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Vibrant Faith Articles

Vibrant Faith's writing team of certified coaches, ministry leaders, and researchers publishes three times a week on leadership development, coaching for ministry leaders, and applied ministry research.

Vibrant Faith Leadership - Articles

What Kids Wish Their Parents Knew

In the Frontline documentary “Inside the World of the Teenage Brain,” producers interviewed Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute based in New York. Galinsky’s research targets what we think we know about kids, but really don’t. What she’s discovered about the hopes and dreams of

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Flipping the Script

 Recent research reveals that 40 million Americans who used to go to church no longer do… These are the “nones”—people who are disaffiliating, deconstructing, reconstructing, and de-churching. People who once included churchgoing as a normal part of life, but no longer do. For the first time, in the eight decades that Gallup

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The Fuzzy Faith-Connections of Contemporary Families

In her latest “What We’re Learning” blog, Dr. Nancy Going targets our discoveries about parents’ evolving relationship with their faith, and what role the church plays in their everyday life. Through our four-year research project “Fourth-Soil Parenting,” we’ve created a firsthand “listening post” for parents’ hopes, dreams, and concerns. We

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The Macro-Shifts In Family-Shaping Forces

About a year ago a friend sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic by Jonathan Haidt, the NYU social psychologist and author. The piece, a lengthy exposé of what Haidt calls a divisive “After Babel” American culture, fueled by the rise in social media’s forming influence, is

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What If ‘Too Busy’ Wasn’t the Standard?

You know the drill—especially before, during and after busy ministry seasons… “How are you doing?”someone asks. “Surviving,” you reply. “Juggling too much of everything!” That’s typically true and feels “correct.” But imagine if, instead, you replied: “I’m great! Fully rested.” Ever heard that kind of reply from your boss or

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The Blessing of Forest Fires

  I first met Jonny Baker more than 20 years ago, when I spent two weeks in England exploring the rebirth of youth ministry in a culture that had experienced a metaphorical forest fire—a rapid decline that “burned down” most of the church. At the time Jonny was the longtime

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The Simple Skill That Unlocks Difficult People

  By Fred Oduyoye and Rick Lawrence Some people are simply hard to “unlock.” Their body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and relational “posture” all converges into one simple message: Leave me alone. And, mostly, we oblige by leaving them alone. What we miss is an opportunity to connect across

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Faith Formation - Articles

Flipping the Script

 Recent research reveals that 40 million Americans who used to go to church no longer do… These are the “nones”—people who are disaffiliating, deconstructing, reconstructing, and de-churching. People who once included churchgoing as a normal part of life, but no longer do. For the first time, in the eight decades that Gallup

Read More »

What If ‘Too Busy’ Wasn’t the Standard?

You know the drill—especially before, during and after busy ministry seasons… “How are you doing?”someone asks. “Surviving,” you reply. “Juggling too much of everything!” That’s typically true and feels “correct.” But imagine if, instead, you replied: “I’m great! Fully rested.” Ever heard that kind of reply from your boss or

Read More »

Creating a Healing Culture of Storytelling

  At a conference this month I heard John Bucher talk about our intrinsic love of stories. He described how our love affair with story goes deeper than we think. We are created from stories; we’re formed by them. We need stories to mirror back our reality—parables, fables, songwriting, novels,

Read More »

What We’re Learning: Entering Into the Brokenness

   In 1997, Lutheran pastor Dr. Merton Strommen and his wife Irene founded The Youth & Family Institute in memory of their son David, a young seminarian and youth worker who was killed by lightning while leading a youth trip in the Colorado mountains. The name of the Institute was

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Sabbath Practices to Renew Your Soul

  We all know: “You can’t draw water from an empty well.” And ministry is a water-depleting adventure, in the best sense of that metaphor. We give out of our “good treasure” to others. And we need a significant “inlet” for our spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing if we’re going

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broken and needy

The Pro’s & Con’s of Over-Vetting Leaders

  I have a ministry friend who’s willing to take a chance on plugging people into leadership roles with (in my mind) very little vetting. I’ve often seen the messes he’s had to clean up as a result. It makes me cringe, but I also admire his willingness to take

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Are We (Really) All In This Together?

I was speechless as I listened to the teenager and her mom—and my silence was intentional. They’d asked to meet after the girl felt overwhelmed by an incident that happened in youth group. Because of a past personal trauma that is triggered in large gatherings, she’d been upset by something

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Vibrant Faith Coaching - Articles

Flipping the Script

 Recent research reveals that 40 million Americans who used to go to church no longer do… These are the “nones”—people who are disaffiliating, deconstructing, reconstructing, and de-churching. People who once included churchgoing as a normal part of life, but no longer do. For the first time, in the eight decades that Gallup

Read More »

The Simple Skill That Unlocks Difficult People

  By Fred Oduyoye and Rick Lawrence Some people are simply hard to “unlock.” Their body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and relational “posture” all converges into one simple message: Leave me alone. And, mostly, we oblige by leaving them alone. What we miss is an opportunity to connect across

Read More »

Creating a Healing Culture of Storytelling

  At a conference this month I heard John Bucher talk about our intrinsic love of stories. He described how our love affair with story goes deeper than we think. We are created from stories; we’re formed by them. We need stories to mirror back our reality—parables, fables, songwriting, novels,

Read More »

Sabbath Practices to Renew Your Soul

  We all know: “You can’t draw water from an empty well.” And ministry is a water-depleting adventure, in the best sense of that metaphor. We give out of our “good treasure” to others. And we need a significant “inlet” for our spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing if we’re going

Read More »

The ‘Maintenance Check’ Light

  By Fred Oduyoye and Rick Lawrence All our relationships have one thing in common—broken people are involved, so broken things happen. That means reconciliation is a baked-in need, embedded in all aspects of our everyday life. When things go wrong we go into crisis management—the same way we respond

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Creating a Welcoming Environment for New Families

  In our post-Easter journey we have fresh memories of new faces, drawn to the church through the magnet of Holy Week. I just met a new young couple in our community. They sought me out because they want to pursue membership and needed additional information. Before the service was

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Loving Difficult People

By Fred Oduyoye and Rick Lawrence Got a difficult person in your life? It’s hard to imagine you don’t—either at home or at work or at church… Unreconciled relationships with people who bring “thorn in the side” impact into our life can exhaust our energy and derail our good work.

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Becoming a Church They Don’t Want to Leave

  I’m telling this story backwards. Stay with me… I’m moving. Again. People who know me are laughing. When we bought our condo three years ago I declared: “This is it, we’re home. I’m never moving again.” Now this will be the sixth time my husband and I have moved

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How to Prompt a Story-Sharing Environment

  With church partners in our Fourth-Soil Parenting Project, we’re experimenting with new ways to plant and nurture a story-sharing environment in congregations. Why? Because discipleship and faith formation are profoundly hindered when people have not yet explored, acknowledged, and witnessed to their own story. As more people in your

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Vibrant Faith Research - Articles

What We’re Learning: Entering Into the Brokenness

   In 1997, Lutheran pastor Dr. Merton Strommen and his wife Irene founded The Youth & Family Institute in memory of their son David, a young seminarian and youth worker who was killed by lightning while leading a youth trip in the Colorado mountains. The name of the Institute was

Read More »

What We’re Learning: Connecting Matters More Than You Think

  In Vibrant Faith’s ongoing Fourth-Soil Parenting Project, we coach church ministry leaders to:   Honor (uphold) parents as the primary faith-forming agents in the lives of their children.  Experiment with new ways to support and encourage parents to live out and talk about their faith in Jesus in daily life.

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What We’re Learning: Parents’ Unique Spiritual Longings

  Parenting tips, strategies, and philosophies are well-resourced in our culture—through books, seminars, social media, and online resources. And in the contemporary church we’ve always been focused on the needs, developmental pathways, and spiritual formation of children. But, in many ways, we are just waking up to the needs, developmental

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unsung heroes

What We’re Learning: 3 Unsung Heroes

  The old saying goes: “The church is always one generation away from extinction.”   Typically, we use that sort of “fear leverage” to double-down on attractional ministries for children and youth. I’ve heard ministry leaders use the “one generation” mantra to argue for the importance of church/parachurch-based ministries. But I’ve never

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The Programification of the Church

I know, “program-ification” is not a real word. One of our Vibrant Faith Coaches, the Rev. Erik Samuelson, made that up. On our team, we all like it. And we know that you know what we mean when we say it.  We’re curious—has Christian faith formation been mixed up with

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What We’re Learning: But They Don’t Have Time…

When we gather with other ministry leaders, the conversations inevitably gravitate toward a common complaint—we disapprove of the way most parents allocate their time as a family. We’re frustrated by what parents prioritize over attendance at church or church programing.   With our 4th-Soil Parenting Project, Vibrant Faith is helping

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What We’re Learning: Setting Unrealistic Expectations

(EDITOR’S NOTE: At Vibrant Faith we’ve partnered with our team of ministry leadership coaches to name the obstacles and challenges the church has put in the way of a FAMILYING approach to the formation of faith. Check out a previous blog that sets the stage for this conversation with Obstacle

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Wrong Assumptions about Parents

Ministry leaders generally agree that parents matter most for the formation of faith in their children, but nevertheless have multiple long-standing objections to this notion. These objections most often show up in the way leaders resist shifting their faith-forming paradigm from the church to the home. And, unconsciously, these objections

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