PERSONAL OUTREACH & Examples from today (and the Biblical precedents). Guest wiki post by Tom Crenshaw.

by Tom Crenshaw, 6/6/22.

Yesterday was Mission Sunday in our church.

I had the privilege of introducing the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a ministry that is very near and dear to my heart.

As part of our service, we had a local college and a high school athlete share their testimonies of how the FCA had impacted their lives.

 In the course of introducing them on the stage, it dawned on me that it was my 60thanniversary. No, I hadn’t forgotten my wife and our wedding anniversary; it was something even more important than that. It was my “new birth” anniversary. You see as I was introducing these two students, I was suddenly reminded that it was 60 years ago-almost to the very day- that I was in Lake Geneva, Wisc. attending an FCA summer conference where I committed my life to Christ after hearing noted track star Jessie Owens share his faith.

I thought back to that conference and my friend Chuck Beale whose persistent witness resulted in my being at that conference. 

As a part of the football team at Virginia Military Institute, we had become friends.

Almost daily Chuck had witnessed to me. He continually would bring up his experience attending an FCA summer conference, and he was persistent in wanting me to attend a conference as well. I don’t know how many times he asked me to attend, but I had no interest in giving up part of my summer vacation to travel 2000 miles to attend such a conference.

 However, Chuck’s enthusiasm finally wore me down, and I gave in and said yes- more out of my effort to avoid finding excuses why not to attend than really desiring to go.

In introducing our two FCA speakers, I became aware that I might never have been in church introducing these two young people, had it not been for Chuck’s persistent witness.

In thinking about those who were saved in the Bible, we tend to think of those miraculous conversions. Peter preached and 3000 were instantaneously saved. Phillip stopped a man in a chariot and not only was the man immediately saved, but they stopped to have a roadside baptism service. The Philippian jailor was saved in an instant as he cried out, “What must ZI do to be saved?”

But most conversions don’t happen like that. They happen because someone was lovingly and persistent enough to “keep on keeping on.”  Slow and steady wins the race, and that is the key to success in any endeavor, but especially in the spiritual realm.

Don’t give up. Be persistent like Chuck was. Don’t become discouraged. Pray and pray for that individual you desire to see saved. Find ways to love him/her and show them how much you care.

Galatians reminds us not to “grow weary in well doing.”  “I’m sowing seed, but I see no fruit.” Hang in their dear saint. The promise is “you will reap in due season if you don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9).

I wonder where I would be today if Chuck had given up on me. 

Remember, “The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like thy can’t be done.” Arnold Palmer

As Winston Churchill reminds us “Never give up, never, never, never!”

And that goes for witnessing.

PREACHING & TEACHING: People can only keep about four things in their mind at a time. And usually just one or two things is the working memory span of most people. So, use just 1-2 bullet points in your PowerPoint presentation (and not seven or more).

Michelle D. Miller. (2014). Minds Online : Teaching Effectively with Technology. Harvard University Press. p. 94.

Limitations on working memory. You may have read somewhere that we can only hold about seven items at a time in working memory. That’s a reassuring enough figure, and might imply that students will do best when we present only seven points at a time— say, seven topics on a web page, or seven bullet points on a PowerPoint slide. But this long- repeated number is now under question as researchers devise ways to measure capacity that factor out rehearsal strategies, imagery, and other mnemonic tricks. Using these updated methods, researchers have found that working memory span is closer to just four items.8 And even within this set of four things, there may be just one or two that are active enough for us to actually use.9 Pinning down the precise number is an important goal for mem-ory theorists, but isn’t really germane to real- world teaching.

8 N. Cowan (2010), The magical mystery four: How is working memory capacity limited, and why? Current Directions in Psychological Science 19(1): 51– 57, doi:10.1177/0963721409359277.

9 N. Cowan, E. M. Elliott, J. Saults, C. C. Morey, S. Mattox, A. Hismjatullina, and A. A. Conway (2005), On the capacity of attention: Its esti-mation and its role in working memory and cognitive aptitudes, Cognitive Psy-chology 51(1): 42– 100, doi:10.1016/j.cog psych.2004.12.001

PREACHING & TEACHING: Listeners remember more when they see what they are learning is relevant for their survival. #Salvation #Eternity

Michelle D. Miller. (2014). Minds Online : Teaching Effectively with Technology. Harvard University Press.

Researchers have flushed out these vestiges in a number of intriguing experiments, including several that show marked memory superiority for items that people process in terms of “survival relevance.” This “survival processing” paradigm asks participants to think of whether a given item— a hammer, say, or a chair— would help them survive living out on a grassland as a hunter- gatherer. Asked later to recall which words they saw in the experiment, participants performed better for objects they thought of in the survival context, compared to a control condition where they had thought of whether the items would be useful moving from one apartment to another, or other more modern survival- relevant activities. Researchers are still hashing out whether these fi ndings can truly be traced to ancestral survival challenges, but for now, evi-dence suggests that they aren’t merely an artifact of some confound-ing factors such as how emotionally arousing or attention- grabbing the different scenarios are.21

21 J. S. Nairne and J. S. Pandeirada (2010), Adaptive memory: Ancestral priorities and the mnemonic value of survival pro cessing, Cognitive Psychology61(1): 1– 22, doi:10.1016/j.cog psych.2010.01.005

PREACHING & TEACHING: Interleaving different media (e.g. video, music, drawing, computer screen, etc.) into your sermon increases retention. From a memory standpoint it’s best to alternate topics, circling back to previously exposed material rather than working straight through each topic one at a time.

Michelle D. Miller. (2014). Minds Online : Teaching Effectively with Technology. Harvard University Press.

Like spacing, interleaving has to do with how we organize our study sessions over time. We interleave material whenever we alternate between different topics, categories, skills, and the like, rather than just working with one at a time. To illustrate, participants in one line of research were assigned to learn to identify visual examples, such as different kinds of birds or paintings by different artists. Researchers found that mixing up the exposure to different examples across sessions— different artists, different classes of birds— improved learning.35 So from a memory standpoint it’s best to alternate topics, circling back to previously exposed material rather than working straight through each topic one at a time.

35 M. S. Birnbaum, N. Kornell, E. Bjork, and R. A. Bjork (2013), Why in-terleaving enhances inductive learning: The roles of discrimination and re-trieval, Memory & Cognition 41(3): 392– 402, doi:10.3758/s13421- 012- 0272- 7; N. Kornell and R. A. Bjork (2008), Learning concepts and categories: Is spac-ing the “enemy of induction”? Psychological Science (Wiley- Blackwell) 19(6): 585– 592, doi:10.1111/j.1467- 9280.2008.02127.x. 36. D. Rohrer (2012), Interleaving helps stud

PASTORAL TRANSITIONS & 5 Reasons Why a Retiring Pastor is Not the Best Person to Choose Their Successor: strings attached, mentor-mentee history, cultural changes, rarity of exceptional leaders & legacy. Read the article to learn why.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/21/21.

In my consulting practice, I’ve analyzed hundreds of church transitions. And, I’m preparing a Doctor of Ministry course for a nationally respected seminary on this subject. I’ve observed that many times a retiring pastor often puts forth, even informally, their successor. This can be a misstep for five reasons.

  1. Strings Attached: The retiring pastor has vested interest in the selection of a successor. The retiring pastor has financial relationships (loans, housing, benefits) and personal relationships (friends, enemies and even status, e.g. titles such as “pastor emeritus” or “founding pastor”), that can cloud, even subconsciously their selection.
  2. Mentor-mentee: The successor has operated in a subordinate relationship to the retiring pastor and the successor may have trouble transforming that relationship. This especially becomes problematic when crises arise and the subordinate may subconsciously acquiesce to the former leader’s view on the crisis.
  3. Culture Changes: The retiring pastor often seeks a successor that will reach a younger generation, a different ethnicity or another such culture. But theretiring pastors often tell me they select a successor, “Because I get along with them.” This is good in a subordinate. But this can be self defeating when you are trying to equip this leader to reach a different culture.
  4. Exceptional Leaders are Rare: The subordinate often will not have the exceptional character and gifts to lead an exceptional church. Leading a large and/or growing church is one of the most skilled and supernaturally empowered jobs on earth. And I’ve seen that men and women who can do so are very few and far between. Often they will not be found in your existing congregation. The best leader may be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, and possibly in another denomination. The best solution is to use nation-wide search firm to cast a broader net.
  5. Legacy, because if things go bad later you may be blamed. Most pastors want to retire with a legacy that focuses on their successes. When a retiring pastor gets involved in the successor selection, that retiree’s legacy is tied to another.

Check out my other writings on this topic on how to survive (and thrive in) pastoral transitions. And, if you are intersted in auditing or earning seminary credit studying better church transitions, email me.

Read the entire article at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-reasons-why-a-retiring-pastor-is-not-the-best-person-to-choose-their-successor/

PARKING & It’s time to reimagine the church parking lot. What if it functioned more like a bridge than a wall?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Almosy two decades ago I helped a struggling church reach out to its community and begin to grow again … by using its parking lot as an outreach venue for basketball games, regular food giveaways, block parties, etc. The strategy of seeing the parking lot not just for the parishioners, but for the community too continues to take hold. Read this interesting article with many good ideas.

by G. Travis Norvell, Christian Century Magazine, 3/10/22.

In 1988, Walt Pulliam concluded his 13-year pastorate at Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis and retired. In his last sermon, he told the congregation that the essence of their future hung on one word: parking. If only Judson could acquire space for parking, then folks could drive in from miles around and the church’s future would be secured.

Pulliam had every reason to believe in the promise of parking. During his tenure at Judson, he watched two nearby congregations, Bethlehem Lutheran (two blocks west) and Mount Olivet Lutheran (a mile southwest) grow by leaps and bounds. Judson, Bethlehem, and Mount Olivet all had a lot in common. They were city neighborhood churches with talented pastors, beautiful buildings, gifted musicians, engaged leadership, and visions for ministry.

Mar 23, 2022 issue

But parking was one thing the Lutheran congregations had that Judson did not. Judson’s footprint remained the same, and its membership contracted. But Mount Olivet and Bethlehem’s membership grew when their footprints did—especially when they bought the lots around them and turned them into parking spaces (89 for Bethlehem, 332 for Mount Olivet—yes, I counted).

Today these Lutheran congregations have at least five ser­vices each Sunday and multiple campuses in the area; they own and operate year-round camps, nursing homes, and counseling centers and offer a plethora of excellent ministries and services. From the outside it appears that God blessed Mount Olivet and Bethlehem Lutheran and let Judson Church wither.

I’m now the pastor at Judson. When I arrived, I proposed that the church needed to become more connected to our surrounding community. But I felt the presence of fear—both in the hearts of church members and in my own. I kept hearing three reasons why venturing out into the community would fail: we did not have enough parking for visitors and new members, we did not have the resources to attract and keep new members, and there was not enough time to turn the church around so that we could attract and keep new members.

I believed, however, that if you can transform your vision of parking, then space and time are a piece of cake.

Churches survived, succeeded, and even flourished 1,900 years before parking lots ever existed. Even most city neighborhood churches never had parking spaces when they began. The need for church parking lots emerged only after most of the members moved to the suburbs, away from the city neighborhood church, and drove in for Sunday worship services. Before they drove and parked, most church members walked, biked, or took public transit to church.

A parking lot is a flat, impervious surface with a single, temporary purpose.

Contemplate a parking lot for a moment. It’s a flat, impervious surface with a single purpose: the temporary storage of automobiles. These spaces for cars are designed only for those who can drive, excluding children, a good number of seniors, and many people with disabilities.

And a church parking lot is more than this. I invite you to stand in a church parking lot or imagine doing so. Notice your distance from neighboring houses, local businesses, or passersby. You are standing on a horizontal wall, an asphalt expanse that separates your faith community from its neighbors and community.

Read more at … https://www.christiancentury.org/article/recommendations/it-s-time-reimagine-church-parking-lot?

PLANNING & Forget Bucket Lists. The Formula for Satisfaction Is Actually the Opposite, Says Harvard Professor. Social Scientist Arthur Brooks’ theory of reverse bucket lists is a powerful way to remove too many ‘wants’ and enjoy our existing ‘haves.’

by Jeff Steen, Inc. Magazine, 3/23/22.

… Here’s the idea in a nutshell: Bucket lists are filled with wants and dreams. When we get what we want or achieve our dreams, it’s a nice feeling, says Brooks — at least for a while. Then we need something else.

It all comes back to the “satisfaction formula”: Satisfaction = getting what you want. But you never really stop wanting things and so, well, are you ever really satisfied?

Brook has spent a great deal of time parsing this formula and the human behaviors that enable it. What he uncovered was a missing piece. The formula should actually look like this, he says: Satisfaction = what you have / what you want.

While we can, to some extent, increase our haves, our real control lies in our wants. If we whittle down the wants, our satisfaction increases. In others words, if we create reverse bucket lists — lists of wants to do away with — we’ll find ourselves closer to satisfaction in the present.

… What does this look like in business? As with most wants, they can be large or small. Say, for example, you want a bigger office — but the price tag would require you to hold off on the rollout of new employee benefits or raises. Ask yourself: Do I NEED a new office? Or is it merely a want (reverse bucket list)? And if it’s a want, how can I turn it instead into money, supplies, or support for my team (giving list)?

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/jeff-steen/forget-bucket-lists-formula-for-satisfaction-is-actually-opposite-says-harvard-professor.html

PREACHING & #SundayChurchHacks: Don’t just use slides on a screen, people better remember what they see written. When you preach/teach also use a whiteboard, etc. that allows you to write drown important points in front of the audience.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Communication researchers have long known that watchers will retain more of what a speaker is saying, if he or she writes writes something down in front of viewers. Audience retention increases when something is written done on a whiteboard or large tablet, rather than just projecting the words on a slide on a screen via PowerPoint, Keynote or ProPresenter. While interactive whiteboards even allow your written points to be preserved online, writing on a temporal tablet (non-electronic whiteboard, blackboard, etc.) will force the audience to watch more closely, to interact with you and to write down the points as you write them. This communication enhancement is equally effective onsite as well as online.

Do an online search and you find a myriad of products that can help almost any size church improve the retention of what is being preached/taught (see a few examples below).

A. Clear boards

https://www.displays2go.com/Guide/How-to-Choose-a-Whiteboard-4
https://vault50.com/alternatives-to-whiteboards-top-5-office-classroom-use/

https://vault50.com/alternatives-to-whiteboards-top-5-office-classroom-use/

https://vault50.com/alternatives-to-whiteboards-top-5-office-classroom-use/

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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