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Avocados and Screwdrivers

It feels a lot like we have been in a darkened movie theater for the last year, watching the same pandemic picture show play over and over and over again…and now have walked out into bright light.  Our eyes are struggling to adjust and refocus….

The Apocalypse Behind the Apocalypse

There’s been no shortage of reflection and conversation over the past year about what’s been revealed by our multiple societal crises. So many dynamics – economic, social, political, cultural, and indeed ecclesial – that lay under the surface suddenly came to the fore in jarring…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Heart, Home, Hub

It must be hard to contemplate the breadth and depth of your church board agenda right now.  New protocols for meeting in person, staying safe, being ready to contact-trace if needed, and tracking vaccination levels.  But also, in-person worship (or when can we do that?)…

Returning Forward…

We’ve just celebrated Easter 2021. We’ve endured a full year of this pandemic, political and social unrest, and likely an untold number of personal struggles that accompany these external pressures. We have had to discern a new way of being in a world that feels…

The Challenges of Ministry During Crisis: Meaningful Risks

Featured in this week’s Christian Century, written by Carrie Graham, Austin, TX Cohort Facilitator and Founder of the Church Lab:     Rev. Carrie Graham is the founder and pastor of The Church Lab. While at Fuller Theological Seminary, she had a worshipful and transformative…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Who Is Not Here?

In some traditions, the story of Thomas’ encounter with the Risen Christ, following upon his earlier missed opportunity, is suggested for the Sunday after Easter. You’ll notice careful construction in the previous sentence to avoid the word “doubt.”  In the clear proclamation of John’s Gospel,…

What Jesus Did Not Say During the Last Week of His Life…

As we enter the Lenten Season for the next few weeks, The Ministry Collaborative staff will be inviting you into conversation with us on topics that we’ve seen bubbling under the surface of our work and experience as ministry leaders. Our goal is to use…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Point of Return

A quick survey of recent church-related emails yields one prominent word:  return. “Return to in-person worship.” “Return in time for Easter.” “Return of regular programs.” “We know you are all wondering, when can we finally return after these long, hard 13 months?” What does the…

Is the Church Dying?

We’ve all heard it before, and probably even have said it ourselves: The church is dying. This diagnosis is based on troubling symptoms we’ve seen in recent years. Worship attendance is down, fewer people are participating in church programming, and an alarming number of congregations…

Outside In: Long-term pandemic lessons about context, social location, and ministering from the margins.

As we enter the Lenten Season for the next few weeks, The Ministry Collaborative staff will be inviting you into conversation with us on topics that we’ve seen bubbling under the surface of our work and experience as ministry leaders. Our goal is to use…

Tough Times…Tougher Questions

We have heard it said that adversity brings out both the best and the worst in who we really are. The times are telling on all of us, as we’ve had plenty of opportunity to reckon with ourselves over the last year. The compounded crises…

What is the Spirit Doing with Ministry Systems and Structures?

As we enter the Lenten Season for the next few weeks, The Ministry Collaborative staff will be inviting you into conversation with us on topics that we’ve seen bubbling under the surface of our work and experience as ministry leaders. Our goal is to use…

No More Hero’s

As we enter the Lenten Season for the next few weeks, The Ministry Collaborative staff will be inviting you into conversation with us on topics that we’ve seen bubbling under the surface of our work and experience as ministry leaders. Our goal is to use…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is Trust? …Continued

These days, whenever churches get mentioned in the company of banks, Congress, journalism, and big business, the news is probably not good. Case in point: Amanda Ripley’s recent piece in Comment Magazine on The Mystery of Trust. For decades, at least four different research organizations…

The Limits of Technical Solutions

“Seminary didn’t prepare me for this.” I hear this sort of statement all the time, from senior pastors to newly minted MDiv grads. These are really talented folks who have gone to great seminaries and who care deeply about the church and the world. Yet…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is Trust?

“No one around here trusts the other side at all.”  – a U.S. Congressperson, January 2021 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  – Psalm 56:3 Former Secretary of State (and Secretary of Labor and Treasury at different times) George Shultz died…

Great Adventures

If you’re reading this, then congratulations, you have successfully navigated almost one whole year in the pandemic. One year ago we were all bracing ourselves for the onslaught of fear, pain, death, anxiety and grief that none of us could’ve foreseen. In some ways 2020…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is New?

Late last spring (mere months into the pandemic, although it already felt like a lifetime in lockdown), Lake Institute on Faith & Giving asked its extensive network of religious and philanthropic leaders to look ahead a year. What did they hope would be happening with…

A Well-Planned Leap of Imagination

Among the top three questions we are getting these days from pastors and congregational leaders:  How can we plan for our ministry in the next year?  Or, do you have strategic planning tools to recommend? In every office I have moved into upon starting a…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is Accountability?

Well, that didn’t take long.  For all the talk of unity on January 20th (and the gifts to the new president from Republicans and Democrats alike, and Lady Gaga’s memorable national anthem, and Amanda Gorman’s gorgeous spoken word poem, The Hill We Climb), by January…

Ok, Jesus, Who Can We Disappoint This Week?

In all my work as a pastor and alongside pastors over the past 12 years or so, I’ve never witnessed a time when clergy were feeling more stuck, beaten down, conflicted, exhausted, and, for some, simply hopeless, than I have over the past nine months….

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is Unity?

On the Sunday morning after the deadly riot at the United States Capitol, Father William Corcoran put on his black suit and clerical collar and stepped into St. Elizabeth Seton church in the Chicago suburb of Orland Hills to celebrate the 7:30 a.m. Mass. So…

Stuck in the Past: Making America Great…Again? Look Back with Honest Eyes.

My mother used to tell me that, “If you lie, you will cheat, if you cheat, you will steal, and if you steal, you will kill.”  She would follow by telling me that there’s nothing worse than a liar.  “You can guard yourself against a…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is Truth?

As our nation reels from the violent assault on the women and men of Congress and the Capitol Building last week, church boards need to direct their feet. They need to walk toward conversations about shared truth and walk away from the language of false…

Resolving to Change

It’s January, and that means one thing: New Year’s Resolutions. Eat better. Exercise more. Spend less. Make it through one of those read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year programs. Whatever the goal, New Year’s Resolutions produce two contrasting impulses in me. The first is hope. January heralds the possibility of…

Looking Forward: A New Year’s Letter of Updates, Support, and Encouragement

Dear friends and colleagues, At the outset of this new year, we wanted to express several pressing things to you. First and foremost, thank you.  Thank you for the faithful, inspired, life-changing work you’ve given yourself to over the past year. You’ve been sharing in…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Grace, Actually

Colossians is a guide for every church board in every season, but perhaps in no season more than this one at the end of 2020. At the beginning of the letter, we read: In our prayers for you we always thank God, for we have…

Questions of the Year

Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com revealed their “word of the year” last week.  Unsurprisingly, that word was “pandemic.”  More interesting were the words that were “runners-up”- including “bubble,” “pod,” “social-distancing,” “face-masks,” and “lockdown.”  There was another set of runners-up that dug deeper into how this year has…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Charity, Justice, Debt—and your Church Board

It’s rare that a major news outlet covers the charitable work of American churches. (Is that the fault of the news media, or the churches?) Bucking this trend, a recent New York Times Op-Ed by Elizabeth Bruenig, “Churches Step In Where Politicians Will Not,” highlights…

“Hold On, Just a Little While Longer…”

The Birmingham 2.0 Cohort of The Ministry Collaborative have transitioned to the next phase of our journey together.  Our official time together ended this month, but the relationships that began over three years ago have been deepened and our commitment to support on another has…

Church Beyond Buildings

One of the things we’re learning during COVID-19 is that many in our communities are longing for “thirdspaces.” Thirdspace is a term used by sociologists to describe where we spend time when we’re not at home (“first” space) or at work (“second” space). Thirdspaces can…

What Have We Learned?

As I sat down to write today’s article pondering the prompt, “What have we learned?” I immediately began pulling up emails, and scouring studies, and statistics. I then turned to several bloggers I respect and read their brilliant think pieces. I even logged onto some…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Push Pull

The year 2020 has launched an armada of articles that bear the same rippling banner.  “The coronavirus could be the crisis that finally propels X industry into the 21st Century.” This week’s flotilla led off with a New York Times piece by Stefanos Chen about…

There Are Some Really, Really Gifted Pastors and Congregational Leaders Out There.

As we enter the last stretch of 2020, we want to share what we’re seeing and learning about pastors and congregations across the country.  I’m sure we’ll get into to some nuts and bolts analysis of these themes in the coming weeks, but I simply…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Can We Survive It?

They had become so focused on the aches and pains in the system that they had been thrown off course by the complaints. They had stopped supplying vision or had burned out fighting the resistance; they had ceased to be the strength in the system….

Holding Our Breath

Over the past week, many of us have held our breath as we awaited results from the election. In the agonizing period between Tuesday and Saturday, I must have hit refresh on the blue-and-red map a thousand times. Never have four days felt longer. Yet,…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Listening

Our inboxes—perhaps like yours—have been flooded with election-related emails in the last month.  There have been requests for money (and more requests, and more requests), pleas for volunteers, and updates on polls and strategy.  As we headed into election week, however, there came a change. …

By Contrast…

One of the strong impressions this year has made on me is the growing distrust – or disdain – of words.  There are active attempts to undermine the words of those in positions of responsibility.  But there is something more personal involving so much hard…

Macedonian Ministry Foundation, Inc. Receives $1 Million Grant for Thriving Congregations Initiative

Macedonian Ministry Foundation has received a grant of $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish and build collaborative, adaptive, and joyful congregations. The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Can We Get T-Shirts for Everyone?

It is inevitable for most church boards that, during times of uncertainty (like now) or contentious board discussions (potentially like now), people get to thinking, if only we knew more … or if only the people on the other side of the issue understood more…

No Safe Place Down Here

Growing up my mother always warned us, “There’s no safe place down here.” Whenever we went to her for an explanation of something crazy happening in the world she reminded us that this world is not our home and safety wasn’t hers to give. Yesterday…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Moving Toward Bigger Questions

What is the church for? Increasingly, this question is coming into focus as an essential question to ask – and answer – for congregations, their pastors, and their church boards.  Most faith communities have long assumed they know what they exist for.  Sadly, the year…

Curating this Crisis?

2020 is one for the books for sure.  We have all been riding this ridiculous rollercoaster for months now and are likely worn thin by worry and anxiety.  Our souls are disquieted by the uncertainty of the times.  But amid these crises, I offer you…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Rainy Day Fund

Before writing our piece this week, we called a colleague who is a gifted pastor of a mid-sized healthy congregation.  “So, what are you thinking about in the midst of this fall’s stewardship emphasis in your church?” The pastor’s succinct response:  “Ugh.” Among pastors and…

Wholehearted

Half-hearted ministry is killing us. Every bit as much as half-hearted living leads us into dead ends, half-hearted ministry is leaving congregations adrift and clergy and other church staff looking for, as more than one pastor has said to me lately, “a ticket out.” This…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Unlikely Stories

For some, it is the loss of salad bars.  As the Wall Street Journal reported last week: A casualty of the pandemic, the days of the salad bar are gone for the foreseeable future. …[T]o devotees, the banishment of buffet bars signifies the closing of…

Getting Precision about Ministry Paradigm Shifts

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What Time is It?

Once you reach your 60s (or so we hear . . .), the annual physical at the doctor’s office may include a memory test. Spell “world” backward.  Sure. Subtract 7 from 100 until you get less than 50.  Got it. What day of the week…

Embodying Justice: A Lesson Written in Crayon

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Rewrites

As the multiple challenges of 2020 lengthen and deepen, and the pressures on pastors and  church boards proliferate, it is helpful to hold onto some Biblical and theological truths and then follow those truths wherever they lead.  Here’s one such truth, supported by creation accounts…

Holy Inefficiency

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Efficiency

Today, we take you to the NBA three-point line. We tend to stay away from sports analogies, but this one is less about basketball and more about risk, efficiency, change, and the development of new skills. The three-point shot was introduced to NBA games in…

A Word of Thanks and Important Updates from The Ministry Collaborative

Dear friends and colleagues, Your continued support for one another from coast to coast is inspiring. We have the privilege of being able to observe how you all are connecting, communicating, encouraging, and challenging one another in this truly remarkable time of ministry, and we…

Recovering Identity

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Gifts

It’s helpful for those of us working in or with churches to remember that we – and our institutions – are not as special as we often think we are. For every invaluable reminder that the church has a unique calling in our world (the…

When Are We Going Back?

32 Remember Lot’s wife. [1] Luke 17:32   When are we going back?  One of the greatest things I ever learned from running in track meets in grade school and high school was never to look back.  Even if you thought you were winning a…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Real Work

When, in July, Lifeway Research asked pastors what was causing them the most stress, the number one answer was not what you might expect. It was not congregation members’ safety and well-being (that was named by 13 percent). It was not personal exhaustion (that was…

Seeing What’s Important

Everyone loves a superhero. At least I do. There is something about the way ordinary people, with ordinary lives are transformed by some hidden ability allowing them to do extraordinary things. We recently lost a beloved actor, Chadwick Bosman, who gave us King T’Challa in…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Arguments

While we hope these pieces are helpful and relevant whenever they are used, we do not write them to be “evergreen.”  That is especially true this week.  Conversations with pastors, church leaders, and church board members in diverse settings in the last several days have…

Lists

The pain, grief, dislocation, and uncertainty generated by this pandemic feel endless.  As it turns out, so do the lists. Top Ten Comfort Foods in Quarantine Fifteen overlooked movies of the 1980’s Essential TV shows to Binge Today (yes, it is time to watch The…

Digging a Deeper Well

The Struggles You Choose

In the days after the deaths of C.T. Vivian and John Lewis, which happened on the same weekend in July, the digital displays outside Lincoln Center in New York City – usually pre-occupied with upcoming performances but mostly blank amid the pandemic –  displayed alternating…

Weakness, Convenience, and Faithfulness in a Pandemic

  A member of Macedonian Ministry’s Atlanta 4 Cohort, Matt serves as Executive Pastor at The Living Room Community Church in the Tri-Cities of Washington where he architects structures and processes that support the vision and mission of the church. He leads change, builds culture,…

Groundhog Day

Is it me or does it seem like we are stuck in the movie Groundhog Day? For some reason the past couple of weeks feels oddly like the first weeks of quarantine life back in March (April or May depending where you live). Although we’ve…

Confronting Social Justice Fatigue

In recent weeks, I’ve begun hearing people talk about social justice fatigue. This refers to the physical, mental, and/or emotional toll incurred through advocating for social change. There’s no doubt, standing up against racial injustice or any other form of violence and marginalization is exhausting…

Maybe the Most Important Decision You’ll Make

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” ― Frederick Buechner  In this moment, there are a lot of variables that seems out of our control, and a lot of variables that simply aren’t going very well. But we can make a…

Rest

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29 The…

Grind Culture Will Not Save Us

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For…

What Now?

Our colleagues at RootedGood are offering a terrific tool to help pastors and church boards navigate the challenging decision making that is inherent in ministry today as we seek to be faithful to the urgent demands of the moment.  Though Digging a Deeper Well is taking a…

Narratives

A recent post by my favorite daily blogger, Seth Godin, contains a great deal of complexity in its few lines: When you talk about your last job, your last vacation, the things that happened when you were 12… What do you lead with? Do you…

Where are You on the Edge of Inside?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting on Richard Rohr’s notion of “The Edge of Inside.”  Being on the edge of inside means being connected to an established system but not being beholden to it or reliant upon it. Sometimes, being too far…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Love, Actually

Last weekend, The New York Times ran a front-page story about Chris Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Williams, Alabama. In early 2017, President Trump had been inaugurated the week before, and the new administration was already making headlines with a travel ban that…

Who Is My Neighbor?

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 When we think about naming and labeling, recall how God gave Adam the job of naming what He created. That naming was not just a vocabulary challenge, but it…

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Dustbins

If the current season of crisis and change doesn’t end “strategic planning” and consign it to the dustbin of history, nothing will. Speaking of dustbins, go into most pastors’ offices, and there on the highest shelf you will find the last four strategic planning reports,…