Tag: #congregations

Faith Under Fire – Long-term Lessons for Churches – 1/18/24

Faith Under Fire – Long-term Lessons for Churches – 1/18/24

What lessons learned during the “Covid Era” will help congregations thrive into the new future?

We have a return visit from Allison Norton of the Covid Religion Research Project, which is in the third year of a five-year study of 15,000 American congregations. In this new conversation Norton addresses how congregations are poised to either return to pre-pandemic patterns or use their relatively recent discoveries as springboards into faithful ministries.

There are divergent contexts in particular congregations and faith communities. Some are finding exhaustion and frustration are nudging people back toward wanting former programs and patterns. Norton says, though, and churches’ challenges from pre-2020 continue to happen. Other churches are maintaining some of the innovation and experimentation which Covid lockdowns forced upon them. She gives an example of a congregation which has had success with the elimination of large weekly worship events.

The research has found one key factor which is determining congregational health and vitality for current times and moving forward from here: whether or not there is an attitude of optimism.

Allison Norton is a faculty research associate for Hartford International University, based in Connecticut. She also directs the Pastoral Innovation Network of New England (PINNE).

This Lilly-funded study continues through 2025, taking surveys across various denominational and non-denominational churches, and doing in-depth analysis of church change since 2020. Reports, research results and recommendations are on the project’s social media and website: CovidReligionResearch.org , Facebook , X/Twitter , Newsletter

Congregational leaders and denominational networks can use these resources to foster ongoing evaluation, discussion and planning.


In addition to this podcast, you also can listen to our first interview with Allison Norton. That topic centered on how churches have rebounded short-term after however many months or years of shutdown, change and trying new methods.

Faith Under Fire – Post-Covid Rebounds – 01/04/24

Faith Under Fire – Post-Covid Rebounds – 01/04/24

A five-year research project on congregational vitality began just before the Covid shutdowns began in 2020. (The timing gives informative snapshots of the effect of the closing of church buildings, and the move of church life to electronic connections. It also gives us a long-view of how congregations have rebounded, and why some churches are seeing grow in the new era.)

That research has data from across the U.S. on how local churches fared during the pandemic, and analysis on how congregations have bounced back. Although local situations obviously vary, the national average is that overall worship attendance has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels. When those who worship online or through social media are included, the average church which offers at least one virtual option is seeing increased participation.

Allison Norton of Hartford International University joins Family Life to talk about the Religion Research Project, how various kinds of congregations are faring now, and what lessons church leaders can take from the Covid era, and what “next steps” seem to be most effective for churches and church networks.

Allison Norton is a faculty associate at Hartford International, and oversees its Covid Religion Research project.

She also directs the Pastoral Innovation Network of New England.

The Covid Religion Research website offers insights from this survey of 15,000 congregations, a research library, and information guides for congregational and denominational leaders. You will find those resources here. The Lilly-funded project also offers a newsletter for past results and future updates.


Inside Out – Glenn Daman – Encouragement for Rural Churches – 06/14/23

Inside Out – Glenn Daman – Encouragement for Rural Churches – 06/14/23

Rural Churches Face Post-Pandemic Challenges … with Resilience and an Encouraged Theology

Although resilient, small rural churches are contending with fallout from the pandemic.  “There were some differing opinions and strongly held, so I think that we need to reconnect and move beyond that,” says author, pastor, and professor Glenn Daman. His 2018 book focusing on rural churches, The Forgotten Church, received Christianity Today‘s Award of Merit for The Church/Pastoral Leadership.

Daman points out that the pandemic also revealed the impact of media content and the internet on how people think–even within rural churches. The internet guides users to perspectives similar to what they’ve already sought out, so people often are not hearing opinions that challenge what they’ve been exposed to. “So, in some ways, the greatest threat to the distorting of truth is ourselves,” he says.

How can church leaders respond to the changed cultural landscape after COVID? “I think we continually have to challenge people to think biblically,” he says. The politician is not the person we’re to turn to for truth. We need to be turning to Scripture and to the foundation of what the Scripture teaches as we form our perspective on our world and on our culture.”

Daman assures us that there’s reason for pastors and leaders to feel encouraged. “The biggest thing we need to remember in all this is God’s the one who builds the church. He didn’t say, ‘You go out and build the Church.’ He says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church.’ ‘Some plant, some water, but I will build the Church.’ God is still building His Church. And nothing can stop that,” Daman says. “Our job is to be faithful. Preach His Word. Love the people. And if we do that, we’re being effective regardless of what the outward results are. Because God is at work.”

 Listen to our 18-minute conversation to hear about Glenn Daman’s newest book, The Lighthouse.

For further insights and inspiration on these matters:

  • Learn more about Glenn Daman here
  • RuralMinistry.net has reflections on congregational vitality, resources for training and equipping leadership from the membership, and practical encouragement from Glenn Daman and others on how to sustain faithful ministry in rural churches (and small churches in other locations too).


Feature – The Shape of Campus Ministry Today – Steve Cheyney – 06/12/23

Feature – The Shape of Campus Ministry Today – Steve Cheyney – 06/12/23

The Shape of Campus Ministry Today

Steve Cheyney tells us about the current priorities of most campus ministries, because of changes in the priorities of most college students of the current generation, often referred to as Generation Z.

Cheyney calls the mental health circumstances of many of these young adults a current “crisis”. The causes, he says, are related to the ways students relate to each other and to other people, mostly via their devices. They want to impact society, improve the world, and find themselves often unable to connect.

That shapes ministry to college students, with a focus on counseling and pastoral care. That also means that campus ministries — and local congregations near a university campus — will miss the boat if they focus on traditional Bible studies, Sunday morning worship, or other “religious” events. The veteran of more than two decades of campus ministry says there are many great ways that churches and organizations can provide positive Jesus-centered influence particularly for this generation.

Listen to this podcast with leaders of your congregation.

The Rev. Dr. Steve Cheyney is university pastor at UNC-Charlotte and leads the Niner United ministry there. He also is on the faculty of the Honors College at Charlotte.


Feature – Beyond Mother’s Day – Jenny Coffey – 05/16/23

Feature – Beyond Mother’s Day – Jenny Coffey – 05/16/23

Mother’s Day was Sunday.

We talked with family counselor — and mom of four preteens — Jenny Coffey about what most moms might really like for Mother’s Day.  Her answer for the weekend was “rest” and balance.

Those are still gifts which can bless mothers the other 364 days of the year.

Coffey gives us advice for families, including stories from what is working for her own household. She also has encouragement for moms themselves — how to avoid the internal and external pressures and stereotypes can improperly focus women on unattainable accomplishments and unrealistic status.

Also in this extended version of the feature we aired at noon, she shares additional insights for women who are parenting alone (either as single moms or without good support from others), as well as ways congregations can adapt their families to be better supportive of mothers (and fathers). Coffey sees this as an important evangelistic tool too, because older church leaders may not realize how parenting styles and family patterns have changed for today’s young adult generations.


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