Christian Worship + Nationalism = ?

Over the last year I have worshipped in 34 different congregations primarily in congregations affiliated with Mainline Protestant denominations (with most of these in United Methodist, Presbyterian - PCUSA, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and Episcopal churches).  From my pew or chair in most of the sanctuaries or other sacred spaces where the services were held I could see two flags: an American flag and a Christian flag. Only once, however, did the American flag play an important Read More …

Church Giving – The 55/45 Rule

Leadership Network recently published an insightful article by Chris Willard and Warren Bird focused on giving metrics in the context of congregational ministry.  This piece mentions something I think should be called the 55/45 rule. This rule comes from research conducted by David Thoroughman, CEO of the donor analytics firm MortarStone.  Thoroughman found that, on average, 99% of a congregation's funding comes from giving units that give $200 or more a year but only 55% of all attendees Read More …

Where’s Greg Worshipping?

Over the last twelve and a half months, I have attended 45 worship services in 34 different congregations. Denominations The chart at right illustrates the number of churches I have visited by denominational affiliation (green), the number of services I have attended in congregations affiliated with each denomination (blue), and the percent of all worship services I have attended by denomination (yellow). 75% of all of my worship experiences have occurred in congregations affiliated Read More …

Religiously Unaffiliated: 25 Years of Growth

From 1971 to 1991, the religiously unaffiliated ranged between 5% and 8% of the adult population in America.  While data from the General Social Survey shows that the percentage was higher in some years than others, it featured growth and decline in irregular and unpredictable ways within that narrow range. Twenty-five years ago (1991) I had no idea what it meant to be religiously unaffiliated.  Terms like "nones" or "religiously unaffiliated" were not in my vocabulary.  While my young age at Read More …

Shaping the Future of Christianity

Dying Some say Christianity is dying.  I won't argue with them.  If Christianity is defined narrowly and if it should be replicated in every time and place in identical ways then we can rest assured Christianity is dying and will soon be dead. Living Christianity, inasmuch as I understand what the Way of Jesus is about, is living.  The only way any person or group of people can authentically live as followers of Jesus is to do so within their time and place. Thriving Sociologists Read More …

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 …