“What If”?

Let’s start with a “what if”: what if you were starting a church today, what would you do?
You can do this. It’s like the state motto of New Hampshire: “Live free, or die.” You can live free of negative overhead, dysfunctional practices, and old expectations. You can make fresh decisions – “choose life,” said Moses. Or you can die.

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Look Outward, Reach 3 Audiences

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.

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Make Communications a Major Draw on Your Time

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.

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Leadership Transition: A Time When Many Churches Go Astray

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.

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All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice

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At the root of the current political, economic, cultural, and ecological chaos is a national spiritual unrest, a fragmentation that has inhibited society’s self-awareness and slowed theological progress to a glacial crawl.

In a nation where three-fourths of the population identifies as Christian and religion salts the political discourse, unrest has manifested itself as the talking-head debate between atheists and believers. In All My Bones Shake, Robert Jensen reveals the multitiered complexity of the conflict and offers a progressive approach to its key theological questions. While fundamentalists on both sides have fought to an intellectual standstill and moderates seem content to ignore the battle, Jensen pushes for answers that make sense for anyone trying to exist in the modern scientific world, concluding, “There is no God, and more than ever we all need to serve the One True Gods.”

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Celebrating 25 Years as Open & Affirming at IUCC

Irvine United Congregational Church is celebrating 25 years of welcoming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions into the full community and life of the church. The church was a pioneer in becoming the first Orange County congregation to adopt an Open and Affirming declaration and later became a leader in the fight for marriage equality. Irvine UCC will celebrate this monumental anniversary with an event featuring former IUCC pastor the Rev. Fred Plumer.

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Journey of Faith Sermon – Rev. Fred Plumer – IUCC on the 25th Anniversary of Open and Affirming

  View Video of Fred’s Sermon at IUCC on June 12th, 2016 My story starts 35 years ago when I entered seminary. Pacific School of Religion is the oldest seminary on the west coast and has always …

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‘Open and Affirming’: Irvine Church is a Haven for LGBT

On a hot day in June 1991, about 130 church members packed the Irvine United Congregational Church sanctuary. The air conditioner wasn’t working. At least, that’s how it felt. “It was tense,” said the Rev. Fred Plumer, the church’s founder and pastor at the time. “There was a lot of excitement and anticipation.” They’d all come to cast their votes. The issue? Should they become an “open and affirming church?” In other words, should the church welcome LGBT members?

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Issue Isn’t “Graying,” It’s Not Enough New Folks

  Beware the “graying” of the church – says the common wisdom. And I confess that I have contributed to that concern. My reasoning has been: as the average age of mainline congregants surges past 60, attracting …

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Communications: It’s About the Audience

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?

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SPECIAL REPORT: Usable Technology

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.

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Historic Action for LGBTQ at UMC’s General Conference

  The General Conference of The United Methodist Church voted 428-405 to accept a proposal put forth by the Council of Bishops which can be read HERE. Matt Berryman, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network released the …

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How to Nurture a Welcoming Eethos

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.

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Needed: Leaders Whose Charge is the Future

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.

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Let’s Talk About Scheduling

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.

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4 Ways to Reach Outside Our Walls

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.

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What In The World Do People Want?

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.

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Preaching, Parenting & Putting

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.

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