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.


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.


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)

Nýr dagur í Trumplandi

Á mánudögum sit ég heima allan daginn og sinni verkefnum sem hafa ekkert með Bandaríkin að gera. Eftir að ég hef komið börnunum í skóla og konunni í vinnu þá sest ég inn á heimaskrifstofuna og sinni verkefnum fyrir sjálfstæða reksturinn minn. Continue reading Nýr dagur í Trumplandi

How Are You Today?

Á lestarpallinum á leiðinni í vinnuna í gærmorgun var ég spurður, “How are you, today?” Spurningin “How are you?” er einhver sú marklausasta í enskri tungu og eftir 10 ár í Bandaríkjunum hef ég lært að svara “Fine and you?” og ganga síðan framhjá viðkomandi. Continue reading How Are You Today?

Forsetakosningar í Bandaríkjunum og hugmyndir um Guð

Hér fyrir neðan er handritið að fræðsluerindi sem ég flutti á Sæludögum í Vatnaskógi sumarið 2016. Það er alltaf nokkrum vandkvæðum bundið að færa erindi sem er flutt munnlega inn á bloggið, viðbótarútskýringar sem ég bætti við í framsögunni og viðbrögð úr salnum vantar en innihaldið er í grunninn óbreytt. Continue reading Forsetakosningar í Bandaríkjunum og hugmyndir um Guð

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

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

Að mæta til starfa í Tremont

Í þessari viku hef ég störf hjá Pilgrim Congregational UCC sem fræðslufulltrúi (e. Director of Christian Education). Atvinnuleitin hefur tekið langan tíma og ekki alltaf verið auðveld, en Pilgrim UCC er spennandi staður í Tremont hverfinu í Cleveland. Continue reading Að mæta til starfa í Tremont

Hvaðan sprettur United Church of Christ?

Upphaf siðbreytingarinnar í Evrópu er oft tengd við ungan munk að negla mótmælaskjal í 95 liðum á kirkjuhurð í smábænum sínum. Vissulega var mótmælaskjalið merkilegt, en boð um að taka þátt í guðfræðilegum rökræðum um hlutverk náðarinnar og áherslur í kirkjustarfi hefði líklega ekki breytt kristnihaldi á heimsvísu ef aðstæður hefðu ekki verið réttar. Continue reading Hvaðan sprettur United Church of Christ?

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

Integrating Youth Ministry

Some time back I observed a congregation dealing with an interesting issue. To strengthen their youth ministry in the past, they had bought a building next to the church for the youth, due to limited space in the main building.

Now the youth building had become a visible and quite established reminder about how the youth ministry was its “own” entity in the congregation. In fact the youth even had their “own” service on Sundays, when they came over to the main building for a contemporary worship experience, before heading back to their fort. Continue reading Integrating Youth Ministry

Change Aversion

Few months ago a person said to me: “I saw this idea in your notes. Sorry, but something similar was tried by our intern 9 years ago and it didn’t work. So, I think you can just forget it.”

Stupid me decided to spend time explaining how my idea was in every way different when it came to shared responsibility, participation and ownership.

The reply should not have come as a surprise: “If we do this, and we probably should, it has to be done as we did it 9 years ago, otherwise we can’t control the outcome.”

4. Mósebók 24. kafli

Eftir að Balak reynir ítrekað að ná sambandi við Guð í gegnum Bíleam og fá blessun Ísraelsmanna aflétt, þá fer svo að Bíleam flytur blessunaróð frá Guði um Ísraelsmenn í þriðja sinn og spáir því að Ísraelsþjóðin muni ná öllum völdum á svæðinu.

Balak mislíkaði skiljanlega svo Bíleam hélt heim á leið og Balak fór einnig leiðar sinnar.

4. Mósebók 23. kafli

Innihald skilaboða Guðs til Balak í gegnum Bíleam eru skýr. Drottinn hefur lofað að standa með Ísraelsþjóðinni.

Guð er ekki maður sem lýgur,
ekki sonur manns sem skiptir um skoðun.
Boðar hann eitthvað án þess að framkvæma það?
Heitir hann einhverju án þess að efna það?
Ég tók að mér að blessa,
því blessa ég og tek það ekki aftur.

Balak gefst samt ekki upp en setur upp altari á hverjum helgum staðnum á fætur öðrum til að fá Drottinn til að standa með sér.

Understanding Youth Ministry

Few months ago I was asked to articulate my personal understanding of youth and young adult ministry. In an attempt to answer I wrote a comprehensive reply with a specific congregation in mind. This is in no way a final word on the issue, but an attempt to give insight into my current thoughts concerning congregational youth ministry. Parts of this posts are directly from my thesis, Ecclesiology and Evaluation, which I wrote at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 2010. Continue reading Understanding Youth Ministry

Að vinna sjálfstætt

Síðastliðin ár hef ég verið heimavinnandi, en tekið að mér fjölbreytt verkefni, flest tengd kirkju og kristni. Þessi verkefni hafa verið fjölbreytt, að jafnaði spennandi og gefið mér kost á að nýta reynslu mína og þekkingu á margbreytilegan hátt. Continue reading Að vinna sjálfstætt