3 Reasons Why Clergy Shouldn’t “Friend” the Members of Their Churches

In class a subject surfaced that I don't recall ever hearing discussed in seminary: “Should pastors be their parishioners' ‘friend?’”The conversation began when one of my students noted that a member of his church had decided that, after some deliberation, "they could be friends." My student noted that he understood that his parishioner meant this as a form of affirmation, but he also noted that it made him uncomfortable. Why, exactly, he wasn’t sure.The class offered a number of perspect … [Read more...]

4 Reasons It’s a Bad Idea for Clergy to Advocate for Candidates

In a recent interview with Treer Hardy and Jason Michelli who steer the “Crackers and Grape Juice” podcast, I found myself clarifying some of my views on pastoral responsibility and the up-coming election.It will be tempting for clergy of all kinds to express their opinion on specific candidates and advocate for one of them this year.  (I also have dear friends who will strongly disagree with me on this.)  But, IRS regulations aside, I think it’s a mistake to do that and here’s why:One: A … [Read more...]

4 Choices Boomers Made that are Killing Mainline Protestantism

Earlier this month the Public Religion Research Institute released new statistics that chronicle the demographic shifts in religious affiliation. The one group that has grown exponentially is the so-called “Nones,” or religiously unaffiliated. The unaffiliated now represent 25% of the country, up over 10% of their numbers in the 1990s.More troubling for churches are two other findings: One is that the percentage of young American “Nones” (39% of those ages 18 to 29) is far larger than that of … [Read more...]

5 Reasons Spirituality is No Longer Important to the American Church

There are isolated and scattered signs of spiritual vitality in the American Protestantism. There are people and pastors who believe that spiritual practice is indispensible to the life of the church. There are a handful of denominational programs and an occasional bishop who emphasizes the spiritual life. And a handful of seminaries have given one kind of attention or another to the spiritual preparation of their students.But there is also evidence that the emphasis on spiritual practice is … [Read more...]

Part-Time Ministry and “The Myth of the Empty Church”

Part-time or bi-vocational ministry is becoming commonplace, and frequently it is the go-to solution used by church leaders to address the needs of an increasing number of congregations.This pattern is only going to intensify as mainline Protestant denominations shrink. For example: 80% of all Episcopal churches are either family size congregations with an average Sunday attendance of 20 to 50 or pastoral size parishes with an average Sunday attendance of 75-140. The Very Reverend Kevin … [Read more...]

The One Thing that Matters in a Changing Church

A dear friend, who recently converted to Catholicism, told this story about a recent experience at church: This past Easter I was given a Rosary from a friend in commemoration of my having completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process and entered the Catholic Church. Ours is a fairly large church for a rural area: about 1,200 families from several counties in north Texas and southern Oklahoma. We serve a large area partly because we are a place where Hispanic families can … [Read more...]

Evangelicals, Donald Trump, and 4 Lessons in Politics for the Church

The meeting that a handful of Evangelicals had with Donald Trump this week has something to teach Evangelicals and Christians of every stripe.One:Meetings of this kind run the risk of painting the whole of a segment of the Christian community in terms that appear unified and homogenous. Christians -- even hyphenated Christians (Evangelical-Christians, Progressive-Christians, Roman Catholic-Christians, etc.) -- do not see their faith or political issues in the same way.But when a … [Read more...]