Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Actually, this is already true of several churches I've pastored.

If present trends continue in this country, in thirty year's time there will be more people over the age of 80 than under the age of five.

Think what that's going to mean for the ministries of your church!

Want to know more? Check out Atul Gawande's "The Way We Age Now" in the New Yorker.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"The better adapted you are to the present, the more trouble you'll be in when things change."

We don't deal well with change.

Unfortunately, it happens anyway.

That's the thesis of Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable. And in his review of this book, Tyler Cowen gives good advice to businesses (and pastors) who don't want to be lulled into complacency by the "same-old, same-old":
. . . getting out of our comfort zones is good for innovation and thus good for the economy. Young entrepreneur Ben Casnocha, in his recent memoir, My Start-Up Life, offers similar business advice: "Expose yourself to as much randomness as possible. Attend conferences no one else [in your field] is attending. Read books no one else is reading. Talk to people no one else is talking to."
To which I'd add, "and be careful to whom you talk about the fact you are doing this." People in authority, remember, got where they are because the status quo worked for them; talk that it might change is apt to be seen by them as a threat.

Friday, June 15, 2007

D.Min. or not D.Min. -- that is the question.

Anyone out there have any advice about D.Min. programs?

Here's the deal: in a year's time, the last of my children will head off to college. This will leave me with more time on my hands -- and given the nature of denominational benefits, it will actually leave me with a little more money as well.

That's why I'm thinking about enrolling in one of those distance-learning Doctor of Ministry programs. It's been twenty years since I got my Master of Divinity, after all -- time to see if anything new has come along in the meantime.

Then again, I'd hate to get stuck in a program that turned out to be a waste of time; that's why I could use some advice. So . . .
  • Anyone out there ever finished one of these programs?
  • Would you do it again?
  • What advice would you give to someone like me?
And yes, if you have any opinions about the programs offered by different seminaries (viz. Andrews, Fuller, or wherever), I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Months of Sundays (and Sabbath too)

So what happens when you take thirty reporters (all of whom are extremely snarky), tell them to attend church, and report on the results?

That's what the Seattle Stranger decided to find out. As an alternative weekly with a readership that's somewhere to the left of Michael Moore, you'd expect its reporters to be funny, savage, and profane -- and they were! But there were a couple of surprises:
  • Christian contemporary music? As Tony Soprano would say, "Fuggedaboudit."
  • Megachurches? Mega-turnoff.
  • Traditional services, traditional music, and traditional architecture? If you combine these things with a decent sermon, a strong sense of community, and an appropriate friendliness that includes without being pushy . . . then yes, you might have a chance of reaching even those urban hipsters who write for the Stranger.
One of the churches surveyed, by the way was the SDA Church in Volunteer Park. Blessings on the pastor there; it sounds as though he is trying hard . . . but at least one reporter wasn't buying it.

If you'd like to read the article in the Seattle Stranger, then click on the title of this post -- but be prepared: its language is definitely R-rated.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why is it that even the PC think it's okay to make fun of "trailer trash"?

I once had a church member ask me to bring in "people who would benefit the church," instead of the "trailer trash" who were currently getting baptized.

What makes this all the more ironic is that this particular church member was themself only two-generations removed from poverty.

And right there you have one of the greatest barriers to mission in the Adventist Church -- it's our own success. No, we take the working poor, make them give up their beer and smokes, tell them to keep their kids in school, and teach them how to keep track of their money so they can pay tithe.

The result?

Janitor's kids end up teaching school or pastoring a church -- and their children become doctors or lawyers or CPAs.

As Russell Staples used to tell us at the Seminary, "Sociologically, the Adventist Church is a fountain that draws in lower-class Baptists and Pentecostals . . . and in just three generations, it produces upper-middle class Episcopalians."

But in the process, we lose the ability to deal with a large chunk of society, i.e. the poor.

That's why Ruby Nance put together a book called What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty. An elementary-school teacher, Nance found that impoverished children did not respond well to the strategies that had worked so well with her middle-class students. Finding out what did work led her to develop a series of books and seminars -- and to make sure that churches could also benefit, she put together this book.

Another book in this area is Tex Sample's Hard Living People and Mainstream Christians. As a Methodist pastor and sociologist of religion, Sample had his seminary students conduct a series of interviews with the down-and-out. The book draws on these interviews to suggest some general strategies for pastors who want (or need) to minister to people who may not fit in to the typical church.

Don't have time to read those books? The New York Times recently did an in-depth profile of Ruby Nance; click on the title of this post for a link to the article.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

When they turn 21, you can stop worrying. (You can, but you won't.)

The good news for all your youth pastors out there: if you can get the members of your Youth Group to the age of 21 without smoking, drinking, or doing drugs . . . then as one public-health professional said, "You're home free."

The bad news: binge-drinking (i.e. drinking five or more servings of alcohol in one setting) is more popular than ever, with roughly half of all college students doing it on a regular basis.

The New York Sun recently ran a four-part series on teen drinking; it's pretty basic, but it makes a good introduction to the subject. If you 'd like to read it, then click on the title of this post.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Don't Bend Walla Walla

Twenty years ago, there were 18,000 people living in the city of Bend, Oregon -- and a quarter of the potential workforce there was unemployed.

By the year 2000, the population was up to 52,000 . . . and then it really started to grow. Today, there are roughly 75,000 people living in Bend, with bedroom communities popping up in places like Redmond, Prineville, and La Pine.

This is an example of what Donald Snow calls rurbia -- the sudden transformation of a resource-based town into The Next Big Thing. Past examples of rurbia include Durango, Colorado and Bozeman, Montana. And if Don Snow is right, both Walla Walla and Pendleton are poised to take off in the same way.

Don Snow? He's a Professor of Environmental Humanities at Whitman College in Walla Walla.

And as for Walla Walla -- that sleepy little town where I went to school in the late '70s?

As Snow points out in a speech he did in Pendleton, Walla Walla has the four things it takes to "go Bend," i.e.
  • proximity to lots and lots of public land,
  • lots and lots of local color,
  • lots of "buzz" in the national press (think "Walla Walla Wines"),
  • and a funny name.
If you'd like to read a copy of his speech, then click on the title of this post.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I especially enjoyed the suggestion that involved high-powered rifles.

Gordon MacDonald wrote in Restoring Your Spiritual Passion that pastors need three things in order to avoid the "blahs":
  • Safe times.
  • Safe spaces.
  • Save people.
Now Leadership magazine adds to that list with 13 ways to avoid burn-out -- click on the title of this post for a link to the article.

Friday, June 01, 2007

And don't get me started about candles!

Interesting post in Theolog about the influence of Catholic architecture on Protestant worship -- among other things, the author notes that Protestants once rejected flowers in church as "too Romish."

(Click on the title of this post for the link.)