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/

ATTENDANCE & Research shows going to church during Holy Week (and beyond) is good for your mental health.

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

… A recent Gallup survey found that those who have prioritized weekly attendance at worship services throughout the pandemic have emerged — not merely unscathed — but mentally improved. Weekly worshippers reported a 4-percentage point increase in their mental health. Every other sub-group went negative.

Regardless of race, age, political affiliation, gender or income, only those who consistently attended religious services each week (online or in person) are happier today than they were a year ago when COVID-19 began to capsize the globe. 

This lines up with historical research on mental health and church attendance. Broad-based evidence demonstrates that attendance at worship services is indispensable to a happy, generous and flourishing society.

Pew Research found that actively religious adults are more likely to be happy, volunteer time to good causes and be more civically involved than non-religious or non-practicing religious folks.

Other studies, like one from the National Library of Medicine, provide evidence that regular churchgoers live longer, happier lives.

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/

DECHURCHED & Churches could win back teens like me if they were more welcoming and less judgmental. #USAtoday

by Stacia Dayskovska, USA Today, 8/18/19.

From the standpoint of teens like me, many Christian denominations are too deeply rooted in tradition. Whatever this “tradition” comes dressed as, we find it a turnoff. Because of this, church should offer more open-ended resources to teens — such as meditation, discussion groups, and even nature walks. In other words, the Christian church experience needs to start transcending the traditional and adapting to the times. Only then can teens start finding meaning in church beyond traditional mass, and realizing they can come to God in their own way without indoctrination or an intermediary.

Offer teens flexible ways to worship

Teen religious disillusionment is more prevalent than ever. Today’s teens are the first generation to be called “post-Christian,” meaning they lack a sense of Christian identity. When Barna Group asked why last year, 17% of the churchgoing 13- to 18-year-olds in the survey said church is too much of an exclusive club for them to relate to it positively. And that’s only from those that do go to church. For teens that don’t, views of church are as detached as they are disapproving; 23% of non-attenders said a barrier to their faith remains the fact that Christians are hypocrites.

However deep-rooted and unalterable these attitudes towards the church seem, there’s actually great potential for inclusive policies to work. While only a slight minority of young adults claim they are still searching for a religion, a substantial 29% are already spiritual but seeking an outlet to deepen their beliefs. This means that if teen-centered programs are extended beyond, say, Bible camp, and are intentionally depicted as nondenominational, more teens would treat church as a safe space for worship rather than a convert-seeking institution. With flexibility in the “terms of worship” comes greater freedom, and with greater freedom teens might feel more inclined to involve themselves with the church.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/08/18/churches-need-less-tradition-more-flexibility-welcome-teens-column/2011731001/

STACIA DATSKOVSKA |

CHURCH PLANTING & Least livable: 50 worst US cities to reside in. Time For #ChurchPlanters to step up to the challenge?

by Samuel Stebbens and Evan Comen, USA Today, 6/13/18.

…Quality of life is subjective, and difficult to measure. Still, there is a wide range of quantifiable factors that can impact quality of life in a given area. Affordability, safety, job market strength, quality of education, infrastructure, average commute times, air quality, and the presence of cultural attractions are just a few examples of factors that can influence overall quality of life.

24/7 Wall St. created an index with measures in eight categories — crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure — to identify the 50 worst cities to live in. Not confined to a single region, the worst cities span the country from the South to the Midwest and from New England to the Pacific coast.

Read the list here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/06/13/50-worst-cities-to-live-in/35909271/

ADULT EDUCATION & Between 2010-2017 student enrollment at Univ. Of Phoenix fell by 70%.

by SAMUEL STEBBINS, EVAN COMEN, MICHAEL B. SAUTER AND CHARLES STOCKDALE, USA Today, 2/1/18

“The University of Phoenix is perhaps the most well-known for-profit college in the country … Between 2010 and 2017, student enrollment fell by 70%. The downsizing is likely doing little to boost employee morale. According to data obtained from Glassdoor, only 32% of University of Phoenix employees would recommend working at the school to a friend.“

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2018/02/01/bad-reputation-americas-top-20-most-hated-companies/1058718001/

CONFLICT & How to disagree with your boss without getting fired.

USA Today, March 4, 2016.

1. CAREFULLY CONSIDER THE TIME AND PLACE

… Are you in a team meeting where everyone is sharing suggestions and ideas with your manager? That could be a perfect opportunity to speak up, without it seeming aggressive, condescending, or accusatory. Would your boss feel embarrassed or ganged up on if you voiced your opinion in a large group setting? Then you’re better off setting up a separate, one-on-one meeting to talk it out…

2. START POSITIVE

… This is exactly why it’s important to start off your opposition by clearly pointing out something positive. Perhaps it’s a portion of the idea that you really liked or a piece of the process that’s already working quite well…

3. ASK QUESTIONS

Your manager is the one in charge—so he or she likely won’t respond too well if you act like you’re the one who should be doling out criticisms and instructions. How do you get around this? Asking questions of your boss is a great way to make it clear that you’re aiming to foster a collaborative discussion, rather than storming in and firing off demands.

For example, you could say something like, “I really like your idea of holding weekly team meetings for everyone to get on the same page. However, I think having these on Wednesdays instead of Mondays would be better. What do you think?”

This explicitly invites your supervisor to share his or her thoughts or feelings with you, too—meaning the conversation isn’t aggressive or one-sided…

4. FOCUS ON RESULTS

…So, if you can adequately outline the positive results of your opinion or idea, you’re one step closer to getting your supervisor on your side. Let’s use our team meeting example from above to really drive the point home. We’ll use those exact same sentences, but just add a little something to it.

“I really like your idea of holding weekly team meetings for everyone to get on the same page. However, I think having these on Wednesdays instead of Mondays would be better, as it gives everyone a chance to get caught up from the weekend—meaning our meeting will be that much more productive. What do you think?”

See how much more powerful that is? It illustrates that you’re simply trying to suggest a positive change for your office and co-workers—not attack your boss’ authority and intelligence.

5. RESPECT THE FINAL DECISION

In the end, your boss has the final say. If he or she considers your opinion, only to rule against it and carry on with the plan you disagreed with? Well, you need to respect that…

Read more at … http://college.usatoday.com/2016/03/04/how-to-disagree-with-your-boss-without-getting-fired/

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS & Can They Hide What Should Be Public Knowledge? #USAToday

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “USA Today published an article worrying that accountability groups could become the locale for hiding public sins from public scrutiny.  Using the example of the Washington-based Capital Hill house on C Street, the writer wondered,

C Street is a Washington base for The Family, a secretive Christian group that prays together — nothing wrong with that — and holds each other privately accountable for straying from Biblical values. Again, nothing wrong with that — unless the secrecy overtakes things that should be public knowledge, such as hush money payments a la Sen. John Ensign or vanishing to visit a mistress in, say, Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford style. (See Rachel Maddow’s interviews with Jeff Sharlet who roasts The Family in his book by that name).

Now, I’m not taking a side on this issue.  I just want to get leaders thinking deeper about not only the importance of accountability groups, but also the ramifications if something comes up in a group that should be public knowledge (or if something comes up that is illegal).”

Take a look at the article from USA Today (below):

———-

Does ‘C Street’ give ‘accountability groups’ bad name?

USA TODAY, Jul 16, 2009 by Cathy Lynn Grossman.

Retrieved from http://content.usatoday.com/communities/religion/post/2009/07/68494598/1#.VPdaGHaXK7o

Does the Capitol Hill house on C Street — home to several congressmen although it eludes property taxes by being listed as a church — give prayer “accountability” groups a bad name? Should elected officials seek God in secrecy while hiding sins from public scrutiny?

C Street is a Washington base for The Family, a secretive Christian group that prays together — nothing wrong with that — and holds each other privately accountable for straying from Biblical values. Again, nothing wrong with that — unless the secrecy overtakes things that should be public knowledge, such as hush money payments a la Sen. John Ensign or vanishing to visit a mistress in, say, Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford style.

(See Rachel Maddow’s interviews with Jeff Sharlet who roasts The Family in his book by that name).

But millions of men and women belong to small prayer and accountability groups where they read and discuss Scripture together and hold each other to truthful living in God’s name. Remember Promise Keepers, the men’s group that hit a popularity peak in the 90’s? It stressed accountability groups heavily and even if PK no longer packs stadiums for rallies, many of those small groups continue to enriching lives.

But the original purpose of privacy was never to shield nefarious behavior. As it says on one church site among scores that talk about the importance of such groups:

The secrecy of such closed groups isn’t rooted in anything nefarious. As Carter Shotwell, pastor of a Lake Pointe Church in Rockwell Texas, writes:

The point is that members are available for one another. Members are aware of one another’s struggles and temptations; they commit to pray, listen, and support as needed. They also ask difficult questions of one another. This level of interaction is only possible in a closed group.

Where this goes astray, as it says in the Christian-focused World Magazine look at C Street and its two adulterous alumni, is when members mistake when to stay silent:

Cstreet2x-mug-shot Rev. Rob Schenck, who leads a Bible study on the Hill inspired by C Street, wrote on his blog Friday that “all ministries in Washington need to protect the confidence of those we minister to, and I’m sure that’s a primary motive for C Street’s low profile.” But he added, “I think The Fellowship has been just a tad bit too clandestine.” Schenck has himself sent a letter to Sanford calling for his resignation.

But as Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research, says,

It’s good to have a safe place. It’s better to have a safe place that helps you live right.

LifeWay has no numbers on how many Americans belong to “accountability groups” although small study groups overall are hugely popular. One in four people say they meet with 20 or fewer people as “a primary form of spiritual nurture,” Stetzer says.

An accountability group, Stetzer told me today, is intended to promote love and good works.

I think C Street was trying to do that but, accountability groups are only as good as the truthfulness of their participants.

On his own blog, Stetzer lists many of the questions asked in such groups. Reading scripture is stressed, but so is confronting the essentials of righteousness. Most question lists — and variations go back decades — end with something similar. People ask each other, “are you being honest with me.”

Alas for John Ensign and Mark Sanford, no one seemed to consider whether anyone is honest with their spouses or with voters. Should the C Street men have pushed their adulterous prayer partners out the door?

DO YOU … belong to an accountability group? Should elected officials seek God in secrecy while hiding sins from public scrutiny?

BABY BOOMERS & Looking For Ways to Give Purpose to their Retirement

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “One of the top three things boomers are concerned about regarding retirement, is having a purpose. But biblical and historical stories attest to the spiritual impact of mature adults. Look for ways to engage and redeploy newly retired boomers in world-changing ministry. BTW, @WesleySeminay can help.”

Retired Baby Boomers face emotional adjustments

by Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY, 2/4/15.

The toughest parts of retiring include missing the day-to-day social connections with colleagues (37%); getting used to a new and different routine (32%); and finding ways to give meaning and purpose in their days (22%).

The transition to retirement isn’t always easy, especially the emotional adjustments, a new survey of retired Baby Boomers shows. About two-thirds (69%) say they had challenges adapting to this change in their lives, according to a survey of 1,000 people, ages 60 to 73, who retired in the last five years from their primary profession and who have at least $100,000 in investable assets. The survey was commissioned by Ameriprise Financial.

The toughest parts of retiring include

  • missing the day-to-day social connections with colleagues (37%);
  • getting used to a new and different routine (32%);
  • and finding ways to give meaning and purpose in their days (22%).

Read more at … http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/02/03/baby-boomers-retirement-emotional/22799155/