Having a talk about the future – Congregational Training

As I was going to Home Depot this morning I was thinking about vision and mission statements for congregation in light of the question “Who owns the church?” Without going into the details of my thought process I ended up thinking about the stakeholders in a congregation and how we can use stakeholder model to enhance conversations about vision and mission. A possible conversation starter would be to use a venn diagram and go through different areas without any biases.

  1. Our Hopes ∩ God’s Will ⊄ Community Needs
  2. Our Hopes ∩ Community Needs ⊄ God’s Will
  3. God’s Will ∩ Community Needs ⊄ Our Hopes
  4. Our Hopes ⊄ God’s Will ⊄ Community Needs
  5. God’s Will ⊄ Community Needs ⊄ Our Hopes
  6. Community Needs ⊄ Our Hopes ⊄ God’s Will
  7. Community Needs ∩ Our Hopes ∩ God’s Will

We could follow up with questions about any of these areas, and perhaps wondered aloud if there is a place on the venn diagram that can be described as a sweet spot which we should try to expand and stay in, and leave all other stakeholder goals behind.

I think this could be a fun exercise, if we remember there are no right answers. If we start out by looking at each category separately. Starting with Our Hopes, moving next to Community Needs, and finally asking what God’s will is for the church. Starting with questions about God, might pollute the rest of the categories. 

Add on: This is a simplified model, and what is missing is f.x. Pastor’s Ambition and the fact that the congregational leadership might not have a unified hope.

Low Budget – High Impact Live Streaming Equipment for Worship

Many churches are hoping to get back to in-person-worship this fall, but are aware of the need for live-streaming worships in the future, for those that are unable to attend any gatherings due to COVID or any future reasons. In other words, all churches need to recognise that live-streaming is unavoidable for most of them.

For the last few weeks I have been working with a congregation assessing the best way to have a decent live-streaming without the need for a complex tech or a commitment from too many volunteers.

Continue reading Low Budget – High Impact Live Streaming Equipment for Worship


The unhealthy and damaging sexual education that is offered to children, youth, and young people in many churches and some religious communities in the US, is being address in Nadia Bolz-Weber’s upcoming book Shameless.

This damaging and narrow education is not bound to the US, and I am guilty of both participating in enforcing an unhealthy sexual understanding and of being on the receiving end of a judgmental narrow minded behavior by a patriarchal leadership.

Anyway, Shameless has been published and a good reason to check it out.

Changes in Religious Landscape

For a while I have been gathering articles and texts I have been planning to read and disect to understand the changes in our religious landscape, mostly wondering about the declining role of the church.

On a regular basis I am confronted with this reality. There are many empty pews on Sundays, not only in Europe but in America. There is also a declining interest in theological education in formal seminaries. So as the church decline continues there is even a more rapid decline in people willing to serve, which might accelarate the church decline.

There are writing about this issue from various perspectives and some of them are listed here below.

Michael Lipka looks at the religious landscape based on a study by The Pew Research Center. He looks at 5 Key Findings about the Changing U.S. Religious Landscape.

Some people try to find an obvious reason that makes all the difference. One of those is to blame some aspect of the multifaceted tasks that pastors have. One aspect that is fun to blame is pastoral care. Carey Nieuwhof writes an article, How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches. In it, Carey Nieuwhof points to reports by Barna Group that is interesting and helpful.

The Barna group reports the average Protestant church size in America as 89 adults. Sixty percent of Protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2 percent have over 1,000 adults attending.

He then adds that when churches grow to more than 200, the pastoral care demands become unbearable and unsustainable, leading to a failure.

Dr. Marjorie Royle writes an article, Denominational Identity – A Plus or a Minus?, about church planting and different attitudes towards denominational identity.

Heather Hahn writes: What draws people to church? Poll has insights. In the article she looks to Barna Group, a research done for United Methodist Communications.

Carlos Wilton reminds us that the declining church participation is not a new concept in the article, Are the Pews Half Empty or Half Full? Lessons From 734 A.D.

Here are three articles about what might slow down the decline.

Here are two articles about what might accelarate the church decline.


Anecdotes as a Sunday School Project

For some time I have been interested in using story-telling and anecdotes from congregants as an assignment or project for Sunday school. There are various ways of doing this, having congregants visit our children during Sunday school hour to share with them there personal stories, having the children ask and collect stories in coffee hour, or doing a more ambitious project like having the kids create a podcast about the congregation. The possibilities are endless.

At one time I collected few links that could be helpful for this project:

The Owners of God’s Word – Sermon at Pilgrim Congregational UCC (10/08/2017)

Let the words of my mouth and
the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The Owners of God’s Word

Phil 3:4b-14, Matt 21:33-46

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.

We tend to see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, don’t we? And when I am forced to hear what I wish I didn’t, I try to change the narrative. Particularly, if I have the power to do so. Continue reading The Owners of God’s Word – Sermon at Pilgrim Congregational UCC (10/08/2017)

Driving for LYFT

Few weeks ago I started driving part time for LYFT. It has been an interesting and mostly fun experience, the customers are way more diverse than I could have imagined, be it an organ donor flying in for a yearly check-up at Cleveland Clinic, a 9m old pregnant woman nesting, and needing help with her purchases of children’s stuff, a mom searching for a birthday gift for a 13 year old, a teenager late for her job at a fast food chain, or a musician going catching a flight to audition across the country. Not to forget drunk Roman Catholics celebrating St Patrick’s Day a week early. Continue reading Driving for LYFT

Noah: Study Guide – Learning to Read the Bible

Comparing Film and Text(s)

When learning to read and understand the Biblical text, it is helpful to look into the writer’s motive. This simple study guide provides few questions but no answers.

Read Genesis 6-9, and try to see at least two different accounts of the flood narative intervowen into the text. If you are up to it, you might even try to disentangle them.

Watch Noah.


  • What is the film maker trying to say/teach us?
  • What is/are the Biblical Story/ies trying to say/teach us?
  • What is the right story of the flood and why?
  • What makes a story RIGHT?

And the Home of the Scared

Hans Rottberger was born and raised as a Jew in Berlin, Germany. In 1935 he traveled with his wife Olga and the two year old Eva on the passenger ship Godafoss to Reykjavik. They were fleeing what they considered a volatile situation in their home town. Mr. Rottberger and his family got a temporary visa in Iceland, he learned the language, and built a company with a local resident. The family grew, a son was born in 1937. Continue reading And the Home of the Scared

Amazon Affiliates

As part of my website building projects I try to stay up-to-date on simple tools to use for my clients. One model that could be helpful for churches is a connection to the Amazon Affiliates program. A neat example would be for a Book Club discussion, were the church would be able to get a 4-6% referral rate on each sold book through a link on its website.

So for example, if a book club would like to discuss [amazon_link asins=’0684815001′ template=’NameLink’ store=’ispeculatenet-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’884e2f29-d9b2-11e6-8176-85f1b02b0c35′], the link would bring the user to the book on Amazon, and the church would receive a certain percentage of the price paid.

The Easter Story

The Tomb is still Empty

Wow!!! Just so lovely

Posted by Daniel Fred on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Bird and The Donald

I heard a bird yesterday in the attic. Let me be clear I love birds. I even have a bird feeder outside my living room window. I really care for birds. However, I don’t like them when they enter my attic. My anxiety started to set in. I imagined the bird plotting against me. Planning to leave marks all over my furniture. Continue reading The Bird and The Donald

Bloggið fært enn og aftur / The Blog is on the Move

In English Below. Eftir að hafa notast við WordPress.com síðan 9. október 2012, þá er kominn tími til hreyfings. Í tengslum við aukin umsvif á sviði vefráðgjafar hef ég komið mér upp ágætis heimasvæði á ispeculate.net. Ég hef fært bloggið þangað í heild, en mun enn um sinn leyfa færslunum hér að standa. Nýja bloggslóðin mín er www.ispeculate.net/writings.

I have been using wordpress.com since October 9th 2012. As I have been taking on various projects involving more specified wordpress installations, I am moving the blog to www.ispeculate.net/writings, enabling me to use the blog as a laboratory for various themes and plugins.


The National Church in Iceland

Little over a month ago I was asked to write a short overview of the National Church in Iceland and the theological landscape in “a historical light”. Well, this is it.

The National Church in Iceland, or The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland, was a State Church until (at least) 1997. Today it can be argued that it still shows strong signs of a state run religious entity. Salaries for priests are paid by the government as a part of an agreement between the church and state, which involves a complicated land swap deal from 1907. According to a recent supreme court ruling in Iceland, priest are considered government workers with all rights and obligations of such employees. Continue reading The National Church in Iceland

Sitting on the Bleachers

We were having a Junior High Youth group on a Monday at the church. As the meeting was about to start, a few 14-15 year old girls came to me and wanted to talk about their role in the Sunday school. Every Sunday those girls showed up, led songs, told stories, did a puppet show, and helped with refreshments at our Sunday school program for 2-6 years old. Continue reading Sitting on the Bleachers

Myers-Briggs Revisited in Hell

When I was studying at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, the students were expected to take Myers-Briggs type indicator as an assessment tool in Person in Ministry class. I like to analyze and put things in the right boxes, probably more then most. At the same time I have learned by experience that such practices are quite limiting and not always as useful as I would wish. Continue reading Myers-Briggs Revisited in Hell