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.

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: Where Do Your Teens Sit?

Next time you’re in church (which should be this weekend, right?) conduct this experiment: look around, find the group of youth, and note where they are sitting. As an unofficial churchiologist (church+sociologist, a new thing I just invented), I would humbly assert that just like in the real estate business, location is everything.

A View from the Pew: Worship at Sunrise

Just a few days ago we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on the holiest day on the church calendar with a number of traditions that we reserve for this special day. There were flower crosses, lilies, white cloths draping crosses, and boisterous singing of “He Lives!” “Up from the Grave He Arose,” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”

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: The Beauty and Challenge of Baby Dedications

Whether they are innocently sleeping or desperately screaming, we can’t take our eyes off babies. This is especially true during baby dedications at church. Spend any amount of time in church, and you’re likely to be a part of such a service, especially in Baptist churches with young families.

A View from the Pew: What Makes a Sunday Super?

I happen to live in a city that has a rooting interest in Super Bowl LI, so I have more than a passing interest in the big game this year. But even when I don’t care about the outcome, the weeks of hype and constant media and social media attention invade my mental and spiritual space like weeds in my lawn.

A View from the Pew: Aging of the Choir

I’ve had a fondness for Christmas cantatas, lessons and carols services, and other performances of sacred Christmas music since I was a boy fidgeting in the third-row pew while my parents rehearsed portions of Handel’s “Messiah.” Our choir this Sunday was as intriguing as their performance was beautiful.

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.

A View from the Pew: Are the Worship Wars Over?

In the late 1980s and ‘90s, discussions of worship styles in churches were ubiquitous, heated, and all too often destructive to church unity. I was reminded of those old battles last week when I was catching up on the phone with a friend since childhood.

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.

A View from the Pew: The Problem with Wednesdays

I’ve got a Wednesday night church attendance track record that rivals the Apostle Paul’s Pharisee credentials….
But now, for the first time in my life, I’m an erratic Wednesday night church attender.

A View from the Pew: Less Summer to Do Summer Ministry

If you have school-aged children in your life, it’s no secret that summer isn’t what it used to be. Here are five tips to ease the pressure and help your children’s spiritual formation remain at the top of your summer priority list.

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.

A View from the Pew: Ode To a Flower… Committee

My grandmother was a florist, so maybe I get my appreciation of floral arrangers from her. But honestly, it wasn’t until I joined Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, GA in 1992 that I began to appreciate what role flowers played in worship.

A View from the Pew: Ready for Easter

Nothing throws off our seasonal awareness like an early Easter. It’s a seasonal version of what we experience with daylight savings. We’re not quite sure how to feel and everything about our celebration can seem just a little off.

A View from the Pew: Daydream Believer

We train ourselves to not pay attention. Whether it’s distracting technology, over-programming our schedules, entertainment consumption habits, the fall of civilization as we know it, or just human nature, I don’t know.

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.

A View from the Pew: A Day for All Saints

For years I thought the end of October was solely the devil’s territory. Trick-or-treat, scary or revealing costumes, and general tomfoolery were reserved for Halloween leaving churches few good options for experiencing the season.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A View from the Pew: Counting the Choir

I have a confession: for reasons I’m about to explore, each week during worship, I silently count the members of the church choir. Bizarre, I know.

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 View from the Pew: Making the Most of a Ministerial Transition

An unexpected resignation of a church staff member can feel like a punch to the gut. When a trusted staff member resigns, it’s not unusual to feel an acute sense of loss and even betrayal.

A View from the Pew: “Back to Church” Season

As a child, the most dreaded words uttered every July on the commercials interrupting TV reruns were “Back-to-school sale.” Like the first few bars of “Jingle Bells,” heard nowadays in late September, that phrase was the harbinger of homework, research papers, and exams.

A View from the Pew: The Fervent Chaperone

Those minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the overwhelming benefits of giving up a few days of work or personal time to go to camp. This month’s dispatch comes to you live from PASSPORTkids Camp in Crossville, Tenn., where I’m wrangling four boys from Parkway Baptist Church.

A View from the Pew: Summertime Blues

It’s easy to see it from the pastor’s perspective: you visit the sick, you counsel the anxious, and you show up on Sunday with a heart and mind overflowing. But when you reach your seat on the platform and look out at the smaller-than-normal congregation during the prelude, you question your calling.

A View from the Pew: Asleep at the Pew

Of all the human frailties that impact my ability to worship God, none frustrates me more than fatigue. As a child, I never slept in church. I was always a wiggler, which in hindsight I prefer to describe as “an active listener.”