Leadership Links

Our synod grows stronger because its dedicated leaders continue to learn new ways of approaching ministry and serving God’s people. Check here each week for a link to a video, article, podcast, powerpoint presentation or other media that will help our leaders embrace new ideas and learn new insights into ministry.

This Week’s Leadership Link

Eight-Part Bible Study: Stewardship Basics: Here’s a free in-depth stewardship curriculum that can help your congregation learn not only what the Bible has to say about stewardship, but also how to live as steward-disciples. From the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the free eight-part study invites deep engagement with Scripture to explore stewardship as 21st century disciples of Christ. Leader and participant guides are offered in PDF download.

Leadership Link Archives

10/10/17 Our brains are wired for negative thinkingOK, so your congregation has shot down every new idea you’ve proposed in the last five years? The problem may be our evolutionary brains, say scientists, who have found that our minds are biased toward the status quo. No wonder change is so hard! This fascinating article provides insight and guidance. How might this knowledge help your ministry?

10/03/17 20 Lessons from 20 Years of Ministry
It’s been said that smart people learn from their experiences, but wise people learn from the experience of others. In this article, Brian Croft distills the most important lessons he’s learned from two decades in ministry. What can you learn from him?

09/26/17 Celebrate abundance with a fall harvest worshipHelp your congregation celebrate God’s abundance and God’s wonderful creation. A harvest worship service that gives thanks to God for the bounty of the earth will also remind parishioners of the seasons of the year, the cycle of life, the value of farms, the need for sustainable care of creation, and the source of our nourishment. What local agriculture can you bring in? Here are some resources.

09/19/17 How to be a neighborOftentimes, church outreach to neighbors in need focuses on helping them with direct aid. Worthy, yes, and all about Matthew 25, for sure, but is there a better approach? Writing on the Episcopal Church Foundation site, blogger Alan Benthrup suggests an alternative. How would that work for your context?

09/12/17  Four Last-Minute Stewardship Ideas for 2017: Wise stewards know that an annual stewardship emphasis is a good way to help a congregation become accustomed to thinking about the connection between discipleship and faithful giving. If your church has not had a chance to plan something for this year, here are  four simple ideas that your team can put together without a lot of advance preparation. Which one would work for you? (If you need advice, Assistant to the Bishop Rob Blezard is happy to talk with you: rblezard@lss-elca.org).

09/04/17  “I’m a Pastor with Depression: For Years I Thought I Had to Hide It.’: “Depression lies to me. It is relentless,” ELCA Pastor Jason Chestnut writes in Sojourners. “It tells me I will always feel this way, that I’m not deserving of help, that I am a burden, a waste — that my life is thoroughly hopeless.” Ministry is hard, and the stresses clergy face can lead may people to depression. Chestnut describes how he finds ways to cope and thrive. For more information on depression, click here for a brief, authoritative article from the National Institutes of Health.

08/29/17 Avoid ‘Punch-the-Clock’ Ministry: Ministry professionals are accustomed to working hard. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of defining our ministry by how many hours we put in, and then defining our value by those hours. The sad truth is that many of us can end up spending long hours on work that, however necessary, does not advance the mission or effectiveness of our ministry, says blogger Karl Vaters of Christianity Today. He offers tips for how to avoid – or get out of – this trap.

08/15/17 StewardNetHot off the presses …. check out the latest StewardNet, the ELCA’s quarterly leadership and stewardship publication.  Here you’ll find all sorts of ideas and inspirations to guide your congregation to new areas of spirituality and discipleship including links to videos, resources for further exploration, and training opportunities across the country. Definitely worth a close look!

08/08/17 Why We Should Talk About Vocation: Lutherans understand that our work is vocation, yet many of us are not taught to think of occupation as ministry. This article from Flourish shares reasons why a strategy for raising disciples should equip people for the time occupying 40 percent of waking hours. What can your congregation do?

08/01/17  Leadership is Life Stewardship: Every person on the planet each gets 24 hours in 60-minute blocks that come in 60-second intervals. So why do some people achieve so much more than others? The answer is life stewardship. If you want to accomplish great things, you must dedicate yourself to the disciplines that will leverage your divine design to change the world in and around you. You can’t lead until you understand stewardship. 

07/25/17 Don’t Run the Church Like a Business: Lots of people – even pastors and lay leaders – will tell you that the church should be operated like a business. After all, a church has a lot of things common to businesses — bills to pay, employees to manage, cash flow to maintain and “customers” to keep happy. It may sound tempting, but it’s a very bad idea, says Karl Vaters, blogging in ChristianityToday.  In this post he discusses the issue and links to his follow-up column where he goes into more detail.

07/18/17  Trading Excellence for EfficiencyAs church leaders, we are simultaneously pushed in in one direction for the sake of ministry excellence and another direction for the sake of church efficiency. Though some exceptional leaders can manage to be both excellent and efficient at the same time, most of us are squished in the middle – having to make decisions for one or the other. The delicate balance is to operate with self-awareness and a wide sense of your congregation’s ministry priorities and needs, says this writer for LifeWay Leadership. What works for you and your church?

07/11/17 Love Your Church: God calls us to love the church, not merely to like it. “Like” implies a consumer mindset … or even a Facebook mindset– “No effort is required on my part.” Loving, on the other hand, is much more difficult. It requires something of us. It implies a commitment or covenant. It’s normal for leaders to experience moments when they aren’t sure they like their church, but they should always love it. This challenging blog from Logan Leadership explores how your church and your vocation might change with a focus on loving your congregation.

07/04/17 Plan Your Fall Stewardship: It’s not too late to plan a solid fall stewardship emphasis, but time’s definitely running out! The ELCA’s booklet “How to Improve Financial Stewardship” provides good, practical planning advice, as well as resources and helps to get you going. Need more guidance? Assistant to the Bishop Rob Blezard (rblezard@lss-elca.org) is ready and able to give congregations and leaders advice, coaching and consultation.

06/27/17 Set Benchmarks for Learning: Consider “learning benchmarks” as you’re planning out your Christian education for the fall. Benchmarks are useful for measuring progress or setting standards in lots of fields of endeavor, including athletics, work and education. Yet many Sunday schools and faith formation programs do not have them. For example, what can one expect a 12-year-old to know about the Bible? What about a 6-year-old? A 30-year-old? This article from  buildingfaith.com explores benchmarks and how to set them. It also links to some great examples.

06/20/17 Your Stewardship Summer Reading List: Forget the latest John Grisham thriller or Sue Grafton’s whodunit — this summer put some stewardship books in your beachbag! There’s never been a better selection of brilliant, informative reading material to help you plan and execute your congregation’s stewardship program. From the practical to the theological, there’s something to fit your congregation’s need. This suggested list from Stewardship For Us has some excellent choices.

06/13/17  Start a Health Ministry in Your Congregation: Here’s How! It’s hard to be spiritually healthy when your physical health needs work, and that’s why a parish nurse or health advocate program is a good idea for every congregation. It’s especially important as obesity rates rise and our health-care system is on such uncertain footing. This free 17-page comprehensive guide from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod will help your church launch a health ministry.

06/06/17  How I Recovered from Burnout: Burnout moves fatigue and the darkness from a place where it was in your control to a place where you simply cannot control either. Among church leadership, burnout, fatigue and overwhelm have become epidemic, writes church consultant Carey Nieuwhof, who in last week’s leader link shared signs of burnout. In this week’s link he shares how he pulled himself out of his dark period.

05/30/17  More than tired: Are you burning out? There’s a fine line between being tired and actually burning out. The challenge is, once you cross the line, it’s so difficult to get back. Eleven years ago, I entered into the darkest period of my life. People had always warned me I would burn out. I thought I could prove them wrong. And usually I did. I would get tired – out of balance – but when I saw the edge, I could always pull myself back. But then I couldn’t. Church consultant Carey Nieuwhof tells his story. Next week: How he recovered from burnout!

05/23/17  Four Mindsets Necessary for Transformational Leadership: Gifted and well-equipped leadership is absolutely essential for every church. If you look at a church that is growing, thriving, and doing a good job of transforming members into disciples, it’s almost always because of a leader who is engaged, creative, entrepreneurial and has the right mindsets, says Ed Setzer, columnist for ChristianityToday. Knowing what these mindsets are can help every leader grow and become more effective.

05/16/17 Expand Your Capacity: You and I have exactly the same amount of time. Rich or poor, young or old, we each get 168 hours in a week. For many of us, that’s just not enough to get our jobs done! There’s no way to get more time, but what you can do is expand your capacity. You have the ability to be more fruitful with the same amount of time you’re working now. Brandon Cox offers suggestions in Pastors.com.

05/09/17 StewardNet – Spring 2017: Check out this latest edition of StewardNet, the ELCA’s quarterly publication focusing on leadership and stewardship. You’ll find all sorts of ideas and inspirations to guide your congregation to new areas of spirituality and discipleship. Plus there are links to videos and other resources for further exploration, as well as training opportunities across the country. Definitely worth a close look!

05/02/17 You Have Just 10 Minutes to Win Over Visitors: Visitors decide in the first 10 minutes of being in your congregation whether they will return, writes church consultant Carey Nieuwhof in ChurchLeaders.com. Folks who study these things say visitors often have reached a decision whether to return even before the first hymn has ended. What gives? Nothing complicated — simple hospitality, people and facility-related things. Once you know what the factors are, you can begin to address them. Good luck!

04/25/17 Why are Church Leaders Always Talking about Change? We worship an eternally unchanging God, as seen in a book whose newest parts are almost 2,000 years old. That’s a lot of stability. So why does it seem like every church leader talks more about the things my church needs to change than the things that need to stay the same? Here are some excellent reasons. Insightful reading, from Karl Vaters in Christianity Today.

04/18/17 Church Guest Checklist: “We’re a welcoming church,” everybody says about their own congregation. Everybody, that is, except maybe the visitors who don’t know where to park, which door to use, where the bathroom are or can’t follow the service. To help you become a truly welcoming church, Thom Rainer, church consultant CEO of LifeWay, has prepared an attractive, easy-to-use chart that lists some of the most important steps you can take. Share them with your congregation council.


04/11/17 17 Things a Leader Can Do to Transform a Community: Want to make a difference in your congregation and community but don’t know where to start or what to do? Here are some really good ideas! From LifeWay Leadership. Which can you begin today? Which would make the biggest difference to your church?

04/04/17 Preaching in a Time of Political Anxiety: In our cantankerous political climate, many preachers are coming to a greater realization that they cannot proclaim the gospel without making claims on people’s political identity, says Luther Seminary professor Matt Skinner. Sermons that speak only in abstract terms about love of neighbor, allegiance to Christ, human dignity, and the dangers of empire threaten to make Christian faith an abstraction. Skinner offers suggestions for prophetic preaching.

03/28/17 Leaders Should not be TOO Nice: Call it a hazard of ministry leadership: Being too nice. People expect, rightly, that church ministers will be nice, but taken too far niceness can undermine our ability to lead, argues Ron Edmondson, writing for ChurchLeaders.com. He suggests how to find that balance that will enable ministers to be nice but also lead their congregations with authority. How would you rate your “niceness” quotient? How can you do better?

03/21/17 Rabbits, Rapscallions and Transformative Leadership: The protagonist of the novel “Watership Down” is an ordinary bunny. But he’s humble, courageous, innovative and able to synthesize opposing ideas. These qualities make him a good leader, says this writer from Faith & Leadership, the magazine of Duke Divinity School. These are qualities you can cultivate to help lead your congregation into God’s preferred future.

03/14/17 Stewardship: More than Giving Money:  “Stewardship is another way of talking about ministry, and it would revolutionize ministry if people could think of it in terms of stewardship—that we are accountable to God for what we do and with what he has trusted to us,” says R. Paul Stevens in this Christianity Today interview. How would this paradigm shift revolutionize your ministry?

03/07/17  Strategies for Stress Management: Next to maybe Christmas (maybe) Lent/Holy Week/Easter is the time that gives church leaders the most the most gray hairs and the most ulcers. So this informative booklet guide on stress and stress management may come in handy! It covers the basics and gives you “52 Proven Stress Relievers.”  (That’s more than one for each of the days of Lent!) From the University of North Carolina  Wilmington. Make copies for everybody in church!

02/28/17 Leadership Boards Need to be Formed Before Getting to Work: So you are excited because you finally have a promising bunch of new folks on that committee or board, and the first meeting is coming up. Time to dive right  into the agenda, right? Wrong, says Nathan Kirkpatrick, writing in Duke Divinity’s Faith & Leadership. To function well, members must first get to know one another. “This sounds obvious, and yet I am surprised by the number of church boards that are still largely strangers to one another months into their work together.” He offers sound, commonsense tips.

02/21/17 How to Preach in a Divided Culture: Though it may be a stretch to look your congregation in “Red Pew/Blue Pew” terms, it’s likely in today’s hyper-partisan culture that the members of your congregation look at the world through wildly different lenses. As a result, ministers have to be extra careful these days to preach in ways that on the one hand are faithful to the Gospel, yet on the other hand do not further divide their congregations. In this essay, an Episcopal priest talks about his struggle to walk that middle-line.

02/14/17  Stop Making Excuses for Mediocre Ministry: Too many leaders use bad excuses for not putting their best foot forward in ministry, writes Karl Vaters in Christianity Today.  If anything hinders our ability to do what God has called us to do, we don’t have the option to let it slide. We take responsibility, seek God’s guidance and grow.

02/07/17 Gil Rendle: Leadership means ‘pushing people to purpose’What does congregational leadership mean in this fast-changing culture? Methodist leadership author and consultant Gil Rendle offers some insights in this interview in Faith & Leadership, a publication of Duke Divinity School. “Every day you get up, your situation has changed from the way it was before. And so how do you lead when everything doesn’t hold still?” One idea: “You try to disturb the system in the right direction.”

01/30/17 The Most Important Stewardship Job in the Church: It’s not the person who collects the money, counts the money or deposits the money. Nor the one who heads the annual campaign or chooses a stewardship theme, writes Rebekah Simon-Peters. It’s not the person who collects, counts or deposits the money. In fact, the most important stewardship job has nothing to do with money.  Insight from MinistryMatters.

01/23/17 Humility: A Key to Clergy & Congregational Health: Ministry is a tough gig, for sure, with stresses galore and unrealistic expectations to meet! But researchers have found that pastors who are humble and accessible may boost their own health — and that of the congregation. Interesting reading from the Association of Religious Data Archives. What do you think?

01/17/17 Double Visitors, Increase Membership: It’s not rocket science to attract visitors — potential new members — to your church, says Thom Rainer, CEO of LifeWay. In a series of four free videos Rainer says he will give you tips to double the visitor flow to your church. In the first one, available now, Rainer outlines six reasons guests decide to come to your church. Watch for the remaining four later this month.

01/10/17  Disruptive Church Trends that will Rule 2017: There appears to be no slowing down of the rapid changes that are taking place in our culture, and Mainline churches seem to be falling farther behind. “Too many church leaders are perfectly equipped serve and reach a world that no longer exists,” writes leadership consultant Carey Nieuwhof, who identifies six dominant trends.

01/03/17  Re-Ignite Your Passion for Ministry: It’s a brand-new year, so why not make it one where you rediscover why you became a church leader in the first place. In other words, reignite that passion that sent you down the path that led to be a pastor, deacon, youth leader, musician — whatever professional capacity you serve. In this article Rick Warren has some good suggestions. Why not talk about them with a trusted colleague who can take the journey with you?

12/20/16  Now’s the Time to Start Stewardship Planning: Christmas and the approaching New Year should prompt you to begin looking at your financial plans for 2017. Many church leaders will wait until late spring or even summer and then ask somebody in the church to head up a campaign in the fall, at which point the pastor will preach on money one Sunday and people will be asked to once again sign a card. Honestly, right now, do you really think your results will be any different than they have been? So asks stewardship consultant J. Clif Christopher (author of Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate), who says that before January is over congregation leaders should ask and answer some important questions on stewardship.

12/13/16  What Great Music and Leadership have in Common: Music is all-consuming. Our reaction to a great song can be so visceral that we are forever connected to it. Hearing that song can bring you back to a moment in time, and often, it binds you to a person too; every time you hear it, you are there with them again, reliving a wonderful moment. This is something every leader aspires to do with those around them as well: to inspire and move people like great music does. Great insights from DailyGood!

12/6/16  Winter 2016 Edition of StewardNetStewardNET is the ELCA’s quarterly publication that has lots of information and links on how to make stewardship a stronger part of your congregational ministry. Check out the Winter 2016 edition for news on the Congregational Vitality Project, Mission Interpretation, and more.

11/29/16  Take the 21-day complaint-free challenge: Ever wonder what it would be like if your church were complaint free, with no griping about the budget, worship songs or staff? What if all our words were like honey? “Gracious speech is like clover honey — good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24, The Message). Maybe for the 21 days from Advent 2 to Christmas Sunday you could challenge your congregants to cut the complaints. This blogger from the United Methodist Church has some really good ideas.
11/22/16  
Crowdfunding for congregations:  To fund their ministries many congregations are exploring new sources, including crowdfunding. In this wonderful 22-page “how-to” guide, Adam Copeland of Luther Seminary’s Center for Stewardship Leaders explains what crowdfunding is and how a congregation can get started. “Because the church has always funded its ministry through small gifts from a large number of people, crowdfunding is not too much of a stretch for congregations,” Copeland writes. Would crowdfunding work for your congregation?

11/15/16  Three Thoughts on Stewardship: Most of us weren’t taught a whole lot about stewardship in seminary, so we’re largely unprepared to address the two most important questions that arise, explicitly or implicitly, in the minds of our people. If we can answer those questions in our preaching, teaching and congregational life, we’ll see more generous giving, says Hans Dahl, in a posting from Luther Seminary’s Center for Stewardship leaders.

11/08/16 The Work of the Week: Author and pastor Eugene Peterson reflects on the vocation of ministry and the sacred trust that professional church leaders have been given. Though our Sunday work has remained relatively constant for generations, the ministry we do between Sundays has evolved with the culture.

11/01/16  Faces of Faith: A Steward’s Book of Prayers: Whether you want to find something for your personal meditation, devotions to begin for your next Congregation Council or Finance Committee meeting, prayers to lift up on Commitment Sunday or a resource you can share with your whole congregation, “Faces of Faith” can help. It’s a 96-page booklet from the Episcopal Church that’s available for a free PDF download. You can email it (or the link) to everyone you know.

10/26/16  Things to do when a church is in decline: There’s no quick fixes or silver bullets that will turn around a church that’s in decline, but some things can help. God is in charge, it’s true, but God has called us to lead our congregations, and with God’s help we will. Here are some suggestions, from churchleaders.com.

10/19/16  2 Choices Church Leaders MUST Make for Emotional Survival: Congregational ministry is a tough, tough job! Anybody who tells you otherwise is badly mistaken. In addition to serving the pastoral and worship needs of the church, ministers are at the front line of every church crises that arises. Talk about stress. This writer, a pastor, reveals two tips that helps him stay balanced.

10/12/16 Starving in the Pews: More than any other single factor, the quality of preaching makes the biggest impact on church life, yet many leaders fail to give it the attention it deserves, says Michael Peppard, writing in Commonweal. “From the pew, here’s what I want to yell at every preacher in the pulpit: You have no idea of the spiritual hunger out here. Almost every sermon is a missed opportunity.” He offers good suggestions.

10/05/16 Don’t wait until you NEED a leader to develop one: You know how it goes: the church desperately needs a (fill in the blank – teacher, council member, committee person, usher, lector, youth volunteer, etc.) and nobody you talk to says yes. The writer of this article suggests a better way. Read about his leadership development program that  identifies and trains people before the need arises. Might it work in your congregation?

09/28/16 20 Observations about Troubled Congregations: Pastor Peter Steinke, the Lutheran guru on family systems and dynamics in congregations, distills his vast experience into 20 concise observations about change, conflict and leadership. Which have you seen at work in your congregation? (And if your congregation is experiencing conflict, do you know our synod has a team of experts to work with you before molehills become mountains?)

09/21/16  13 Reasons Churches Need a Planned Giving Ministry: Stewardship experts say that congregations too frequently neglect to help their parishioners understand the spiritual value of legacy giving, and in the process also overlook opportunities to provide financial resources for their ministries. Here, from Giving Matters, are some compelling reasons for a Planned Giving Ministry.  (If this article convinces you and you’d like to start one, look below for the “Local Church Planned Giving Manual.” )

09/14/16  Depressed, Stressed, and Burned Out: Jesus warned his disciples that following him would not be easy, and today’s church leaders know that all too well. Our churches face daunting challenges to stay relevant and (let’s name it!) sustainable amid tumultuous social and religious changes. The pressure on leaders is so great, no wonder stress, depression and burnout are growing problems. This in-depth article from Enrichment Journal (Assemblies of God) outlines some the problems and what we can do about it. Talk about this with your colleagues, or at your conferences.

09/07/16 We Will No Longer Be a Welcoming Church:  It’s the goal of many of our congregations – to be a welcoming church. Is yours one of them? The writer of this essay moved his church away from that old strategy because it was no longer working. This compelling essay talks about the steps his congregation took to change direction, pivoting towards the neighbors they wanted to reach. It’s the plan that might work for your church. Share this with your council and leadership team and decide: Do you still want to be a welcoming church?

08/23/16 What Church-Shoppers Look For: Visitors! Every congregations gets them, but not every congregation is able to bring them into full participation or — the Holy Grail of Lutheran churches — membership. What do they look for? The Pew Research Center studied the question. The results may not only surprise you, it may also help you fashion your next evangelism and outreach push.

08/16/16  The Most Important Decision a Church Leader Can Make Each Day: Faced with too much work, too little time, and multiple decisions to make every day, church leaders can easily forget to make the one decision that can keep them on track, keep them energized, and keep their creative juices flowing in the midst of it all. Here’s solid advice for every leader who is tired, frustrated, angry or approaching burnout. From Pastors.com.

08/10/16 Try-a-tithe Sunday: Giving a tenth of your income to the ministries of God – a practice known as tithing – is a biblical benchmark for generosity, but it’s a big step up for many of our members. Here’s a great idea from the ELCA stewardship office: Try-a-tithe Sunday. Designate a Sunday and invite your folks to tithe their weekly income just for this Sunday, You can start doing it yearly, or semiannually, or monthly. Get things going!

08/03/16 Rethinking Sunday School:  Faced with a rapidly changing social culture, churches are challenging old assumptions about Sunday school and discovering new ways to encourage faith formation not only for their youth, but all age groups. Here are some great ideas for revamping Christian education. Which would work for your congregation? Could you experiment with a few classes and see how it goes?

07/26/16 Embrace Generosity! Great for fall 2016! This FREE stewardship program outlines a five-week emphasis that tracks with the texts of Lectionary Year C beginning Sept. 25, 2016 (but you can also run it anytime using its non-Lectionary suggestions). It culminates with a commitment Sunday, where you invite members to pledge. You will find just about everything you need — timetables, sermon notes, discussion guides, sample letters, sample pledge cards, sample thank-you notes. It suggests buying and equipping every household with a stewardship devotion, but you can adapt a program without it. You’ll also read about how to craft a narrative budget.

07/19/16  Lead a Vision-Based Budget Retreat:  We all desire to do a better job when it comes to our church’s budget. How many times have we had to move funds from one line item to another creating a lack of clarity, confusion, and frustrations among our council? Imagine a way forward with your budgeting that is clear, concise, catalytic, compelling and most of all on point. One solution is a vision-based budgeting retreat. This resource offers a simple step-by-step process.

07/12/16  Resources to Help Your Church Start Discussing Race Today: The tragedies of the last few weeks in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Minneapolis are only the latest in what has been several years with way too many incidents of racial tension and violence to ignore. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we have an important role in calming fears, soothing tensions, educating our culture, proclaiming our values, promoting civil discourse, advocating for greater justice, and modeling love for our neighbor as ourselves. This compilation of articles from Missio Alliance can help you get started.

07/05/16  Encouraging attitude change in the congregation: Why is it that lots of churches and their leaders work hard and pray fervently for a better future, yet never seem to get anywhere? The determining factor in congregational flourishing often comes down to attitudes. Change initiatives can grind to a halt when prevailing attitudes impede movement. But attitudes can change, and leaders who have an understanding of the anatomy of an attitude can help congregants reconsider and revise them, says this article from the Alban Institute.

06/28/16  ‘Meet the Stewards’ Stewardship Emphasis: Need a stewardship series for this fall? “Meet the Stewards” will introduce your congregation to the Steward family, each of whom exemplifies a different area of stewardship. Sabbatha pays attention to Sunday worship and rest. Christian Ed is a learner. Holly (who goes by “Volly”) volunteers. Buck is a giver. This free 22-page resource from the Moravian Church explains how you can lift up one of these characters per Sunday as a way to teach lifelong stewardship.

06/21/16  Steps to Developing Leaders in Your Church: You hear the same complaint all across our church: “Our lay leadership is burning out because we have too few people doing too much. We just can’t get new people to step up.” This article from LifeWay gives tips for encouraging and developing leaders for the important jobs in your church. Which idea would work for your context?

06/14/16  Carpe Tithing: Invigorate Your Faith Life: “The tithe as a spiritual discipline is vastly underappreciated by modern Christians. I believe that if we boldly reintroduce the challenge to tithe, personally embrace the conviction of its worth, and then do it, we will provide abundant resources for God’s work in the world as well as invigorate our experience of life in Christ. “ So writes the Rev. Margaret G. Payne, retired bishop of the New England Synod, in The Lutheran Journal of Ethics. She makes some very good points. Click above to read more!

06/08/16 Five Stages of a Leader’s Ministry: Many leaders last only a couple years in their calls before moving on, whereas others spend decades in the same congregation. Why is that? How can a leader increase effectiveness and avoid the potholes that can sandbag a ministry and cause a premature departure? Church commentator Thom Rainer has ideas in this article from ChurchLeaders.com. Which apply to your ministry? What can you learn? (Thanks to Pr. Brian Biery, who first posted this on the Lower Susquehanna Synod Rostered Leaders’ page on Facebook).

05/31/16  Social Media Goes Spiritual: Does your church have lively digital presence? Mainline congregations are finding that social media is a great way to keep in touch with their people and reach new ones. This article from the Lilly Endowment’s Insights into Religion explores some of the dimensions and possibilities — and provides links for further reading. Which would work for your context?

05/25/16 Leadership Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Earlier: You hear folks say again and again, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” It’s a truism because to some extent we all learn things the hard way. If we’re smart, we’ll learn from other people’s mistakes by listening to their advice. In this article from LifeWay leadership, Philip Nation reveals things he wished he had learned earlier. What can you learn from him? What would be on YOUR list?

05/18/16 Fear Not: Church Leadership for Panicked Souls: Every congregational leader, even the very seasoned and tough among us, experiences trying times when church work seems more like facing an enemy in battle than shepherding sheep into God’s pasture. But God gives us resources and ways to help us find strength, courage, endurance and wisdom, says the writer of this essay from ChristianityToday.com.

05/11/16 Foster Creativity in Your Congregation: Creativity: You see it in every church where people are engaged and excited about mission. To experience the fullness of our humanity and be best equipped for ministry in the church and mission in the world, churches can learn how to foster creativity.  If we do, we will better be able to engage culture, breathe life into the world, and fulfill our callings. Here are some tips from LeadershipJournal.com.

05/04/16 Growing and Giving in the Digital Church: Church attendance and charitable giving have changed radically, in large part due to the Internet and cellular technology. From electronic giving to live, online services, it’s clear that churches must continue to go digital to remain relevant to their tech-savvy congregants. This article from Ministry Today magazine outlines some of the challenges — and the solutions! Which would work for your congregation?

04/28/16 12 Practices Great Leaders Develop That Poor Leaders Don’t: Ever wonder what separates great leaders from poor leaders?  Ever wonder whether you’re developing the practices and qualities of great leadership? Many ineffective leaders have great intentions but just haven’t developed the skills and attitudes that separate great leaders from poor leaders. Here are 12 overlooked practices that can help you become a better leader. From Carey Nieuwhof. Click here to get to the Leadership Link archive, with dozens of resources.

04/22/16 The Wi$dom Path: Money, Spirit, Life: Financial literacy courses are great, but in addition to knowing how to manage their money more wisely, God’s people need ways to talk about money and how it intersects with our spiritual and ethical values. This comprehensive course from the Unitarian Universalist Association covers such topics as personal and cultural money stories, economic justice, classism, and the impact of our financial decision making on our ability to live lives of meaning and purpose. Free for download.

04/14/16 Creation Care Resources for Children Kids love creation. Whether it’s jumping in mud puddles, catching frogs in a pond, picking wildflowers in a forest or running barefoot through the grass, kids connect with our environment in ways that grownups have forgotten. So why not include creation care in your children and youth ministry (especially around Earth Day!)? This webpage from Blessed Earth gives you lots of resources and ideas.

04/07/16 We Have to Remain Intentional about the Mission: “Churches do not automatically thrive. The American church, as a local institution, has proven that it can coast along in almost-dead mode for many years. But there are no churches that are effectively reaching and changing their surrounding culture by accident,” says Pastor Brandon Cox in a provocative article in ChurchLeaders.com. He continues with some good ideas for how congregations can stay sharp and mission-focused. Which of them would work for your context?

03/29/16  God’s Call to Earthkeeping: Spring is the perfect time to help people understand environmental stewardship through classes, temple talks, seminars and other educational activities. And this is the perfect resource: “Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping” is a free 50-page resource includes four complete lessons – each with a leader guide and participant materials. Lessons include Rediscovering Our Place in Creation, God’s Presence Fills All Creation, and The Biblical Foundations for Earthkeeping. Bonus sections include a theology of creation care, a congregational survey and a template congregational covenant for creation care. It’s from the ELCA, and it’s free for PDF download.

03/22/16  EMBRACING STEWARDSHIP :“Why is stewardship so stinking difficult?” That’s a question you hear many congregational leaders ask, and it’s also a chapter in the new printed book by Lutheran stewardship authors and consultants Charles R. Lane and Grace Duddy Pomroy. “Embracing Stewardship” handily addresses that age-old question by offering both a solid theoretical/ theological grounding and practical, down-to-earth approaches for making stewardship an everyday part of a congregation’s life together. It’s got lots of good information to help your congregation formulate a thoughtful stewardship strategy. At $15, it’s an accessible, affordable resource. Click the title above to be redirected to the resource.

03/15/16 51 Ideas for Year-Round Stewardship: This is the kind of resource you need to keep handy for every brainstorming session of your stewardship or finance committee — a wide assortment of ideas that can keep your congregation on top of things 365 days a year. Some of them will be simple reminders of things you probably are already doing, but others will stretch your ideas and imaginations. Compact. Simple. Accessible.

03/08/16  Too Many Pastors Are Wasting Their Lives: Everyone knows that changes in our culture and church demand a different type of congregational leadership than a generation ago. In this challenging blog post, Christian author and church consultant Bill Easum doesn’t mince words outlining the focus he believes ministers need to take: less chaplaincy and more discipleship and evangelism. Discuss his ideas among your colleague group or conference.

03/01/16 Creation Care Resources: Every Creature Singing: This spring while scheduling your Earth Sunday observance (April 24 is just two days from the actual Earth Day), plan to educate your church on how our decisions impact the one and only planet that God gave us to live on — and how we can care for creation!  “Every Creature Singing” gives you a detailed 13-session lesson plan, as well as a teacher’s guide. Each lesson has Scripture, readings, and discussion questions that focus on your neighborhood, and other resources. Click the title above to get to the resource, from the Mennonite Creation Care Network.

02/24/16  Spirituality of Generosity: Here from Lifeway Leadership are some thoughts that may help reframe generosity for yourself and folks in your congregation. “Generosity is not an event or an emphasis. There’s no secret sauce or hidden tricks. Generosity is the cultivation of a simple lifestyle and I am not referring to limiting spending, having a family budget, or curtailing an enjoyable life. No coupon clipping here. So how do you cultivate a spiritually generous life that is second nature?”

02/17/16  ELCA’s StewardNet Newsletter for Church Leaders: It’s one of the gem resources our denomination produces: The StewardNet newsletter contains stewardship and church-growth tips, inspiration, links to resources, a calendar of events, and more. You can use whatever material is there for your website, bulletins or publications. It’s published quarterly, and you can sign up to have it delivered right to your email inbox (just send a request to at stewardnet@elca.org). This Winter 2016 edition contains some incredible links to assess congregational vitality and help you grow.

02/10/16  First Things First: Managing Money by Christian Principles: North Americans are among the world’s richest people, and yet many families have problems understanding even basic household finance. Many churches are teaching people to manage their money by Christian principles. This free 90-page resource from the Mennonite Foundation of Canada can help.

02/03/16  Digital Media Advice from a Guy Who Speaks Church and Geek: The good news is that most of our synod’s congregations have a website. The bad news? 1) Some STILL lack a website! 2) Many congregational websites need serious work. Here’s an article that gives good advice AND a link to another excellent post.

01/27/16 Four Things that Beat Us Up at Ministry — And How To Respond! Discouragement hits every church leader at some time, and it can sap your spirit and harm your ministry. But the good news is that we can counteract discouragement, says Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church. In this article from ChurchLeaders he lists four causes of discouragement and outlines strategies for fighting back.

01/20/16 Cut Energy Bills, Use Savings for Mission: Did you know that most congregations can reduce energy costs by up to 30% by investing strategically in efficient equipment, facility upgrades and maintenance? This can not only help free up money that can be better spent advancing the mission of God, but also help the environment by reducing fossil fuel consumption. Energy Star has a number of free resources that can help get you started.

01/14/16  Rich Church, Poor Church: Why do some churches have trouble making ends meet whereas other nearby churches of similar size and circumstance have all the resources they need? It could be that they are focusing their efforts to appeal to the real reasons why people give their time, talents and treasure. Stewardship author, speaker and consultant J. Clif Christopher explores in this essay from MinistryMatters.

01/07/16  The Third Rail: Clergy Health: As a synod, health is on our minds as we anticipate the clergy wellness retreat in a few weeks and begin our annual campaign to remind everyone to fill out their Portico health assessments. This article from ChurchLeaders.com talks about the physical health of our church leaders as a “Third Rail” – an issue nobody wants to touch. But if we are to lead congregations to health, we have to be healthy as leaders. This article offers some tips how.

12/15/15   Strategies for Handling Chronic Complainers: Some people love to complain. And chances are one or two of them will claim membership in your congregation. They especially like small churches. In a small church their voice and impact are large. Regardless of the size of the church, leaders must resist the temptation to be drawn into a battle with them, because that makes complainers dig in harder – and start recruiting. What’s a leader to do? Here are some tips for handling chronic complainers.

12/10/15   Develop Your Church’s Memorial/Honor Ministry:  The gift planning strategy of a local congregation should be geared to encouraging people to give and to make it easier for them to do so. Honor gifts (donated in the name of living people) and memorial gifts (donated in the name of the deceased) are wonderful vehicles for giving, but many churches fail to make the most of them by having no set policies or sloppy policies on how to handle them. Here are some practical tips from the United Methodist Church.

12/03/15  Three Ways to Simplify Advent:   This instructive article from Leadership Journal could have been titled, “How to Stay Sane in Advent/Christmas.” It provides some practical advice for church professionals on how to set priorities for our work and ministry as Christmas approaches and the temptation grows for us to do everything and be everything. Knowing your limits – and the limits of what works – can help you feed the flock and have an enjoyable Advent/Christmas season.

11/24/15  Giving Thanks is Always God’s Will: Thanksgiving Day may represent the high point in our culture’s expression gratitude for all that God provides for us, but it really should set the standard for living every day with glad and joyful awareness of God’s blessings. Gratitude should form the foundation for our faith lives. In this article, Pastor Rick Warren asks, “Why is it always God’s will no matter what happens in my life that I am to give thanks, not for my circumstances but in my circumstances?” He gives five good reasons. For what are you grateful today? What blessings do you need to be reminded to give thanks for?

11/18/15  5 Things that Give Pastors a Bad Name with Unchurched People:  O.K., so you’re talking to a stranger in a supermarket, on the sidewalk outside your church, or in the dentist’s waiting room. You’re excited because the conversation is leaning toward faith and there’s potential for an invitation to church. It’s here that many Christians falter because they unwittingly follow patterns that turn off unchurched people. This article from Churchleaders.com, points out common mistakes and how to correct them.

11/12/15  Easy Ways to Share Gratitude this Thanksgiving:  Thanksgiving comes every fourth Thursday in November, but thanking God for our blessings is a spiritual discipline that should not be limited to a single day. Giving thanks is as essential to our spiritual growth as prayer. From the United Methodist Church, here are some creative ideas not only to develop an attitude of thankfulness but also to reach out to our neighbors. Which ones would work in your context? (Click here to see the Leadership Link archives.)

11/04/15  The Pastor’s Role in Stewardship Ministry: Along with frank discussions of sex and politics, honest conversation about money is a huge taboo in many congregations. According to this great article by Pastor Chick Lane — author of  “Ask, Thank, Tell” (among other things) and noted stewardship speaker — the taboo harms not only the financial life of the congregation, but also faith life of the congregation that is prevented from exploring a major element of discipleship: generous giving. As the spiritual leader of the congregation, the pastor must shatter the “conspiracy of silence” by talking about money. The pastor must do this for the spiritual health of the people in the congregation. Talk about this in your clergy group or cluster meeting.

10/28/15 Seven Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Exercise Regularly: Let’s face it: Being a professional church leader in today’s culture is hard, hard work! We face stresses all around us. Our churches face tight budgets, need for growth in attendance and programs to raise up disciples. Personally we face demands on our time and energy from family and the people we serve. Is it any wonder that professional church leaders fall into unhealthy patterns of self-care? Regular exercise is one prescription for some of these ailments, as writer Ron Edmondson points out. Would that work for you? Did you know that if you join a participating fitness club that Portico will reimburse you up to $20 per month for your club fees, providing you work out eight times per month? (Log into Portico to learn more about the fitness benefit.

10/21/15 Hospitality is a Key to Congregational Growth: As church attendance shrinks and budgets become tighter, wise congregations are reexamining how they welcome and integrate newcomers into community life. Church leaders know that people in our busy culture have lots of choices and opportunities, and hospitality is one key element that will encourage visitors to return, and return visitors to become a part of a community. The congregations doing the best job at hospitality are the ones growing, says this article from Insights into Religion. Talk this over with your team and see what you can do to become more welcoming.

10/15/15 Cultivating a Mindset of Generosity: Is it possible to cultivate a mindset within our congregations and institutions that would reframe the stresses of the budgeting and fundraising season? Could a “sharing” mindset open up more creativity and decrease the feeling of fighting for scarce resources? Such as mindset would be one of generosity – that encourages seeing everyone as people with all kinds of gifts to share. Money is only one part of the equation. Check out this excellent essay from David Odom, executive director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School.

10/08/15 Making Giving Easy–Electronically: As fewer people carry cash and checks, many churches today are seeking newer and easier ways to set up giving to benefit their congregations. Online giving has its own set of complexities and options, but is becoming easier all the time. Giving kiosks are popular. New options for online giving are being developed continually. The United Methodist Church has put together an article reviewing some of the most popular innovations.

10/01/15 10 Tips to Help Leaders Boost their Twitter Presence: Social Media Sunday is at the end of this month. Are you on Twitter yet? While many clergy and other rostered leaders have taken to Facebook in the past decade, fewer venture onto other social media sites, especially Twitter. Many join, only to become frustrated in getting the hang of it, and then they quit. That’s a shame, says Diva Morgan Hicks, online communications manager at the Forum for Theological Exploration.  If they stay with it, the social media will become easier and they will find that Twitter assists them in their ministry. Here, from the Lilly Endowment’s Insights into Religion website, are 10 tips.

09/23/15  Celebrate a Blessing of the Pets: St. Francis loved animals, and that’s why his feast day, Oct. 4, has been a traditional time for blessing of the animals. Many churches have found that an annual “Blessing of the Pets” sometime in October is a great way to involve families and youth fun in a fun, friendly fall service. This resource from Textweek will give you everything you need (and more) to either establish a ceremony or improve on what you’ve done in the past.

09/16/15 Crafting a Stewardship Letter: Don’t undervalue the power of the letter that accompanies your annual stewardship campaign materials. It’s the invitation your congregation extends for folks to participate in its exciting ministries, a case statement for why their time, talent and treasure are worthy of investing. It should convey not only information, but a tone, an agenda, an attitude. This resource from the United Church of Canada explains some of the key elements of a good stewardship letter and provides some wonderful examples. To view some of the United Church’s other stewardship offerings go to www.stewardshiptoolkit.ca. Good Luck!

09/09/15 What It Takes to Revitalize the Mainline: Lutherans are well aware of the downward slide that many (too many) of our churches are experiencing, and lots of time and energy has focused on what authors of this article calls “the mechanics” — programs, the ministries and the techniques that can help reverse that trend. “But, the mechanics alone will not create the kind of revitalization that is needed,” they write. “Just as important is the attitude, mind-set, stance, and practices of leaders leading this revitalization work, whether they are clergy, lay or denominational leaders.” What do you think?

09/02/15  10 Ways to Cast a Generosity Vision in your Church: Fall is the time when congregational stewardship committees get busy, but everybody knows it takes more than a four-week program to cultivate a church culture of deep generosity – one where the community sees opportunity and responsibility and fulfillment in sharing their gifts for good. Here, from echurchgiving.com, are 10 tips on creating a vision for generosity in your church. Which can you implement in your congregation?

08/28/15  Because of God’s Great Mercy: You may remember Chick Lane as the speaker at our 2013 Bishop’s Convocation. An ELCA pastor, author and stewardship expert, Lane has become a trusted source for congregations looking to advance their giving. Here is a new, relatively low-cost program from Chick Lane that will give you what you need for a stewardship program this fall. The bad news is that people rarely give (or give more) unless they are asked. The good news is that people often respond affirmatively when they ARE asked. This program provides everything a congregation needs to make a direct, respectful request, along with a simple way for people to calculate an increase of 1/2 of 1% of household income. The cost is $20, and it gives you a download of instructions and a full set of documents in both PDF and Word. (Go to embracingstewardship.com/.)

08/18/15  Are You Fed Up With Church? 30 Million Say, “Yes!”: OK, so over the last few years there has been a slow trickle of folks away from your congregation and you have no idea what happened or why they are leaving. Here is an insightful article by Patrick Vaughan, a Presbyterian pastor who explores the culture of the “dones” and the “almost dones” who might be eying the exit during your sermon. Share this with your council or colleague group. What points seem to ring true to your congregation’s experience? What can you do about it?

08/12/15   The Church is a Leadership Factory: Does your congregation have any strategy for developing leaders? Far too many congregations serve as auditoriums that gather people behind a leader, when they really should see themselves as leadership factories that stir up the gifts of God in people, says writer J.D. Greear in thegospelcoalition.org.  Good point, but how do we do that? Greear has some suggestions. Which would work in your congregation? Talk about it with your lay leadership or colleague group.

08/06/15  Essential Skills Next Generation Rostered Leaders Will Need: The U.S. religious landscape is changing and so too the old ways of doing church. Church leaders need to be far more creative and imaginative than older generations in connecting with members and creating community. In this article from Insights into Religion, four experts weigh in on the 10 most essential skills the next generation of religious leaders will need. (Surprise: technological skills didn’t make the list!) For veteran leaders, the list will help identify skills they can develop to revitalize their own ministries. Which would work for you?

7/22/15 A Ministry of the Mundane: What leader hasn’t sat alone in a silent sanctuary and thought, “is this all their is?” (Have you?) Because although we dream (or have dreamed) about leading congregations that are bustling with discipleship activities and spiritual energy, most of us find our ministries taking place against a backdrop of commonplace, everyday life. Which is a good thing, says Daniel Darling in this essay in Leadership Journal.

7/22/15 8 Reasons Leaders Need Solitude & 5 Doable Ways to Find It: Leading a Christian community is a demanding, and the work can eat you up if you don’t watch out. How many of your colleagues are burned out — emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically? (And how close are YOU to burnout?) But Jesus was able to keep things in balance, and and with a little dedication you can, too. Pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof has some great tips.

7/16/15 Six Reasons our Discipleship Strategies Miss the Mark: For many of us, Our Lord’s “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 runs through our minds whenever we think of our church’s highest goal: Make disciples!  And yet time and again of our best efforts fall short, failing to achieve the results we desire. Why is that so? This writer for Pastors.com suggests six important reasons. And a bonus: The reasons contain links to other resources where you can do some in-depth exploration. Share this article with your leadership team or peer group. Which of the reasons have you been guilty of? What can you do about it?

7/9/15 Pastors, Moral Failings, and the Thing Nobody Wants to Talk About: Most ministry professionals labor under enormous amount stress. Yes, it’s partly because we carry enormous responsibility, but how much of it can be attributed to the unrealistic expectations that our church and society place on pastors? As moral role models we are expected to be perfect, and as “CEOs” of our congregations we are expected to be all, do all, work all. Is it any wonder that some of us have trouble handling the load? Writing in MinistryMatters.com, blogger Tom Fuerst explores these issues. Which observations resonate with you? Discuss with family, congregational leaders or supportive colleagues what you can do about it.

7/1/15 7 Reasons Why Some Churches Don’t Grow: Across our synod are 237 worshiping communities with the same goal: We all want to grow — in membership, in discipleship, in stewardship and every other good way. But only a fraction of our congregations are, in fact, growing. The reasons are many, but this hard-hitting article from ChurchLeaders.com may offer some insights. Share this article with your church leadership team. Which reasons apply to you? What can you do about it?

06/24/15 Pope Francis’ Environmental Call to Action: “The earth  cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” Pope Francis writes in his landmark encyclical on the environment. Pollution and climate change degrade the lives of millions of people today, and billions in the future, says the Pope, who adds this plea: “I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” The weighty encyclical is extremely thoughtful and worthy of a careful read by every Christian leader. Why not study the encyclical with peers or an adult class? Click the title above to be redirected.

06/16/15 Learning the Art of “Strategic Neglect”: Ministers today face so many pressures. The intensity of the job itself, added to the high rates of unrealistic expectations from church memberships or even leadership, can set up ministers to burn out quickly and, often, to live with a great burden of guilt, frustration, and disillusionment. “Strategic neglect” may be a  way for ministers to cope by taking a new look at putting first things first by better managing their competing commitments and finding homeostasis in their spiritual, personal, and professional lives. Here are some tips from Ministry magazine, the publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Which would work to help reduce your stress load and increase productivity?

06/10/15 Stewardship Ideas for Congregations: Does your congregation have a stewardship strategy? Any guiding principles that would inspire God’s people to make a greater commitment to the  financial wellbeing of the church? It’s astounding how many of our congregations don’t, and especially astounding for those that are facing financial difficulties. Wise leaders know that stewardship is more than financial giving. It is a sense of thanksgiving for all that God has given us, including care giving for the world around us! Here are eight ideas from BuildingChurchLeaders.com. Talk about this at your next congregation council meeting. Establish some goals and devise a strategy for achieving them.

06/02/15 Resources for Congregational Treasurers: Every now and then we hear about a congregation that’s in trouble because its money was not handled carefully, systematically, consistently and transparently. Most of the time there’s no bad intent; rather the folks in charge of finance were doing the best they could but needed better guidance, supervision, procedures and adequate checks and balances.  To help, our synod has a number of resources to give treasurers, financial secretaries, congregation councils and other leaders guidance on sound money-handling practices. How is your congregation doing? Click on the link above and scroll down to “Resources for Congregational Treasurers.” Invite your financial leaders to check these resources out and see what improvements can be made.

05/27/15 20 Ways Your Church Website Can Serve the Unchurched: Before visitors ever summon the courage to darken your church door on a Sunday morning, it’s more and more likely that they will first check out your church website. What will they find there? Welcoming messages and basic information written clearly and organized in a way that is easy to understand? Up-to-date events and calendar listings? Compelling descriptions of your congregation’s beliefs and community life? Sadly, for many church websites the answer is a resounding “no.” Fair or not, potential visitors are more likely to evaluate whether your church is worth their time and effort from what they see on your website. This is especially true for those who are unchurched. Here are 20 tips for helping your website to serve as an outreach and evangelism tool for the unchurched or underchurched. How does your congregation’s website fare?

05/20/15  The Breadth and Depth of Stewardship: The breadth and depth of stewardship theology leads us to appeal to one another to discover lives of meaning and purpose, stewardship lives. This happens as we engage in worship of God and as we honor God’s plan; as we gather to encourage and support one another in a living organism, the Body of Christ; as we make a difference in the world through service to people and care of creation; and as we teach behaviors that free us from bondage to money.  This is how ELCA Pastor Michael Meier begins a powerful exploration of the theology of stewardship. Share this with your stewardship and finance team, use it as a Sunday school resource, use it as a discussion-starter at your next congregation council meeting.

05/14/15 Four Steps Toward Better Meetings: Meetings often form the backbone of organizational leadership in a church, providing a time for volunteers and staff to get together to share ideas, formulate plans, make decisions and move the organization forward. So why are they often an exercise in drudgery, a waste of precious time for everyone? This article from Leadership Journal explores ways to get the most out of meetings and the people who attend them. Which ideas would work in your ministry context?

05/07/15 Basic Instructions for Asset Mapping: In these times when our churches face challenges on so many fronts, it’s easy for congregational leaders to focus on what their institutions lack. But there is an alternative. Asset mapping starts by focusing on what you have! Taking stock of your gifts, skills and resources provides a solid launching pad to begin planning mission strategies for the future. Here are some tips for leading a workshop to help your congregation map out its assets. How would this energize your congregation council and other lay leaders? The resource is from Pastor Dave Daubert of Day 8 Strategies, the author and consultant who led a workshop in our synod last year.

04/29/15  Developing a Vision: What kind of a church do we want to be?: Vision is essential to a church. However, unlike the values, mission, and purpose, the vision is more subject to change. It is dynamic, not static. Over time, the vision must be renewed, adapted, and adjusted to the cultural context in which the congregation lives. The change takes place only at the margins of the vision, not at its core. Here are some important truths about vision that every church leader should know from Aubrey Malphurs, a professor, consultant and author who wrote one of the best books you’ll find on strategic planning for a church. What’s your congregation’s vision?

04/22/15 A cure for mile-wide and inch-deep religion: Whether it’s the lay leaders of the 19th-century Mainline congregation on Main Street, the evangelists of the megachurch near the mall or the bureaucrats in the denominational offices, Christians are realizing they have to change to reach people in the 21st Century. The question is how? What should we be doing differently? Church consultant Thom Erich says we need to go deeper. Read his commentary (click the headline) and discuss with your council or peer group what it would mean for your ministry.

04/15/15 Local Church Planned Giving Manual: This is your quintessential resource!  Produced by our brothers and sisters in United Church of Christ, this free, online guide for congregations is designed to aid pastors and lay leaders in developing a congregational Planned Giving ministry. It includes sections devoted to establishing and promoting a Planned Giving program, congregational endowments, wills emphasis, how life-income gifts work, and more. How can you set up a Planned Giving program in your context?

04/08/15 Plan a “Creation Sunday” for Earth Day: This April 22 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Why not celebrate the occasion with a special Earth Sunday or Creation Sunday worship on the April 19 or April 26? You can make it a celebration of the natural environment, or possibly a blessing of the seeds, farms, orchards, gardens and fields. Why not preach on how we must take better care of God’s good earth? Here is a page that gives links to some excellent resources. Which ones would work in your congregation?

04/01/15 Signs You have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy: How do you know you have a bad strategy for making disciples? Well, just look at the results. Remember, “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” If you want different results, you have to change what your congregation is doing. This article from Pastors.com gives some good insight into how to chart a new course. What would work in your ministry?

03/25/15  Share and Share Alike: Providing options — for worship or for learning — is an important key to keeping our ministries relevant for the 21st Centuries, but that takes a skill that many of us in the church are not accustomed to: sharing. Every alternative worship service that we add or innovative Christian education class that we create has to share resources of the church, such as space, time, volunteers or money. This blog post from the Episcopal Church Foundation talks about how to create a sharing culture. What would work for your congregation?

03/18/15 10 Questions First-Time Visitors are Asking: Most of us are so accustomed to church culture that walking into the sanctuary on Sunday morning is as familiar as walking into our living room. But it’s not that way for many of our congregations’ first-time visitors — especially those who are unchurched or who may have attended non-liturgical congregations. Here are some questions our visitors are likely to be asking. The more you can anticipate, the better the chances that your first-time visitors won’t be your last-time visitors. From ChurchLeaders.com. Why not discuss this with your council, outreach committee or colleague group? Click the headline to be redirected to the website.

03/04/15 Go Green! Getting Started in Your Church: Earth Day is April 22. Why not celebrate by kicking off an environmental stewardship program in your congregation? “Greening” your church provides a wonderful opportunity to make qualitative shifts in your church life. You can adopt practices that save money; explore new perspectives on faith, worship and spirituality that will renew and energize your members; engage Christian education students of all ages; and involve new people in your ministry!  Check out this article from Eco-Justice Ministries.

02/25/15  New Questions for a New Day: “It’s time to start asking new questions. Better answers to the same old questions about the church will not get us through the tumultuous times in which we live. This is a time for out-of-the box thinking. Old questions keep is in the box. New questions invite us to move outside,” writes Jeffrey D. Jones in a blog of Alban at Duke Divinity School. “It’s not that the old questions weren’t valid at one time or even that they have no place in the church today. Rather, the new questions, if they are the questions that form our approach to ministry, will lead us to new insights and new learning.”

02/18/15 Raise Children to be Generous Adults: It may seem like a “no-brainer,” but we all need to be reminded of the ways we can cultivate generous hearts in children today so that they will be good stewards as adults. After all, parents and other grown-ups are the primary shapers of our children’s attitudes toward money, things and desires. Our children will either be “givers” or “takers” in society, and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home. Check out Ron Edmondson’s 10 suggestions in this churchleaders.com article.

02/11/15 “Why I Won’t Give to Your Church”: In this illuminating essay from Leadership Journal, a member of the Millennial generation who was born and raised in the church explains why he and many folks his age are put off by traditional congregational approaches to faith, religion and community – and what might work to involve them in church life. Use this as a conversation starter with the Millennials in your congregation, as well as with the older folks who long to see them reconnect with church.

02/04/15 Four Myths about Online Giving: Despite the fact that less than 7% of transactions in the United States are conducted via cash and check, many thousands of churches continue to count on cash and check donations for 100% of their annual budget. Online giving options can help modernize a church’s revenue stream, but many congregations are hesitant. This article from ChurchMag explores – and explodes – four myths. There are also some helpful links to get your congregation going.

01/28/15 Free Ebook: Stewardship Under the Cross: Most of our congregations struggle with finance and stewardship. Leaders can take heart from one LCMS pastor’s journey and reflections on stewardship. The Rev. H.R. Curtis offers it as a free ebook. He writes: “What you’ll get in this book is the experience and advice of one pastor struggling to remain faithful to God’s Word while leading his parish through a rough financial patch. There are plenty of stewardship programs out there – some good, some bad, and some ugly. While I do lay out the program we used at my parish, this is not a book about a program; it is a book about how to think about and teach stewardship as a Lutheran; a book about Law & Gospel, vocation, and liturgy.” What can your congregation apply to its work?

01/21/15 Rise of the “Dones”: You’ve heard of the “Nones” – those whose religious affiliation is None. But there is a growing multitude of church ex-members who have simply left church for a variety of reasons, including disillusionment, burnout and boredom. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They are not Nones. Rather, call them the “Dones.” What can we do about it? Commentator Thom Schultz has some ideas. Which would work for your church?

01/14/15  ‘This will NEVER Work!’ — Why Churches Resist Change (and How to Respond!) : Every congregational leader has had this experience: A well-researched, well-presented idea – bold, creative, innovative and missional – is met with a tsunami of resistance. This article from ChurchLeaders.com talks about the top pretexts for resistance and how to handle them. Which ones do you hear in in YOUR congregation?

01/07/15 How Churches Can Attract Younger People: Did this happen at your congregation over Christmas: The sanctuary was filled on Christmas Eve with visitors and families, including teens and young adults. You smiled approvingly as you surveyed the pews, especially at the youthful faces that your church desperately needs and wants to reach. But deep down you felt frustration because you know most of them won’t come back — until maybe Easter.

8/6/14 Feasting on Gratitude: Perfect for your congregation’s fall giving campaign – here’s a six-week stewardship reflection series based on the Lectionary Gospel lessons, beginning Oct. 5. Feasting on Gratitude invites readers to reflect and discuss stewardship principles and practices in light of the weekly readings. Written by the Episcopal Church’s stewardship office, it is designed to complement a congregation’s annual campaign. Introduced for Lectionary Year A in 2011, the series is timely again in 2014. Simply adjust the dates accordingly.

7/29/14 When Faith & Creativity Collide: What can happen when we stretch our imaginations to engage the world in a new way? The creative director of the Willow Creek Community explains how creativity can help church leaders to tell the story of Jesus more clearly, reach people and energize the congregation. “The real problem with how faith and creativity intersect practically is that we have some terrible storytellers,” says Blaine Hogan. Interview conducted by Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt.

7/22/14 Shave 10 Hours from Your Ministry Workweek: Ministers are notoriously overburdened, but handling our load may be hampered by ingrained work habits that do not serve us well. In this article from Church Leaders magazine, Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, explains how he gets more done in less time by following simple rules for work.

7/15/14 Teaching Stewardship to Children: Can generous giving be taught? How did members of “the greatest generation” learn how to be such good givers to our churches? There are excellent reasons for introducing the concept of stewardship to our children. In fact, generosity and stewardship could be the greatest lesson we teach to our young people. This fine article from Catholic Teacher magazine provides good information on how to go about it. Good reading as our congregations plan Sunday school in the fall!

7/8/14 5 Cultural Norms that Threaten the Church: Jesus calls us to be in the world but not of the world, and that’s a hard line to negotiate when our people are pulled in all sorts of directions. Our North American culture is so pervasive that we may be blind to the more subtle and subversive influences that are having a greater impact on the church than the front-burner issues that consume us. This article from churchleaders.com lists five often overlooked cultural norms that are contrary to the Kingdom and that, unknowingly , many of us may support.

7/1/14 Clergy Burnout and Fatigue: Despite prayerful and devoted service in the name of Christ, we all know that long hours, unrelenting pressures and constant exposure to the unrelenting problems of humanity takes a heavy toll on ministers. Burnout and fatigue can sap the energies of the best pastor. This excellent article, explores the causes, symptoms — and help! — for burnout.  It was written by the Antiochian Orthodox Church for its leaders, but its wisdom and advice are universal. Click here to be redirected to the article.

6/25/14 10 Most Common Mistakes in Church Finance : It’s not maliciousness that leads many congregations into financial trouble, but often just a lack of awareness and sound practices concerning money. Here is a must-read article for church finance committees and related church leaders. Written by Richard W. Hill, CPA and published in The Call, a publication of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, this article provides important information in a succinct and understandable format.

6/18/14 Bill Hybels: The Work Habits of a Leader: What do you think is the most important asset for a congregational leader to possess? Time? Money? Intelligence? Compassion? The founder and senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church says it is none of those things, as vital as they may be to the work of the church. In this brief video from churchleaders.com, Bill Hybels says he discovered one quality that has turbocharged the effectiveness of his ministry.

6/13/14 Congregation-Based Community Organizing: Amid a time enormous cultural and economic changes, many of our churches struggle for mere survival, rather than how to be a light to a dark world. But a study by Interfaith Funders and the University of New Mexico show that many churches have found purpose, strength, hope and growth through Congregation-Based Community Organizing.  This 24-page PDF introduces the concept.

6/4/14 Use ‘The Box’ Method to Prioritize and Get More Done: Lots of us busy pastors and church leaders become stuck because our “to do” lists grow impossibly long and our workdays seem impossibly short. From Entrepreneur magazine, here’s a simple idea that can help you manage your time, prioritize tasks and improve productivity. Click here to be redirected to the article.

5/29/14 Year-Round Stewardship Basics: A congregation’s stewardship efforts may reach a crescendo every fall, but planning and running an effective financial program requires year-round effort. This week’s link provides comprehensive guidance on how to do exactly that. Stewardship Manual: A Guide for Year-Round Financial Stewardship Planning is a 46-page resource prepared by our full-communion partners, the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it’s free for PDF download. Written with Presbyterian congregations in mind, the guide is easily adaptable to a Lutheran context. It provides solid information on how and why to make financial stewardship a priority ministry. 
5/22/14  Peter Steinke on Emotional Systems and Congregational Health: Web videos of talks that Peter Steinke gave on the topic The Balancing Act: The Congregation As A Healthy Emotional System to ministers in California. A Lutheran pastor, Steinke is a speaker and author whose field of expertise is how emotional systems can keep a congregation stuck in unhealthy patterns. His books include Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach, How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems, and Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What.