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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

transformational worship

Toward a More Transformational Worship Experience

If you’ve been involved in ministry leadership for more than a year (and that includes almost all of us), you know that weekly worship-service planning can devolve into a mundane, lifeless routine. The struggle is real—I’ve been there for the past four decades. So let’s break free from the shackles

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The Marriage Boost

  Marriage, it turns out, is a primary catalyst for human flourishing. And Christian marriages that value regular church attendance offer a clear bulwark against divorce… According to a new Gallup study and Get Married, the much-talked-about new book from Dr. Brad Wilcox (professor of sociology and director of the

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church communication

(Un)Check the Bulletin- Reimaging Church Communication

“For more information, please check the bulletin…” How many times have you heard that instruction at church? More important, how many people never hear it, or are tone-deaf to it? Church Communication should move from impersonal to personal Many churches still rely on traditional bulletins and emails to communicate to

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The Kingdom of God In an Alien Digital World

I have a new book coming out in June; it’s called Editing Jesus: Confronting the Distorted Faith of the American Church. In the ramp-up to the launch of the book, I’m trying something new. I’ve asked my college-age daughter Emma to do what she does best—post teasers about it on

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The Art of Standing In Others’ Shoes

  By Fred Oduyoye and Rick Lawrence We move through life most-often assuming that everyone we meet is experiencing the world through a similar lens. The way we see things is the way they see things. And we’re surprised/frustrated/offended/shocked when we discover they don’t. So we quickly move to judgment

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Life Is the Curriculum

When you think about the families in your congregation, what do you hope they can become? If you consider their “floor,” what is their “ceiling”? Consider the curious case of “Bandit and Chilli Heeler” (above), the dog-parents on the international hit kids show Bluey. Their floor is already the ceiling

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the power of stories

The Power of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Almost 60 years ago Admiral Jim Stockdale was an officer and prisoner-of-war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. He was imprisoned for eight years, from 1965 to 1973. While a captive he was relentlessly and ruthlessly tortured. But he survived this horrific experience, and the way that

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Why Listening Is Our First Priority

  In our research work with churches across the country, we’ve “discovered” an obvious truth all over again—listening to people is a crucial spiritual discipline.  In our Fourth-Soil Parenting Project, an expedition into fueling parent’s spiritual impact in their kids’ lives, we asked our 20 participating churches to launch this

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‘Religion Is Spirituality With Rigor’

A good friend posted that he’d just listened to an episode of the On Being podcast hosted by Krista Tippett, with the iconic Australian rock musician Nick Cave as her guest. The title of the episode is “Loss, Yearning, Transcendence.” The interview is important, said my friend, because “more than

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Faith Formation - Articles

transformational worship

Toward a More Transformational Worship Experience

If you’ve been involved in ministry leadership for more than a year (and that includes almost all of us), you know that weekly worship-service planning can devolve into a mundane, lifeless routine. The struggle is real—I’ve been there for the past four decades. So let’s break free from the shackles

Read More »

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

Read More »
church communication

(Un)Check the Bulletin- Reimaging Church Communication

“For more information, please check the bulletin…” How many times have you heard that instruction at church? More important, how many people never hear it, or are tone-deaf to it? Church Communication should move from impersonal to personal Many churches still rely on traditional bulletins and emails to communicate to

Read More »

Life Is the Curriculum

When you think about the families in your congregation, what do you hope they can become? If you consider their “floor,” what is their “ceiling”? Consider the curious case of “Bandit and Chilli Heeler” (above), the dog-parents on the international hit kids show Bluey. Their floor is already the ceiling

Read More »
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

Read More »

Why Listening Is Our First Priority

  In our research work with churches across the country, we’ve “discovered” an obvious truth all over again—listening to people is a crucial spiritual discipline.  In our Fourth-Soil Parenting Project, an expedition into fueling parent’s spiritual impact in their kids’ lives, we asked our 20 participating churches to launch this

Read More »

Back to the Beauty

Normal Rockwell’s best-known illustration is called “Freedom from Want”—I guarantee you’ve seen it before. It’s the quintessential Thanksgiving meme. But this iconic image of family togetherness and prosperity is, frankly, at odds with reality. I found a parody version of Rockwell’s Thanksgiving family gathering by artist Jerry Miller—in it, grandpa

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The Path Back to Articulate, Passionate Faith

Princeton Theological Seminary professor Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean has explored the emerging ramifications of a lack of passion and faith among young people in her book Almost Christian. Dean’s book spotlights the impact of the church’s decades-long embrace of a consumer-driven, “moralistic, therapeutic” alternate version of faith formation. Dr. Michael Brown,

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Where Are Our Children?

How is the mission of the church, first handed to us by Jesus, defining and shaping our ministries? For example, the people who are showing up shape our missional focus—but what about the people who are not showing up? The absence of certain people, and the reasons behind their absence,

Read More »

Vibrant Faith Coaching - Articles

transformational worship

Toward a More Transformational Worship Experience

If you’ve been involved in ministry leadership for more than a year (and that includes almost all of us), you know that weekly worship-service planning can devolve into a mundane, lifeless routine. The struggle is real—I’ve been there for the past four decades. So let’s break free from the shackles

Read More »
church communication

(Un)Check the Bulletin- Reimaging Church Communication

“For more information, please check the bulletin…” How many times have you heard that instruction at church? More important, how many people never hear it, or are tone-deaf to it? Church Communication should move from impersonal to personal Many churches still rely on traditional bulletins and emails to communicate to

Read More »

Why Listening Is Our First Priority

  In our research work with churches across the country, we’ve “discovered” an obvious truth all over again—listening to people is a crucial spiritual discipline.  In our Fourth-Soil Parenting Project, an expedition into fueling parent’s spiritual impact in their kids’ lives, we asked our 20 participating churches to launch this

Read More »

Where Are Our Children?

How is the mission of the church, first handed to us by Jesus, defining and shaping our ministries? For example, the people who are showing up shape our missional focus—but what about the people who are not showing up? The absence of certain people, and the reasons behind their absence,

Read More »

Celebrating Wins

The world has a dwindling natural resource that’s been overlooked—it’s the skill of appreciation. You’ve probably noticed the difference in yourself when you’re around a leader who habitually appreciates the “wins” on your team, not merely camps on the “fixes.” New York Times columnist David Brooks, author of How to Know

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How to Respond When a Relationship is Tested

f the culture we live in is the pond we swim in, some of the streams feeding into our pond carry toxins that pollute the water. These are relational toxins like betrayal, broken trust, wrong assumptions, and embedded lies. Sometimes these toxins are undetectable until we feel the impact of

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The Weary Ones Rejoicing

A kind of sacred joy has always accompanied my celebration of Advent. But this year, as I prepared for our Advent journey, I carried a heavy weight in my soul. So much in the world is unsettled and disturbing. The war in Ukraine and now in Gaza marks, again, the

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What is the Way for Your Church?

Business executives from around the world pay big bucks to attend seminars on “the Disney Way”—learning how leaders at this much-admired company build their culture, leverage business success, and treat their employees and guests. For a long time, the tech company Hewlett Packard has been known for its egalitarian, decentralized

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The Way Of Your Church

Business executives from around the world pay big bucks to attend seminars on “the Disney Way”—learning how leaders at this much-admired company build their culture, leverage business success, and treat their employees and guests. For a long time, the tech company Hewlett Packard has been known for its egalitarian, decentralized

Read More »

Vibrant Faith Research - Articles

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

Read More »
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

Read More »

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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Obstacles of Forming Faith: What We’re Learning

It’s maybe the oldest “shop talk” topic in ministry—Why can’t or won’t parents take responsibility for forming faith in their children?  And, always threaded into this conversation, our common conclusion—This is why church and parachurch ministry leaders simply have to step in and teach the next generation of children and

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The Truth About Our Obstacles

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard an important truism more than once, so maybe that’s a nudge to sit up and pay attention… We have to name the truth about our obstacles before we can overcome them. Naming the truth about our lives is just as important for

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Connecting with Parents

As we begin the process of accompanying churches as they focus on and nurture the faith lives of parents through our 4th Soil Parenting Project funded by The Lilly Endowment, we will be reflecting here on our discoveries and challenges and hoping we can share those with you even as they

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