Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ministering with Young Adults

The following is an excellent post from Lou Jander's "Dr. J's Ponderings". I would provide a link, but to my knowledge, it is simply an enews newsletter,
Young Adults and the Church
As I look around our church, around the community, and even around other churches, I keep wondering about the young adult population, a segment that continues to grow and not necessarily in church participation. A few weeks ago a number of members and I attended a workshop put on by Lutheran Hour Ministries, Equipping to Share, a fine workshop for the basics of being an everyday, anywhere witness for Jesus. There were about 35 people in attendance. I don’t have the best “gage” of age these days, but a quick count of those in the room rendered about five under the age of 50. Wonder how that plays out in most of our churches on Sunday morning…just the adults please…five young adults under 50 of those adults in attendance. Just pondering!

This all leads me to something that has been an interest and passion for the past 16 years (that’s how long it’s been since I was a “young adult”): young adults in the church. In some reading I was doing recently, I wrote down some notes that speak to young adults in the church. So here they are:

Young Adults Talk About Church Involvement
Church leaders often seek ways to keep young adults involved during the transitions of young adulthood.
The following comments are taken from young adults who answered the question: “Based on your experience, what suggestions would you offer to churches for effectiveness in ministry to young adults after college graduation or at the time of entering the workforce?”
  • Don't ignore us. There doesn't seem to be any place for us after the college group unless it's helping with the teen group (and a lot do that in my church).
  • I think having a small group to mentor and help us with our concerns and spiritual challenges would be helpful. Help us connect with the other generations in the congregation. We can learn a lot from people who are 5 to 50 years older than we are.
  • Churches need to let young adults know they are important to the church. Provide a structure for them; listen to them to see what they are looking for. Churches will automatically become more effective with young adult ministry if they show through their actions (providing structure, belonging, and leadership) that young adults are a priority.
  • The time right after graduation is such a scary time of making decisions, finding your spouse, finding your place in your career, finding a place to live, and so on. The church should be one place that young adults find guidance!
  • Maybe churches could identify local companies and businesses that have hired recent college graduates. Then, reach out to those who are struggling to live on their own for the first time. Offer financial seminars, social gatherings to meet others, and provide fellowship opportunities. But most importantly, get them involved. Not just in youth and children's ministries, include community outreach. Our generation wants to help, to serve, and to get involved!
  • Have a group that college/career age individuals can attend. Important aspects of this group would be active community involvement and a concentration on discipleship and evangelism. We also need to associate with older adults for discipleship.
  • Find out where we are in our careers, on our spiritual journeys, in our relationships, and where we want to be. Identify people in the church who are willing to mentor us. Invite us to be part of a ministry or encourage, empower, and support us as we begin one. We still have things to learn! We can add valuable components to the church such as creativity, energy, and an adventurous spirit.
Information about young adults often paints them with a broad brush and can be disheartening. These comments from young adults with connections to the church remind us that many are committed to living the Christian lifestyle. Our challenge is to mentor, encourage, and support them as they seek direction for their lives. These comments extend an invitation for adults to share life with them. What actions can and will you take?

Sunday, April 25, 2010


The slide show below from Jonathan Taylor gives some good pointers on moving through change and tradition in urban communities. Click on the arrows to change slides.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Geoff Surratt has recently published a book entitled “Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing.” In an interview about the book, (Click here for interview)Surratt listed ten things he would do differently if he were starting over again in ministry:

1. Preparing others to do the work of the ministry rather than trying to do most of the ministry myself.

2. Finding the right balance between family and ministry

3. Focusing on having an outstanding weekend worship experience

4. Creating compelling environments for children's ministry

5. Emphasizing integrity rather than just talent in developing new leaders

6. Being willing to move the church if it wasn't in the right location for the mission of that local congregation

7. Finding God's unique expression of ministry rather than closely copying what another successful church is doing

8. Always working for reconciliation in conflict rather than defaulting to discipline

9. Avoiding any conflict of interest when pursuing any business opportunities outside of the church

10. Building healthy teams rather than getting bogged down with endless committees

Makes sense to me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


May God bless each of you during this holy season with the joyous promise of life and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Because He lives, we live and have hope for this life and the life to come.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


A Book Review of Dan Hotchkiss’ Governance and Ministry

Books on governance and structure for Christian congregations will often present a “how-to” plan for a certain set of by-laws and governing documents or a theory of governance borrowed from the business world but not quite tested in congregations. Dan Hotchkiss in his book, Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2009), manages to combine missional theology, organizational know-how and practical experience into a volume that will be of help to both parish leaders and congregational consultants. It is a book that is written by a man who knows what he is talking about through his work with a multitude of congregations over many years. He seems, at times, to anticipate your questions, and his chapters are full of both wisdom and caveats for congregations of all sizes.

Hotchkiss recognizes from the beginning that “organized religion” is an oxymoron, yet our revolutionary faith must be set forth in an ordered way. He calls governance an art to be practiced rather than simply a skill to be learned. “Leaders must continually balance the conserving function of an institution with the expectation of disruptive, change-inducing creativity that comes when individuals peek past the temple veil and catch fresh visions of the Holy.”

The book does not offer a particular model of governance and structure. Indeed, the author contends that there is no one right way to organize a congregation, but he does offer a framework in which congregations can make choices within the general concepts of governance (setting direction, values, plans) and ministry (the day-to-day practical work of the congregation.)

Theory is set forth in terms that are easily understood by the average person. More importantly, theory is applied in practical ways that will be of help to any congregation. Hotchkiss declares that when it comes to governance, size does, indeed, matter, and he makes it clear that most of the observations in the book apply to congregations in the “pastoral” size range (50-150 in worship), but he displays a knowledge of large congregations, and especially “family size” congregations (50 or less in worship) that I have seldom found elsewhere. Any pastor serving a small congregation and thinking about restructuring needs to read this book! Small congregations just can’t be governed in the same way as mid-sized congregations, but they can distinguish governance and ministry roles for the sake of God’s mission.

Again and again, practical guidance is the forte of this book in chapters that deal with such subjects as…

  • Effective Evaluation of pastor, staff and board.
  • Budgeting for mission in difficult times.
  • Board covenants and norms.
  • Dealing with conflict.
  • Money and mission.

The book is a good read for both congregational leaders and congregational consultants.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Evaluate Pastor and Staff

When I was District President I would frequently get calls from congregational leaders asking for help in evaluating their pastor. Often, but not always, that would be a sign of conflict that demanded conflict resolution rather than help with evaluation. And when evaluation was done, it was often done in retrospect against standards and goals that were not discussed or agreed upon at the beginning of the evaluation period.

Dan Hotchkiss, in his book Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, (Herndon, VA, Alban Institute, 2009), gives certain principles for effective evaluation.

Effective evaluation of the pastor or other staff members is …

  • Scheduled: Evaluation takes place by the calendar, not in response to problems.
  • Mutual: Everyone gives and receives feedback.
  • Goal-centered: Previously established goals are the basis for evaluation.
  • Individual: “Am I meeting the expected standard for my job?” “How am I contributing to our goals?”
  • Collective: “What progress have we made towards our goals?” “How do we need to adjust our course?” “How are we fulfilling our vision for this particular program area?”
  • Backward looking: “What did I accomplish?” “How well did we do?”
  • Forward looking: “How can I improve?” “What should we do differently next time?”

The key, of course, to any effective evaluation is the ability to set both personal and congregational goals. A staff member cannot be evaluated unless there is a clear and realistic understanding of what that staff member is expected to do, and that depends, to a large extent, upon what the congregation sees as its mission.

Some good advice on setting personal performance plans and goals may be found on the “mindtools” website. (Click Here)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Missional Church Can Exist in Any Size or Situation

Dr. Lou Jander, Texas District, LCMS, shared this article on his weekly email recently. It was written by Rev. Phil Stevenson of the Wesleyan Church and published on the Expanding Wave newsletter. It shows that an a missional church can exist in any situation and with any size congregation.

Last month I was in West Virginia with my partner in ministry, Jim Dunn. We were presenting a seminar entitled "The Intentional Missional Church." The host of this event shared with us that we would be holding the training at Three Mile Wesleyan Church. "This church," he explained, "is located in a holler."

Honestly, I was both intrigued and concerned about this prospect. I had never been in a holler. I wasn't even sure what a holler was. And any connotation I had of a holler was not overly positive. Images of feuds and folk not welcoming of outsiders played themselves out in my vivid imagination. Riding with our host on roads that crawled deeper into the wooded hills did nothing to abate my mental picture. What I discovered, however, was anything but what I had created in my imagination.

A holler is a small valley that has only one way in and one way out. The Three Mile Church was located at the 'head' of the holler. The head is about as far back as you can get in a holler. It is located on a very small piece of property. To call it postage stamp size would be much too generous. It is here Pastor Billy Burdette has been ministering for over 10 years. It is here I discovered a missional church. It is here God taught me lessons of faith, vision and effectiveness. Here are the discoveries:

  • It's not your location that limits you, it's the limits you put on your location. I could think of all kinds of reasons a church should not be effective in such an obscure location. There is not much drive-by traffic in a holler.
  • Needs are everywhere; if you notice them you can meet them. Three Mile had just completed the construction of a gym/family life center. It has a fully furnished kitchen, with an impressive eating area. Why did they build such a facility at the Head of the Holler? Pastor Billy shared that there was no place for people to gather. No place for folks to have anniversary parties, wedding receptions, family reunions, etc. It was meeting needs. It was a community center.
  • Quality is in the little things. What I saw, they did with quality. They had motion-activated hand towel dispensers. They had flat screens in each Sunday School Room upstairs. The equipment in the Kitchen was excellent.
  • Clarity of mission brings focus to ministry. Pastor Billy knows that young people need to be reached. They have chosen to focus on teens and younger. This is reflected in their new gym/family life center. It is reflected in their programming. They run a midweek kid's ministry that has, at times, connected with over 100 kids. They feed dozens. Their youth program runs over 30 people.
  • A leader who has a heart for God and a passion for people will be effective. Pastor Billy is bi-vocational. This could be an excuse for not doing what is necessary to reach his community. He doesn't allow that. He wants to make his God known. He loves people. This causes him to do whatever it takes to connect the two.
  • Missional matters. Being missional is simply looking outside of ourselves to see the community that surrounds us. Three Mile Church is missional because it is driven by the community needs, not congregational wants.

The next time you find yourself bemoaning your location; the next time you discover yourself thinking there are no more people to reach; the next time you believe missional is too postmodern for you; the next time you believe you are too small to do things with quality; I want you to take a moment and consider the church at the head of the holler.