We are facing problems this year that we never expected. Use these resources to thrive in ministry:
- When you can’t worship inside the church building,
- When most ministry work happens online,
- When church members are feeling disconnected,
- When giving has decreased,
- When you don’t know what the future holds, and
- How to make sense of it all.
When you can’t worship inside the church building
Worship by Matthew E. Johnson is a 4-session book study from the Holy Living series. So often we equate the spiritual practice of worship with the hour-long worship service we attend each week (or each month). But what happens when we no longer consider worship something we do, but a way we live? When we break the concept of worship outside the walls of a sanctuary, we find new energy for living a “Godward” life, a life of turning toward God for guidance moment by moment, day by day. Living a Godward life opens us up to God’s transforming love and enables us to engage in practices of worship in locations and situations we never dreamed of before. This book would make an excellent churchwide study over Zoom as we ponder what it really means to worship.
Worship in the Garden by J. Wayne Pratt provides a biblical framework for worshipping outdoors. As we enter Fall and watch the season change, the liturgies on celebrating God’s creation, congregational reaffirmation, healing service, reconciliation and renewal, and the love feast provide ways to sanctify outdoor worship as a special opportunity to meet God in nature and not just a concession because we can’t meet inside.
Fresh Expressions of People Over Property by Audrey Warren and Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. asks the question, what if our properties didn’t have to be a source of pain but purpose and profit? The authors reflect on strategies, scriptures, and stories that help leaders faithfully reimagine their community spaces so that they reflect that God and God’s people value people over property. As our church buildings mostly sit empty, now is the perfect opportunity to evaluate the church body’s relationship to its building.
When most ministry work happens online
From Social Media to Social Ministry: A Guide to Digital Discipleship by Nona Jones is the 21st-century playbook to help the church fulfill the Great Commission in the digital age. This book outlines digital discipleship principles for building an online community and provides practical instruction for how to do it no matter how big or small a local church may be. This is the first book of its kind that goes beyond digital marketing to digital ministry. Leverage social media not just for communication but for discipleship.
Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in a Virtual World by Adam Thomas is a 6-session DVD study to help church members become thoughtful digital disciples. The videos for this study are also available on YouTube making it a great option for groups meeting online. Millennial Episcopal Priest Thomas explores how God is moving in our digital lives and how we can respond faithfully.
Portable Faith: How to Take Your Church to the Community by Sarah Cunningham will first upturn your assumptions and lead you to critically evaluate your own perceptions about evangelism and outreach. She then offers a rich collection of practical, engaging, inexpensive exercises for small groups, individuals, or an entire congregation. Very relevant for our pandemic world, Cunningham moves participants in understanding and action to take small steps towards being church in the community.
When church members are feeling disconnected
Many church members are finding connection and community in small groups who are meeting online, outdoors, and in backyards. This is the time to invest in your small group strategy.
Gather Us In: Leading Transformational Small Groups by Angela D. Schaffner provides eight strategies for leading transformative small groups, dispels common myths about leading groups, and helps readers understand how groups work and the life stages of a group. The author suggests practical ways to lead groups effectively, using examples from scripture of how Jesus worked to transform people spiritually and emotionally. This book equips small-group leaders with wisdom for relating to others, knowledge for helping others talk about their unfolding faith journeys, and confidence in their newly acquired facilitation skills.
The Connected Life: Small Groups That Create Community by Jacob Armstrong with Rachel Armstrong describes how churches can set up, maintain, and nurture small groups to create a congregation that is welcoming and outward-looking. The authors detail how they grew a large church from just two small groups and the strategy they use to ensure the success of their small groups. Read our review of the book.
Grab Gather Grow: Multiply Community Groups in Your Church by Jim and Jennifer Cowart shows how the authors used adaptive systems, digital tools, and flexible overhead to expand from 76 community groups to over 250 in just seven years. The book and 30-minute training video include the following themes: Group Explosion, Overcoming Obstacles, The Power of the Pulpit, Living the 5 through Group Life, and Creating Infrastructure for Facilitators.
When giving has decreased
Growing Through Disaster: Tools for Financial and Trauma Recovery in Your Faith Community by Clayton L. Smith and Matt Schoenfeld shows faith communities how to come together to combat hopelessness and gain/regain financial strength. Before COVID-19, disaster response usually meant a weather-related event. However, the effects of the pandemic on the church community are quite similar. There are financial losses in churches, homes, and local businesses. No matter the type of disaster, the authors’ vast experience in assisting communities through recovery can help lead your own community through the process of spiritually-rooted renewal and revitalization. The book includes a six-session group study to assist pastors and others in facilitating discussion and focus on recovery strategies.
God vs. Money: Winning Strategies in the Combat Zone by J. Clif Christopher is a 6-session DVD study for leaders in churches and other ministry settings who have responsibility for capital campaigns, budgets, stewardship, planned giving, and other financial concerns. The typical study groups include finance committees, stewardship teams, foundation boards, and finance-related staff teams. The study encourages trust in God’s promises instead of money’s false promises. With up-to-date advice on preaching, theology, budgeting, and more, these practical tools provide the resources you need to plan a giving campaign.
The E-Giving Guide for Every Church: Using Digital Tools to Grow Ministry by Richard Rogers takes away the confusion and fear involved in using electronic media to raise money for your ministry and mission by providing a solid, sustainable framework that focuses on the key topics every church must address. Now more than ever, your church needs an e-giving platform no matter the size or age of your congregation.
Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving without Full-Time Clergy by G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a much-needed playbook for helping congregations to thrive with a part-time ministry model. Churches can grow more vibrant by tapping into latent energy and undiscovered gifts, revitalizing worship, and engaging in more effective ministry with the community. They stop viewing part-time as a problem to be eradicated and to instead embrace it as a divine gift that facilitates a higher level of lay engagement, responsibility, playfulness, and creativity.
When you don’t know what the future holds
The Adept Church: Navigating Between a Rock and a Hard Place by F. Douglas Powe, Jr. guides your church through developing realistic road maps for navigating between a rock and a hard place with a clear process for defining reality – a process based on strategic decisions concerning where the church needs to go and not where it is currently. This book is a theologically grounded, yet practical guide for church leaders seeking to save their churches.
The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges + Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation by Thom S. Rainer provides the essential wisdom you will need to face the challenges and opportunities that the quarantine crisis creates for the local church. The book explores new and better ways to lead the gathered church, a wide-open door for growing the digital church, a moment to rethink the facilities, and new strategies for church growth. This book is, in effect, your personal church consultant, helping you plan and prepare for the future.
The Church Recovery Guide: How Your Congregation Can Adapt and Thrive After a Crisis by Karl Vaters outlines the practical steps you can take to help your church not only survive but also thrive in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. This book will help you think through reconnecting with your congregation, dealing with the financial repercussions, encouraging and supporting your staff, clearly communicating a fresh vision for the future, reworking your church’s technology and online strategy, and ministering to people feeling isolated and fearful.
The Church Guide for Making Decisions Together by Terence Corkin and Julia Kuhn Wallace offers a step-by-step guide on how to create a new way of working together that draws on tried and tested processes, and advocates for a consensus-building approach. With so many changes happening, a lot of decisions need to be made. Let this book transform your church’s decision-making to a more collaborative, respectful, encouraging, engaging, and empowering process.
How to make sense of it all
Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory. He offers a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world. If you’re going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools. Now expanded with a study guide, this book will set you on the right course to lead with confidence and courage.
Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty by Walter Brueggemann applies his deep understanding of scripture to the experience of COVID-19. He calls us to renew and live into our relationship with God. Will Willimon calls it “a quite wonderful book.”
God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath by N. T. Wright draws upon Scripture, Christian history, and the way of living, thinking, and praying revealed to us by Jesus. Wright shows that a careful reading of the Bible and Christian history offers simple though profound answers to our many questions, including: What should be the Christian response? How should we think about God? How do we live in the present? Why should we lament? What should we learn about ourselves? How do we recover?
The Christian Century offers a lengthy review of both the Wright and Brueggemann books.
View our recommended resources for Guiding Your Church through the COVID-19 Pandemic.
See more Resources to Increase Giving.
Consider these Shelter-in-Place Ideas from Across the Country.
View our large and growing collection of online resources.
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These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.