About the Author: Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the publisher of Fresh Day online magazine, author of On a Journey and two national newspaper columns. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com.
  • By Published On: July 28, 2016

    The work of the religious professional must look “beyond the walls” of the church, beyond the comfortable conversations we have with people we know, beyond in-house concerns, beyond the shared language of our years together. To engage with the larger world beyond our walls, we can’t just send more people our latest in-house, inward-facing conversations. We need to address the needs, concerns, yearnings, questions and personalities of that larger world.

  • By Published On: July 18, 2016

    You should be spending as much as 50% of your time on communications, I told a group of clergy at the Kenyon Institute’s “Beyond Walls” writing seminar for religious professionals. That means time spent blogging to the vast world outside your walls, engaging with prospects, and communicating with your flocks. It means email campaigns, as well as ad hoc emailing. It means creative use of social media, especially Facebook. It means messaging. But always, three audiences, and distinct messages tailored to the questions, hungers, issues, yearnings that actually occupy each audience.

  • By Published On: July 13, 2016

    Let’s talk about leadership transition, namely, calling a new pastor. This is where many congregations go astray, because they make transition more difficult than it needs to be, because they infuse the process with “magical thinking,” and because they fail to complete the transition process.

  • By Published On: June 24, 2016

    For 20 years, I went from one abusive situation to another. A small group, usually longtime members who resented my efforts toward growth and mission, believed they had the privilege and the duty to make my life miserable. They left snide notes, sometimes anonymous, at my desk. They berated me in parish meetings and made sure I knew my salary was on the line. They started whispering campaigns and held secret meetings that they made sure I knew about. One warden sat in my office and said, “We are going to destroy you, Tom.”

  • By Published On: June 15, 2016

      Beware the “graying” of the church – says the common wisdom. And I confess that I have contributed to that concern. My

  • By Published On: June 7, 2016

    In my consulting with churches on communications strategy, we talk about tools: from emailed newsletters to social media to messaging to web sites. We talk about message: the church’s narrative, its marketing thrust, the visuals it uses to tell its story. We talk about who should be doing the communicating: the pastor, a professional communicator conversant in technology, a staff member with many duties, or a volunteer. But I have come to realize that the most critical topic of all is audience. Who is the designated audience? Whom is the congregation trying to reach? With whom is the church trying to build a relationship?

  • By Published On: May 28, 2016

    A reader asked for tech guidance. “I know you make tech choices thoughtfully and from experience,” he said. “So, I'm always happy when you share your knowledge of particular software/apps, including the pros and cons of each.” I am happy to oblige, for technology is a critical tool in our respective work. For me, the key is usability.

  • By Published On: May 20, 2016

    The measure of a society isn’t how it treats the young, healthy, beautiful and easy-to-like, but how it handles the vulnerable, the needy, the outcast, the hard-to-like.

  • By Published On: May 15, 2016

    Churches, like other enterprises, need several kinds of leadership: maintenance (tending the store), financial (keeping the doors open), staff support (serving constituents), marketing (selling the product), quality control (freshening and problem-solving), and training (transmitting skills and values.) There is one more leadership skill needed, and this is the critical one. Its absence is keenly felt. That skill is looking into the future. Every leadership team needs some person or group whose charge is to look down the road, to see emerging needs, to see opportunities, to read trends and to imagine the new into being.

  • By Published On: May 4, 2016

    Let’s talk about scheduling. It’s the bane of any complex organization, and yet handling schedules poorly is guaranteed to hurt and offend constituents.

  • By Published On: April 22, 2016

    Let’s say you wanted to lead your congregation into being more a faith community and less an institution. More a people called out of the world (the meaning of ekklesia) by the transformative power of faith, and less a people gathered inside walls, around an altar, where rituals of belonging make them feel safe and loved. I see four practical ways we can reach outside the walls of our inherited institutional understanding – and thereby become more the community that Jesus called into being.

  • By Published On: April 13, 2016

    In the church world, you need to know what is and isn’t working. You need metrics. You can’t just keep doing what you enjoy doing if no one is “buying” it, or continue what worked a decade ago without asking whether it is working today.

  • By Published On: April 7, 2016

    More than anything, “preach with power.” Preach a powerful word, preach it as powerfully as you can without sounding shrill or melodramatic, and preach to the power of darkness and to the power of God’s light and love. Kissing off the moment might keep you safe. But it wounds the body of Christ.

  • Aim for 3 Blogs, each targeting a different audience

    By Published On: April 2, 2016

    As a child in church, I walked by a large bulletin board hung in a well-traveled hallway. I ignored it. So did everyone else.

  • By Published On: March 28, 2016

    The healthy church sees its role as transformational: helping God to transform the lives of God’s beloved. And then helping them to transform their families, neighborhoods and workplaces, and daring to dream of transforming entire communities. The unhealthy church, by contrast, places ultimate value on sameness, consistency, not challenging people, and not making waves in the community.

  • By Published On: March 23, 2016

    That is why measurements matter. Not to fill boxes on a spreadsheet or official church report, but to avoid hurting people, to know when a program needs refreshing, to see growth as it is happening so that you can support it, or to see early signs of decline so that you can take action. Without metrics, leaders are flying blind.

  • By Published On: March 14, 2016

    When I first developed my best practices guide to Church Wellness, I called this section “Young Adult Ministry.” Now I title it “Younger Adult Ministry.” It is unrealistic to think that a congregation whose average age is over 60 will be able to appeal effectively to people in their 20s and 30s. Not only are the generations too far apart, but the church expectations of the 60+ set are shaped by congregation, facility, ordained leadership, denomination and Sunday worship, whereas so-called Millennials pursue a hunger for God that takes different forms.

  • By Published On: March 9, 2016

    The healthy church has a fundamental orientation: outward. Leaders don’t ask, “What do our members want?” Instead, they ask, “What does the world around us need?” Leaders understand that a missional mindset is the heart of all church development. New constituents, for example, are rarely attracted by better and better worship. They want to know what a congregation stands for and what it is doing in the world for others.

  • By Published On: February 26, 2016

      [We continue a look at the basics of church wellness. This week: Stewardship Development.] Stewardship Development is perhaps the most complicated and

  • By Published On: February 19, 2016

    The path to spiritual development isn’t all that complicated. It’s the motivation to walk that path which tends to stymie people.

  • By Published On: February 9, 2016

    Most church communications speak to the wrong audience. They speak to insiders. Newsletters, whether online or printed, function as bulletin boards announcing events to members. Blogs help the pastor sell programs and convey inside-the-walls news to members. Lay councils use communications to pass along financial news and fund-raising appeals to members.

  • By Published On: February 5, 2016

    To move forward, congregations need to address these challenges and recruit, train and support leaders who can function effectively in a context marked by volatility, unpredictability, complexity and ambiguity. This will mean working in partnership with the clergy, and not in opposition to them, and accepting their need for training and accountability.

  • By Published On: January 28, 2016

    Like any organization, churches tend to depend on effective leadership. Without effective leaders, churches are unable to make necessary decisions, to deal with changing situations, to hire effective staff, to allocate resources, to deal with conflict, and to prevent bullies from hurting constituents.

  • By Published On: January 19, 2016

      [In "Forward to the Basics," we are taking a fresh look at best practices in the critical areas of church life. This