From Beneficiary to Benefactor: Turning the Corner in the Third Generation

Last week’s blog was devoted to a question for leaders: “Are you a founder, an inheritor, or a beneficiary?”Based on some reading that I did some years ago in The Harvard Business Review, I suggested many enterprises (religious enterprises included) fail in the third generation, because their leaders treat the institutions and organizations that have been entrusted to their care as an entitlement. What are the characteristics of a third generation leader who avoids that temptation and becom … [Read more...]

Are you a founder, an inheritor, or a beneficiary?

Some years ago The Harvard Business Review reported that 97% of all family-run businesses fail by the third generation.  The article theorized that the reason for this rate of failure can be traced to the generational changes that take place in the lifespan of those businesses.I no longer recall exactly how the article framed the analysis, but my memory of it and my version of the argument goes something like this:The founding generation has the vision for a family business.  It makes t … [Read more...]

Nine Ways Your Pastor Can Help You Plan for a Funeral

In recent years churches have made a greater effort to prepare members of their congregations for death.  But much of that conversation is still squarely focused on advanced directives and clergy often delegate that responsibility to people who know more about the attendant legal complexities.  That, no doubt, is an appropriate choice.Churches and clergy pay less attention to the funeral arrangements themselves.  Having been through that process with members of our family and with pa … [Read more...]

Seven Things the Holy Spirit Might Be Trying to Tell You

For many of us it can be hard to believe that the Holy Spirit speaks in a way that is real or helpful.That struggle can be traced to a number of factors: We live in a culture that doesn’t expect God to “show up.”  When we do talk about the work of the Holy Spirit, we use rarified, impenetrable, stained-glass language.  And most of what we expect to hear in listening to the Spirit is couched in such pious jargon that we find it hard to believe that any of it applies directly to us.I’ve com … [Read more...]

12 Questions Leaders Need to Ask Themselves

Religious leaders cannot control what everyone in their circle chooses to do.  That kind of control has never been possible and the challenge is even greater today.The hallmark of contemporary life is the flight from accountability.  Rugged individualism has become petulant self-indulgence, hiding behind the guise of "my rights."  The priesthood of all believers has degenerated into “every person a god,” “each person's private convictions a religion.”But we can shape the ecclesiastical cu … [Read more...]

15 Words and Phrases that Deserve to Die

 "What did you say?"  With spring cleaning behind us, it's time to reexamine the language we use and the real meaning of some of the expressions that have found their way into our vocabulary.  Here are 15 words and phrases that deserve to die.  Feel free to add your own nominees in the comments selection below and strike a blow for cleaner, direct communication! "In my humble opinion" (IMHO)I am about to say something that I don’t want to prove and I don’t want you to c … [Read more...]

12 Things Clergy Spouses Want You to Know

I'm an Episcopal priest and my wife is a "parish" priest, which means that her "day job" -- if there were such a thing in a church (not) -- is shaped by the rhythm and demand of caring for the spiritual needs of a congregation.So, I have experience as a clergy person and as the spouse of a clergy person.  The spouses don't often get a chance to tell their own story, but if they could, here are twelve things I think they would want you to know:One: We are thrilled to be here.  This isn't j … [Read more...]

7 Reasons Why the Church Should Learn to Disagree

According to experts great and small, we’ve lost our ability to disagree.  Rather than discuss our differences and stay in conversation with one another, we go on the attack.  We belittle, judge, and demonize one another.  And, when all else fails, we walk away.That’s a loss, not just because we are divided into ever smaller tribes of what we imagine are like-minded groups of people, but because there are important reasons to learn how to disagree.What should be troubling to us as Christ … [Read more...]

6 things people need to hear from churches (but are rarely said)

The recent Pew study on the grown of “Nones” and the “Spiritual But Not Religious” has roiled the church.  But we really shouldn’t be surprised.  We’ve known for a long time now that the apparent “churchiness” of the fifties and sixties was an exception, not the rule.Frankly, I’m not convinced that the statistics charted by Pew are even “a trend.”  It could be argued that Americans are just getting honest about how disenchanted they are with church.Trend or not, the disenchantment can be … [Read more...]

What do you do with doubt?

What do you do with doubt?The answers to that question are as varied as the history of doubt itself.Some people celebrate the contribution that doubt makes and consider it the hallmark of intellectual maturity.  Halfway through a hefty volume on the history of doubt, Jennifer Hecht cites an old Zen maxim: "Great Doubt: great awakening. Little Doubt: little awakening. No Doubt: no awakening."  On that reading of things, doubt is the engine of enlightenment and insight.At the other end … [Read more...]