This means that individuals who are self-compassionate are less likely to experience these things. 

If that hasn’t sold you on self-compassion then keep reading. Neff and colleagues also found that self-compassion was associated with greater wisdom, curiosity, exploration, happiness, optimism and positive affect. They also found a link between self-compassion and personal initiative, defined as a desire to grow and change in ways that lead to living a more productive and fulfilling life. They suggest that this finding is particularly important as it demonstrates how self-compassion leads to personal growth rather than self-indulgence

Read more at …https://www.forbes.com/sites/carleysime/2019/04/30/why-self-compassion-beats-self-esteem/