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.

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.


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?

Is Democracy a Christian Virtue?

Three years ago I was asked to write a curriculum for YMCA/YWCA in Iceland based on a list of virtues chosen by The People’s Meeting (isl. Þjóðfundurinn), a initiative created to find and reaffirm the real values of the Icelandic population in the aftermath of the financial collapse in Iceland. Continue reading Is Democracy a Christian Virtue?

How do we understand our relationship with God and how does it affect our political leanings?

In Fides et Historia, vol XXXII, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2000), I came across an interesting article by David John Marley; Martin Luther King Jr., Pat Robertson, and the Duality of Modern Christian Politics. I have mentioned the article earlier, in my Icelandic Bible blog when I was writing about Exodus 22. Continue reading How do we understand our relationship with God and how does it affect our political leanings?

How do we see Christ in light of Religious Pluralism?

John Hick’s attempts, in an article in Journal of Theology for South Africa, to make sense of the incarnation of Jesus Christ in a pluralistic world. In the article, which is named General Introduction – Christology in an Age of Religious Pluralism, Hick rejects the notion of Jesus Christ as a literally son of God. Continue reading How do we see Christ in light of Religious Pluralism?

What happened to the 19th Century Mission?

In his article, The Future in the Past: Eschatological Vision in British and American Protestant Missionary History, Brian Stanley gives an overview of an historical shift in theological understanding of the end times among missionaries from the English speaking word around the time of the First World War. Continue reading What happened to the 19th Century Mission?

From an Interview with Marcus Borg

He was executed because he had become a radical critic of the way that world was put together and he was beginning to attract a following. To be very blunt, it’s difficult for me to imagine how anybody who has seen what the Bible and Jesus are about could vote for policies that actually maintain or increase the wealth of those at the top in our day.

I came across an interesting interview with Marcus Borg. Even though I might agree to all his theological conclusions. He is without a doubt worth reading.

Daníelsbók 11. kafli

Nálgun mín að Daníelsbók byggir á því að bókin sé fyrst og fremst sem verk skrifara sem leitast við að túlka fortíðina og stöðu þjóðar sinnar í kringum 167 f.Kr. Aðferðin sem skrifari notar er að túlka söguna í gegnum „framtíðarsýn“ Ísraelsmannsins Daníels sem upplifði herleiðinguna til Babýlón 400 árum. Með framtíðarsýn Daníels að vopni fjallar ritari á mjög gagnrýnin hátt um hátterni, hegðan og persónu konungsins sem hefur Jerúsalem á valdi sínu.  Continue reading Daníelsbók 11. kafli

Daníelsbók 1. kafli

Þegar við lesum texta, nálgumst við þá alltaf með einhverjum fyrirframgefnum forsendum. Þannig hefur fyrri lestur eða túlkun einhvers annars á textanum áhrif, nú eða við tengjum einstök orð við minningu eða upplifun. Við erum ekki tómt eða autt blað og textinn sem við lesum er heldur ekki ósnertur áður en við lesum hann.

Continue reading Daníelsbók 1. kafli

Markúsarguðspjall 16. kafli

Lærisveinarnir eru hvergi í fyrri hluta þessa kafla. Það eru konurnar sem hafa ekki yfirgefið Jesú, þó þær hafi upplifað hann tekin frá þeim. Þegar þær vitja grafarinnar þá sjá þær að steininum hefur verið velt frá. Inni í gröfinni sjá þær ungan mann. Continue reading Markúsarguðspjall 16. kafli