Joy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your Congregation, Lynne M. Baab. WJK, 2012.
In this book, instead of addressing individual approaches to spiritual direction, the author offers help to leaders as they seek to involve small groups or the congregation in spiritual practices. Providing practical instructions for sharing, she explores the practices of thankfulness, lectio divina, fasting, contemplative prayer, hospitality, and Sabbath keeping. All are practices that congregations can explore and try together. Each chapter includes discussion questions for groups.
Future Faith Churches: Reconnecting with the Power of the Gospel for the 21st Century, Don Posterski. Woodlake, 2000.
This book describes how a church can survive by examining 14 examples of churches—from Pentecostal to mainline liberal—that are combining the strands of evangelism, social action, church growth, and strong leadership to create the fabric of their worshiping community.
The Multicultural Church: Tips for Making it Work, Heather J. Vais. 2011.
This article from the Canadian Presbyterian Church website offers some basic tips for thinking about multicultural church, beginning with understanding what it is. Offers practical ideas to enrich a multicultural congregation’s life through worship, leadership, and congregational activities.
Hospitality: the Ministry of Welcome, John-Peter Smit. 2011.
This article would be a great resource to use with church leaders for a discussion on hospitality, perhaps over a few weeks. Smit introduces the idea of hospitality and then carefully helps readers examine their situation through the thoughtful questions provided in each of four sections: 1. Before church–are we ready for new people to come? 2. During worship–how might we be excluding people? 3. After the service—are we inviting them to fellowship? 4. Next week—how do we plan for integration?
Hospitality in Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Christine Ball. 2011.
This article challenges readers to think about their ministry to youth, young adults, children, and people with special needs.
Places of Promise: Finding Strength in Your Congregation’s Location, Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce. WJK, 2008.
This book describes how location is defined, then, using results from research, reveals how location influences congregational life. The authors use illustrations to demonstrate that every congregation can achieve strength and effectiveness in its present location if its ministry and leadership decisions parallel factors that are important to the community.
Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy, Michael Waschevski. WJK, 2014.
This book is written for laypeople and describes in a down-to-earth way why and how Protestants worship. The authors explore how each element of worship expresses our faith as centered in Christ. They also describe the feasts and festivals of the liturgical year and help the reader understand and appreciate these special times and seasons in worship. Thoughtful discussion questions at the end of each chapter make this book an excellent small group resource for local congregations.
Imaging the Small Church: Celebrating a Simpler Path, Steve Willis. Alban, 2012.
This volume calls us to “see with new eyes the joys and pleasures of living small and sustainably.” Although not every church is as small as the one the author describes, perhaps all can take heart at the call to live by gospel values. Churches will have a variety of paths to choose from in this time of cultural change, the author says. He challenges church leaders and congregants to choose a path that embraces a life of faith on the periphery.
This site offers more than 2,500 articles for planning and leading worship. Originally published in Reformed Worship magazine, articles include service plans, dramas, litanies, seasonal resources, and more. Browsing can be done by issue, subject, season, or keyword.
Worship for the Whole People of God: Vital Worship for the 21st Century, Ruth C. Duck. WJK, 2013.
This resource provides theological foundations for worship and explores the variety of ways Christians have adapted worship to various cultures to help them live faithfully and to communicate the Gospel to others. The stated goal of this volume is to support good pastoral and congregational reflection on what worship is and does. The author offers insight into different forms of worship from several cultures (African-American, Asian, Euro-American) and offers advice on how to read a congregation and define its culture in order to plan culturally appropriate worship. Although the book does not offer prescriptive formulas or advise a single pattern of worship, it includes many practical suggestions for preparing and leading worship, including diverse ministries of music, movement, and visual arts that are becoming more popular today. The author also speaks to worship leadership, forms of prayer, preaching, the sacraments, ordination, and various liturgies.
Worship Matters: A Study for Congregations, Jane Rogers, WJK, 2011.
Sunday worship is the central act of the Christian faith, yet few people truly understand what is happening during the service. Based on numerous visits with congregations of many denominations, Jane Rogers Vann examines how we can eliminate the barrier between the preacher and the people in the pew, and offers practical advice directed not just toward church leaders but to worship committees and church members—all who are yearning to be fully engaged in worship.
Transforming Congregations through Community: Faith Formation from the Seminary to the Church. Boyung Lee. WJK, 2013.
Lee offers a vision of a church transformed for continued ministry in this century through some compelling responses to questions like these: What does faithfulness to the gospel look like in this changing world? What is our distinctive voice in the larger society? How does theological education have to change if it is to serve the needs of a new century? He calls the church to a fuller definition more inclusive of community and explores the crucial role of faith formation both in the congregation and the seminary.
Sailboat Church: Helping Your Church Rethink Its Mission and Practice, Joan S. Gray. WJK, 2014.
The author poses an unusual question: Is your church a rowboat church or a sailboat church? Rowboat churches depend largely on human effort. When church budgets shrink and membership declines, rowboat churches frantically row harder against a current, often frustrated and disappointed at their efforts. Sailboat churches, on the other hand, take up the oars, hoist sails, and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them. The author argues that churches should be “sailboats,” and encourages a shift from the many daily, practical concerns of the local church to fresh ideas that can be found using the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The book includes forty days of sailing prayers, quotes from Scripture, brief reflection questions, and an extensive bibliography that is arranged by theme. Perfect for groups to read together, this book will help leaders reframe their church’s mission and practice with the Holy Spirit as their guide.
Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive First-Time Visitors Away, Jonathan Malm. Center for Church Comunications, 2014.
Is your congregation driving visitors away—unintentionally—with bad signage, reserved seating, clunky communication, and more? The author examines fifty ways churches make first-time visitors feel unwelcome. The transgressions range from insider lingo to awkward transitions, a cold congregation to the over-eager greeter. Malm suggests practical ways to fix the problems and to infuse excellence into your church’s hospitality practices.
Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication, Cleve Persinger. Center for Church Communications, 2013.
The book includes 19 essays covering basic strategy and practical, real-world tips for churches that want to get started on or improve their communications.
This blog is the primary arm of the Church Center for Communications. The site advertises itself as “the site to frustrate, educate, and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.” You will find news and updates on church marketing, helpful ideas and resources, commentary and philosophy, and a growing community of people interested in seeing the church matter.
The Church Center for Communications provides training for local churches and a job board for professional communications workers. It also offers resources, ideas, and models for communication.
http://effectiveChurchCommunication.com, Yvon Prehn.
This interesting site offers a variety of simple, practical, and low-cost suggestions, often in blog form, that any church can learn from.
This website offers good church graphics in many categories for use with slides, postcards, bulletins, flyers, etc. Many are free, but for full access to all the photo, audio, and video files there is a monthly fee.
Google for Nonprofits offers organizations like churches access to highly discounted or free products that can help you tell your story to more people. Recommended for use by church office staff.
Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communications, Tim Schraeder. Center for Church Communications, 2011.
70 short essays covering a variety of topics related to church communication, including branding, design, leadership, technology, creativity, outreach, and more.
The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways, Meredith Gould. Liturgical Press, 2013.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and a growing number of other social media tools can help you build church, deepen faith, and extend your reach in previously unimaginable ways, posits the author. Then, in an easy-to-understand, step-by-step guide to digital ministry, she goes beyond “how to” and explains “why to” engage your parish in the world of social media. Social media tools make it possible to share conversations and content with the long-time faithful, disaffected millennials, the homebound, and spiritual seekers within and beyond church-the-building.
The Calvin Institute of Worship website provides a rich source of resources concerning worship. In the resource library over 200 entries from articles to videos, audio to slide-shows on the topic of visual arts alone are available. The search engine is very user-friendly. Spend some time exploring the rich depths of this site.
Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue, William A Dyrness. Baker, 2001.
How can art enhance and enrich the Christian faith? What is the basis for a relationship between the church and visual imagery? Can the art world and the Protestant church be reconciled? Is art idolatry and vanity, or can it be used to strengthen the church? The author explores these basic questions with research both biblical and historical. Although the book has been around for a while and is a little scholarly, it is a good basic resource on the role of art in worship and Christianity.
Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God’s People, Michael J. Bauer. Eerdmans, 2013.
Eighteen case studies of practicing arts ministries such as concerts, art shows, and Christian arts camps are showcased in this volume which lays a foundation for arts ministry. Grounded in the historic tradition, the author encourages churches to enter and or expand their involvement in creative arts. The concluding chapter gives a blueprint for how to develop an arts ministry. This resource is part of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Series.
For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, W. David O. Taylor. Baker, 2010.
Without the arts—art, music, song, dance—our churches would be much poorer places. The author challenges us to have a stronger vision of what the arts can add to our lives and worship.
Union Seminary at Richmond has a website that is a treasure trove of resources for the educator. Anyone who uses or wants to use children’s literature in their ministry should bookmark this site for easy access to Story Path. Resources available through Story Path include book reviews listed A-Z and by age level (preschool- high school), lectionary links with three suggestions posted each Monday for the following Sunday, ideas for ministry, including lesson plans and both a Scripture and theme index.
Creating a Child Safe Church. PCUSA. 2013.
Sexual Misconduct Policy and Its Procedures of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) This downloadable document has vital information and forms that will help a church in creating and sustaining a child-safe church. This document is a revised and updated resource created at the direction of G.A. meetings of 2012. Along with data about child abuse and churches, it contains a sample volunteer application form, reference form, Covenant Agreement form, and Incident form. Includes an outline for training of volunteers and Study Questions for the church.
Please be aware that particular states may have legislation that impacts your congregation. Pennsylvania is one state that has made a number for changes in its laws regarding background checks for volunteers in the church, frequency of such checks, and reporting mandates.
Leading with Care A Policy for Ensuring a Climate of Safety for Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 2005.
A statement of purpose and history begins the document. Then the policy is presented followed by a detailed three-step process for implementation: Preparation; Working with teachers/leaders, and Evaluation/reporting. The final section is an exhaustive compilation of sample forms, checklist, and other information.
Safe Church is the title for the CRC’s child protection program. The website offers information about establishing a policy as well as lots of information about how to put a policy in place and resources to use in doing so.
Let the Children Come: Preparing Faith Communities to End Child Abuse and Neglect, Jeanette Harder. Herald. 2010.
Are children safe at your church? Have you taken any precautions to ensure they won’t be abused? Do you know for certain that volunteers who work with children don’t have criminal backgrounds? Through this resource churches and/or ministries can learn how to create procedures and policies to keep children safe from abuse and to help families break the cycle of abuse.
Mommy, Please Read This: The FACTS About Child Sex Abuse, Troy D. Timmons. Thomas, Grace & Mae, 2010.
This easy-to-read and shocking book is written for parents and anyone who loves children. One out of four girls and one out of six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday (and most often by family members or friends of the family). This heart-warming book teaches how to better recognize, protect, and respond to America’s silent epidemic—child sexual abuse.
My Body Belongs to Me: A Book about Body Safety, Jill Starishevsky. Free Spirit, 2014.
This straightforward, gentle book offers a tool parents, teachers, and counselors can use to help children feel, be, and stay safe. The rhyming story and simple, friendly illustrations provide a way to sensitively share and discuss the topic, guiding young children to understand that their private parts belong to them alone. The overriding message of My Body Belongs to Me is that if someone touches your private parts, tell your mom, your dad, your teacher, or another safe adult
My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes, International Center for Assault Prevention. Sky Pony, 2014.
This book was written to help instill confidence in children when it comes to their bodies. The narrator, a girl named Clara, encourages kids to say “no” if they are uncomfortable with physical contact. She also gives kids tips about what they can say or do to avoid unwanted physical contact, or how to tell the right people if it has already occurred. Suited for children ages 3 to 6.
The FBI has prepared an information form in a pdf file format for parents, giving detailed information about protecting children from predators on the internet. Clear-cut information about these topics : What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?; What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator Online?; and What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of an On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child? This information could form the basis for a parents’ discussion group.
Parenting in a Text-Messaging World, Lesley Scanlon. PCUSA, 2009.
Today’s teens are bombarded with technological gadgets that were not around when their parents were teens. How does one parent in unknown territory? Some adults prefer to not use social networking sites or text message on cell phones. But for many teenagers, the issue is not whether to use the technology or not—most of them have already made that choice—but how they will incorporate it into their lives and their values. How can parents be helpful? This study provides information and suggests ways for parents to interact with their child to discuss just how these technologies can help or hurt them.
What is Sexting, Kate Ott, 2009.
“Sexting” is the popular name for the act of sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually suggestive photos via a text message on a cell phone or posting pictures on social networking sites. Some research has shown that technology may increase the likelihood that a teenager will share sexually suggestive material or nude photos, and that many of the teens who post this material have other problems with decision making, lack supportive role-models, or exhibit similar behaviors in real life.
This study provides parents, clergy, and teachers with a foundation for how to help teenagers make sexual decisions in day-to-day life that will also serve to benefit a teen’s interactions in cyberspace. This study also takes an unflinching look at the social and legal ramifications of sexting. Now more than ever, parents, youth leaders, and clergy should talk to children and teens about healthy and safe ways to use new technologies. Adults do not need to know how to use the technology to have a meaningful conversation about it. What’s important is recognizing that teens want to hear what their parents and clergy have to say about friendship, sexual relationships, and personal decision-making.
Defining Pornography, Kate Ott. 2014
In this study, high school students are challenged to set a new standard that values people as created in God’s image. The study explores how our body image affects us, helps teens see God in their own and other’s bodies, and examines the difference between sexuality and pornography from a Christian perspective.
Churches may also want to use the parenting study, “Talking to Your Kids about Porn,” in conjunction with this to facilitate conversation about this difficult topic.
The Seven Myths of Volunteerism, Bill Hybels. Willow Magazine, 2006.
This article has good advice about volunteers, debunking common myths and helping jump-start rethinking about volunteers. These ideas can be applied to any church from the mega church to small congregations.
The Care and Feeding of Volunteers, Dan Kimball. 2013.
A short article about when and how we communicate with volunteers.
Mary E. Speedy is a retired certified church educator living in Mechanicsburg, PA