March 26, 2018

Revisiting Bowen Family Systems


During the 1950s, a psychiatrist named Murray Bowen created a new intervention for those with family members suffering from schizophrenia. Two decades later, Rabbi Edwin Friedman used Bowen’s theory to help clergy think about congregational life. Friedman’s acclaimed book, Generation to Generation, launched the theory as a helpful leadership method for congregations. Congregational leadership By…

February 28, 2018

It’s About Life


A generation ago, congregational observers noted that congregations experiencing growth were those which gave clear-cut, right and wrong, direction about life. I want to note a subtle correction to this observation. Vital congregations are those which give more attention to the lives of adherents than the needs of the institution. Congregations which are flourishing are…

January 24, 2018

The Unique Experience of Church Planting


Church planting is different than establishing satellites, multi-sites, a new worship service or a separate non-profit. Church planting is establishing a new congregation in a new location. This process is rewarding, yet it requires hard work and a varied skillset. Below are four things I’ve learned about church planting. The gifts of the leader may…

January 8, 2018

Attachment as an Alternative to Pastoral Capital


As a pastor, have you earned enough pastoral capital to accomplish what you seek to do? In seminary, my leadership professor described the importance of building capital with parishioners. We learned that if the pastor made enough hospital calls, wrote thank you notes, officiated with grace and excellence at weddings and funerals, then she or…

November 6, 2017

A Conversation with Tod Bolsinger


Center for Congregations President Tim Shapiro spoke with Tod Bolsinger of Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Canoeing the Mountains. Below are snippets of their conversation. Tim: Early in your book you share your epiphany “that your people need you to lead them even more than preach to them” (page 36). If preaching, teaching and…

October 25, 2017

Theologian of the Year


I know a pastor who chooses a theologian to study in-depth every year. In 2013, he chose Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He read Life Together, Ethics and Letters and Papers from Prison and watched a documentary on Bonhoeffer’s work. This pastor taught a three-month Sunday evening class on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s world view. In 2014, this pastor’s theologian of…

October 11, 2017

The Only One Who Wasn’t Lost


“The future is already here, it is just on the margins.”  -Dave Gibbons, author and pastor of Newsong Church, Santa Ana, California   On February 11, 1805, a sound rang out through Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery that they had never expected to hear. Not the roar of a grizzly bear, not the thunder…

September 19, 2017

Making Planned Giving Work


Planned giving doesn’t need to be a complicated challenge for your congregation. By following these principles, your congregation can start securing the financial future of your ministries. Everyone needs a will. Some people assume planned giving only applies to the very wealthy. The reality is that most people need a will, so a good starting…

September 11, 2017

The Practical Implementation of Appreciative Inquiry


In recent years, many congregations have asked about the use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Appreciative Inquiry Appreciative Inquiry is the process of identifying, considering and leveraging strengths. It is inclusive, engaging the entire congregation, in asking important questions such as, “what gives life to our congregation when it functions at its best?” Implementing AI Many pastors and…

August 10, 2017

Three Questions for Every Building Project


There are three questions to ask regarding almost any building project your congregation is considering. Addressing these questions can help your project succeed. When building projects go well, they add to the effectiveness of your faith community. When they don’t go well, they can have long-term negative effects. These three key questions can keep you…

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