Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Crisis of Younger Clergy

By Lovett Weems, Jr & Ann Michel

We have all noticed that there are far fewer young adults in our churches. What many may not have noticed is that the number of young clergy, those under 35, are declining at an alarming rate.

If you want your eyes opened to a situation that could be critical to the future of the church then this book is well worth the time to read. It will challenge the way all parts of the church need to look at how we are handling our new and younger members of the clergy.

The book is based on data from a study done by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. The number of young clergy has been decreasing for years and while that seems to have leveled out, it is still a concern for a number of reasons. The reduced number of clergy is reflecting the lower number of young people in youth and young adult programs in our churches.

One of the major considerations is the entry process that is used for new clergy entering the system in the United Methodist Church. There are a number of those entering seminary that are not willing to put in the years for seminary and then an extended time before ordination. The costs of seminary, lack of financial support and low starting salaries is also a major factors in loss of young clergy.

Many pastors graduating today are out of churches that have no relationship with the churches that they are being asked to serve in first appointments. Traditionally the majority of pastors came out of small rural churches and their first appointment was in a similar church. Today many of the pastors are entering the system from urban or larger suburban churches but are still being assigned to small rural churches with whom they have trouble relating. A part of the gap is a generation different in these first appointments.

There is also the problem that many of our young pastors are expected to bring in young people to the church but the church body is not prepared or willing to receive them. With many clergy leaving seminary with more than $30,000 in debt salaries are a large part of the problem as well.

We cannot afford to continue to watch our young clergy leave the denomination or expect those that remain in the system to save it. This book addresses these issues and more and will open your eyes to new insights on the state of the church today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fusion: Turning First-time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church

By Nelson Searcy

I have been reading a lot about radical hospitality lately. The church needs to learn to not only attract new people into the church but learn to assimilate them into the life of the church. Too often we do things to encourage visitors to the church and then don’t know what to do with them when they come and the leave and we never see them again.

This book is a simple read with a simple system to assimilate guests (not visitors) into the life of the church and move them to active members of the church. Most of what is here is so simple that you will find yourself asking why didn’t I think of that.

One quote that really got my attention was “When your second-time guests walk through your door, they unknowingly come face to face with a fork in the road. Four to six months from that moment, they will either be assimilated into your church or they will be gone.” What are you doing with guests at your church?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
By Robert Schnase

Bishop Schnase in this work tells us the church must focus on Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission and Service and Extravagant Generosity in order to be about the business of making disciples for Jesus Christ.

As a Natural Church Development Coach (NCD) I found this volume intriguing since it uses many of the same thought processes about focusing the church and helping it to move in a new direction. It would make a great study for a local church trying to refocus its ministry. If you want to learn what some key points are in being a disciple making congregation then this book is worth the read. I am thinking about using it as a study in my church for a foundation in renewing ministry and growth.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Leading Turnaround Churches

By Gene Wood
If you are a leader in a church that is stagnant or declining like more than 85% of the churches in the United States and want to turn it around to growth this book is a must.

Turnaround ministry is for those that like a challenge and are not afraid of conflict. In this book Wood deals with many of the costs of leading a church to the changes necessary for new life and growth. Before you enter this type of ministry you should consider the costs. They can be very high and the pressure considerable.

He talks about what a turnaround looks like and the characteristics of those leaders. He also addresses what you can expect from your pastor if you want them to do turnaround ministry.
Wood says that 95% of all problems in the church come from a power struggle.

This book will help leaders understand and evaluate their ability to lead their church from a plateau and decline to a time of growth. This ministry is not for the weak. I highly recommend this book to all church leaders.

They Like Jesus But Not the Church

By Dan Kimball

If you are looking to minister to people in their 20s and 30s then you need to read this book. The image of the church is so poor for this generation that we must make substantial changes if we are going to reach them for Christ.

One of the keys will be to get out of the comfort of our church buildings and into the community in which they live. They sure are not coming to us or into the church.

This age group is known as the emerging generation. The church says it wants to do ministry with this generation but what will it take to make that possible is addressed in this book.

What the Emerging Generations Thinks about the Church
The church is an organized religion with a political agenda
The church is judgmental and negative
The church is dominated by males and oppresses females
The church is homophobic
The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally

If you are a traditionalist this book will make you very uncomfortable. If you think the church needs to be or do something different then this will give you thoughts on what that might be.