Day of Discovery

  In recent years Westchester Congregational Church (founded in 1728) has faced many of the same challenges as other small town churches in the USA.  These shifts led to declines in membership and participation. Background Less than two decades after reaching a point when some felt that WCC was close to closing its doors and ending its ministry, the congregation called Ron Thompson to serve as its full-time pastor.  One year later, the church is growing and ready to begin Read More …

Creativity in Learning

Last week I attended a conference in San Diego, California.  It was a wonderful opportunity to network with other learning leaders, share best practices, attend insightful sessions and workshops, and listen to challenging keynotes - including one by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream) that introduced Stamp Stampede 2.0 focused on getting money out and voters in to American politics. The experience inspired and challenged me; it also surprised me.  As a Read More …

Following the Teachings of Jesus

For the last few decades I have been learning about and seeking to follow the example of the Way of Jesus.  Occasionally I encounter words that are so real, so relevant, and so riveting that they capture my attention and help me refocus. The following words, taken from the second article of First Congregational (UCC) Church of Santa Barbara's Statement of Faith, have played that role in my life in recent days: We strive to follow the teachings of Jesus by practicing love and forgiveness, Read More …

Are Clergy Underpaid?

New Research In the March 2016 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Mark Chaves (author of one of my top ten faith enriching books) and Cyrus Schleifer offer the most in-depth quantitative analysis of American clergy compensation compared to American compensation in general and among the college educated workforce.  Unique to their work is the inclusion of housing allowances, conversion of income to hourly rates using self-reported working hours, and comparison to two Read More …

My Transition from Professor to Student

While I have always believed in and committed myself to the task of lifelong learning, I have also wrongly concluded - more than once - that my formal educational journey was complete. Wrong The first time I decided I had finished my formal education was in 1998 when I earned my undergraduate degree.  I was already in the workforce, and had been advancing without a degree.  With the addition of a bachelor's degree I felt confident I had all I needed. Just 18 months later, I was back in Read More …

Choosing a Church – New Research

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a report titled "Choosing a New Church or House of Worship: Americans Look for Good Sermons, Warm Welcome." (I encourage you to read the full report or the associated detailed article about the findings.) It's Personal This new report is incredibly valuable to me for both professional and personal reasons.  Professionally, I have served eight Mainline Protestant congregations in a variety of roles.  Personally, my wife and I have been searching Read More …

Seminary Size – Evangelicals are #1

How large is large when it comes to a seminary student body in America? The primary accrediting body, Association of Theological Schools (ATS), accredited 246 institutions during the 2015-16 school year with an enrollment of just over 37,000 students (full-time equivalent) in the USA. Earlier this month Chelsen Vicari mined the ATS data to determine the largest seminaries in the USA.  Based on full-time enrollment numbers for the 2015-16 school year she found The top ten Read More …

Summer Reading: Changes Ahead

In recent days I have heard the three words "back to school" enough times to know that summer is drawing to a close for many of my readers.  With the change of seasons in mind, I offer the ten best books I read this summer: (5+) The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones (Simon & Schuster, 2016) (5) Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern (Public Affairs, 2016) (5) Vital Vintage Church: How Read More …

Perspective: Visiting Dozens of Churches

Over the first four decades of my life I had the opportunity to participate in worship in around 30 different communities of faith (not counting those I joined on special occasions or for events other than their normal weekly services).  Most of my adult life was spent serving congregations in a variety of lay and pastoral positions. Over the past twelve months I have participated in worship in over 30 different communities of faith in Texas during one of their normal Sunday services.  This Read More …

Farewell to White Protestant America

Last week I noted how old Mainline Protestantism has become here in America.  Back in 2011 I reflected on a group of pastors from one Mainline denomination that labeled their own tradition "deathly ill."  Today, I recognize that death has come not only for that denomination or Mainline Protestantism but also for the Protestantism I have known and lived that is broader yet: White Christian America. Obituary  Robert P. Jones', CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, new book "The End of Read More …