A View from the Pew: What to Get Your Church Staff for Christmas

While the rest of the world started Christmas preparations on November 1, many Christian churches in the U.S. generally wait until after Thanksgiving to turn their focus of worship to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Whether or not your church has a “Hanging of the Green” service or observes the season of Advent, parishioners often turn their thoughts to showing their appreciation to their church staff with holiday gifts.

Dreams for the Church

I like Reformation Day. Probably more than a person should like Reformation Day. I’ve written Reformation Day carols. I used a Martin Luther bobblehead in this past Sunday’s communion meditation. At our youth Halloween party, I dressed up as the Wittenberg-by-way-of-Asgard Avenger Martin Lu-Thor. Yes, I like Reformation Day quite a bit.

Break the Huddle

The Fall is the most wonderful time of the year. Why? Football season. All three of my young boys play football; between them, that’s three games and a dozen practices every week.

A View from the Pew: Constant Non-Contact

One of the most visible and important ways laity serve in Baptist churches is through the role of deacon. Though it varies in form and function from church to church, one essential task as outlined in Scripture is taking care of people in the congregation as an extension of the ministry of the staff.

A View from the Pew: Resetting Your Defaults

During a recent commute home from a work, a friend called to check in. Our typically wide-ranging conversations landed on church, and he asked me directly why I feel such an obligation to attend every week. I pointed out that I did miss a Sunday in July when the family went on vacation, but otherwise my family is there every time the door opens.

A View from the Pew: Eating at Church

It’s known by a hundred different names—potluck, fellowship meal, church social, Wednesday night supper. But no matter what you call it, eating a meal at church is special. My kids love it. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or supper, they relish the ability to load their plates with their own choices.

All That Once Was Good

Major League Baseball and the burgeoning church down the street from my house: I have developed a suspicion of both of these for many of the same reasons. Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball, and I love the church. But something is not quite right.

A View from the Pew: Taking the Summer Off

Every church has that section of the newsletter where it publishes its monthly “vital statistics:” Sunday school attendance, corporate worship attendance, and giving and budget needs. You don’t have to read the vital statistics to recognize the precipitous drop in attendance when summer arrives.

A View from the Pew: Don’t Blame the Weather

One of my favorite old weather-related church jokes goes something like this: “It was raining today, so of course many of the Baptists stayed home. If there’s one thing Baptists can’t stand, it’s a sprinkling.” This time of year we usually confront several bouts of severe weather as the season changes from winter to spring, and if we’re not careful, our church attendance can be affected.

A View from the Pew: Thanksgiving, Advent, and Missions

It’s a season for thanksgiving and anticipation, but I have a confession to make: celebrating abundance and extending a call to give at the same time feels incongruent. I have mixed emotions, and it’s hard for me to sort it all out.

The Great Cloud

I have been thinking a lot about my spiritual journey recently. The truth of the matter is that whatever has been done to get me to the nebulous “here” of being ordained is not solely my doing. Not even close.

A View from the Pew: 6 Types of Church Committees

Lay people commonly serve in churches through committees. If you’re active in your congregation, chances are you’re on a committee. Over the years, I’ve found myself or planted myself on a number of such bodies with mixed results.

The Church and Refugees: Better Together

The waiting room of the Health Department is crowded as Rajaa, Sarah, and I make our way to the back of the building. We’re lucky we have an appointment today. Mondays are always busy.

Reimagining “Church” and “Christians” as the “Jesus Tribe”

This may be unsettling to some, but the earliest followers of Jesus did not refer to themselves as Christians. I am rather glad about this because the word “Christian” has too much baggage attached to it.

This I Believe

Every Sunday while growing up, I ran down the aisle at my church and slid in the pew beside Mrs. Rose. Mrs. Rose was the church lady who children regarded with wonder, trying to figure out if she was related to Mary Poppins and borrowed her famous bag every Sunday morning.

Evangelical Common Worship on National Holidays

In general, we come to common worship from a week in which a secular society has tried to shape our identity as something radically different than what Scripture says it is.

Welcoming the Blue-haired Home

When I first shared my experience with a blue-haired girl and her friends, I noted the deep hurt I was hearing. But I also noticed the beautiful community created at this two-week teen writing workshop.

A View from the Pew: Someone Else’s Building

“If you’re not here just bring me a bulletin from the church you visited, and everything will be okay.”
One of my pastor’s favorite jokes this time of year when his congregation disappears for the summer has an interesting premise: people go to church while on vacation.

A View from the Pew: Flag Waving

Making the ultimate sacrifice is a central theme if not THE central theme of the Christian faith. It’s no wonder that the patriotic holiday Memorial Day resonates so deeply with churchgoers.

Formations 05.22.2016: Casting a Vision

One of the key skills of any leader is motivating his or her team, and there is no shortage of advice about how to do it. Much of this advice, however, though true, is also rather basic.

The Church’s Insufficient Response to Mental Illness

My church knew some of the problems my mother and our family dealt with as she battled mental illness, but they didn’t really know how to react when I muttered the words, “It was suicide.”

Crossroads: The Body of Christ

Talk about a time in your life when you had to work as a team with others. Talk about what your role was and how each person had a different role. What were you trying to accomplish?

A View from the Pew: New Year’s Resolutions for Churchgoers

We are psychologically and spiritually drawn to opportunities to make a fresh start, and though we tend to make the same pledges year after year, there is value in trying.

A View from the Pew: What Are We Waiting For?

I wasn’t introduced to Advent as a season of spiritual reflection and anticipation until well into adulthood. But for nearly 20 years now, this season has enriched my spiritual journey leading up to Christmas.

A View from the Pew: 7 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Church

Though retailers would rather this time of year be known as “Christmas Shopping Season,” the American holiday of Thanksgiving is worth our time and energy as its own distinct observance.

Can’t Help Falling in Love

If you’re like me, you’ve been in church a long time. You’ve seen the good and bad, the highs and lows, and in many ways, your church experience might best compare to a long marriage.

Life Is My Church

I saw a picture recently on social media–a beautiful fall scene, with the sun rising beautifully over a vista of trees and water and clouds, the sort of view that speaks peace into your very soul.

Easy like Sunday Morning?

Sometimes getting inside the church building is hard. I’ve talked to a few friends recently about what it takes to collect all they’ve got and bring it into Sunday’s gathering. Some people get to roll in on Sunday, hands free. Some folks face obstacles just getting to the door.

A View from the Pew: Losing the Game Against Sports

There are three ways you can tell what people care about: what they talk about, how they spend their time, and how they spend their money. The scoreboard in church vs. sports shows sports with a sizable lead in all three categories.

A View from the Pew: Worship Wars’ Next Battlefront—the Thermostat

If your church is anything like mine, there’s a battle being fought this time of year that impacts the quality of worship more than the music, length of the sermon, or the translation of the Bible used. Of course, I’m talking about the air conditioning.

A View from the Pew: Camp Worship

What is it about worship at camp that engages campers in profound ways while their weekly worship experiences in their home churches often fail to connect?

A View from the Pew: Not Everyone Can Go

We are in the season of mission trips. Churches across America are sending members to a variety of ministry opportunities around the world and undertaking projects close to home.

Uniform 07.05.2015: The Stranger Among Us

You are sitting with your friends, getting ready for Bible study. It’s a weekly event that you all look forward to—good company along with spiritual growth as you learn about God together. A visitor walks in.

Ecumenical PB&J

I have often joked that I was Baptist before I was Christian—but it’s not entirely a joke. To me, it all comes down to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

¿Qué Quieres?

¿Qué quieres, Lorena? ¿Qué quieres? I repeated it to myself as I stared at my reflection in the window of an almost thousand-year-old church. What do you want?

Beyond Church Chat

“Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” Remember that preschool fingerplay? If it had cute hand motions to go with it, we might add an extra verse: “Here is the church, and here are the pews, and here are the holy words that we use.”

A View from the Pew: Mothers and Fathers

Church is a place for celebration. That celebration gets tricky when we as the church are handed a set of holidays outside of our faith tradition and the Scriptures.

The Decline of the American Church, Boy Meets World, & Me

People can slice statistics any way they want to (and already have), but the short of it is this: While Christianity still remains the majority religion in the U.S., it is on the decline.

A View from the Pew: The Resurrection Applies to Chreasters, Too

The Resurrection is for everyone. Infrequent attendance at worship services does not exclude a person from accessing the hope of the risen Jesus Christ. But for consistent church attenders, high holy days such as Christmas and Easter can create a sense of protective exclusion.

Crossroads: Train Up a Child

I loved going to church as a child. I loved Sunday school, VBS, choir, worship, and everything else I went to. I wanted to be there every time the doors were open.

Becoming a Church

Peter Pan premieres at the box office. Eisenhower becomes President of the United States. The Korean War ends. These events all occurred in 1953, the same year that a church plant was created.

10 Things the Church Could Learn from Parks and Rec

On Tuesday night this week, Parks and Recreation aired the final episode of its seven season run. The writing is fantastic. The ensemble, led by Amy Poehler, is one of the funniest and deepest casts on TV.

A View from the Pew: Doing ‘Sorry’

Whether or not you have ashes dabbed on your forehead this Wednesday, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to do more than say “I’m sorry.” The season of Lent is a chance to engage in active repentance.

A View from the Pew: Eyes Wide Open

There are many postures for prayer in Christianity, but nearly all of them involve closing your eyes. I followed the eye-closing rule for prayer in church dutifully until my twenties.

Six Ways to Embrace Your Uniqueness

As we put our hands to the plow of the new year, consider these six ways of transforming yourself and your Sunday school class.

Slow: A Covenant Story

Trying to rush something at Covenant Baptist Church is like trying to sprint in waist-deep water. It doesn’t work. Every time we think about cranking it up, some invisible force slows us.

A View from the Pew: Words and Hands

My church recently ordained three of its members as new deacons, setting them apart for special service to God’s church and its people. Each time I participate in such a worship service, I am blessed because it presents me with an opportunity to literally and tangibly be a blessing to someone.

A 4,000 Mile Friendship

In September, I was blessed to be on a planning team for the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship that brought nine travelers from partner churches of the Protestant Churches of Morocco (E.E.A.M.) to Kentucky for a tour of partner churches and mission sites. The purpose of the trip was to renew partnership and encourage other churches to join in.