Thursday, July 31, 2008

Myths and facts about evangelism and church growth

The US congregational life survey has uncovered the following information about evangelism and church growth...

1. There are three strengths that will lead to growth. They are being a congregation that cares for Children and Youth, Welcomes New People, and where a majority of people participate in the congregation.
2. The following do not predict growth; denomination or faith group, congregational size, income levels of worshipers, average age of worshipers, and population growth around the church.
3. More than half of the fastest growing congregations were established before 1960.
4. Around 40% of small congregations are growing
5. 1/3 of worshippers are new to the congregation in the last five years, whilst 1/2 of worshippers are new in the fastest congregations.
6. Most new people are not new to the faith, but people transferring from another congregation of the same denomination (around 57%), returnees (around 18%), come from another denomination (around 18%)., with only 7% new to the faith
7. Of the new people 73% say the denomination was important in their search. However it is less important for people under the age of 25 (48%)
8. Many new people (47%) visit for the first time because someone invited them; only 6% came for the first time due to advertising.
9. Most new people will visit between 1 and 3 congregations before choosing their new home.
10. Advertising helps raise awareness of the congregation and can make current members feel proud of their congregation (and help them to talk to others about their congregation.)
11. People return to a congregation because of the quality of the sermon (36%), the friendliness of the people (32%), and the overall worship experience (30%).
12. Too many new people (38%) report no follow-up from the congregation after their first visit. In more traditional congregations 53% of new people report no follow-up.
13. Growing congregations use multiple methods to attract new people.
14. Growing congregations are more likely to hold events to meet new people or to add members, advertise in the newspaper or telephone book, use email, have a church Web site, and send materials to or telephone first-time visitors.
15. Growing congregations use multiple methods to integrate new worshipers.
16. Growing congregations are more likely to have a specific group for newcomers and to invite such people to take part in small groups or service opportunities.
17. New people are less involved in their congregations than those who have been there for longer.
18. Almost all worship services in growing Presbyterian churches (89%) include some traditional hymns.
19. Services in growing congregations are more likely to include contemporary music and laughter.
for more information visit

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Australian Conference on Lutheran Education

This year's Australian Conference on Lutheran Education is Weaving threads together creating a tapestry of Lutheran schooling.

At the MCG Melbourne Victoria
October 1-3 2008

The threads that are covered are:
  • spiritual,
  • social,
  • communication,
  • learning and teaching,
  • global
The keynote speakers are:
Dr Felicity McCutcheon: will identify and explore the tension between educational truths and trends with a view to articulating how Lutheran schools might maintain their hold on truth whilst engaging in a dynamic and life affirming relationship with a changing world by enriching teaching and learning.
Mr Gregory Whitby: will explore the communication thread making the case for reframing schooling in the 21st century to meet students’ learning needs.
Rev Dr Mitri Raheb: will challenge you to not only think, but also to act, as he explores the global thread. He will challenge you to face such questions as: What does it mean to live in a global village? How does our Lutheran heritage shape how we live globally? What should our attitude as Christians be to other world religions? What are the global responsibilities of the Christian school?
Mr Ben Glenn: will entertain dinner guests as he develops a conference piece of art as part of his presentation.
Father Frank Brennan: will challenge us to look at the knots in our tapestry which are the binding activities of common purpose and shared ideas, and which provide collective empowerment and inspiration. How should those working in church schools in Australia today respond to these new possibilities?
Clay Roberts: will show how an understanding of the Developmental Assets® is a powerful framework for making a difference in increasing academic achievement and reducing high risk behaviours.

There are 65 electives covering the 5 threads. Some of the electives include:
Contemporary spirituality for Lutheran schools Neville Grieger
International mindedness and the Lutheran school Lisa Kraft
Weaving restorative practices into Lutheran school communities Steve Brady, Jonathan Kotzur
Responsible stewardship of God’s earth Jeff Silcock
Teacher as leader Jonathan Laabs
The Rite Journey: helping develop healthy young people Graham Gallasch
Bounce back for grown-ups: developing personal and professional resilience Bev Saegenschnitter
What tapestry will we weave in the future? Will senior Christian Studies survive? Dominique Jaaniste
The truth about life, love and sex – helping young people make healthy choices Dale Stagg
Being a Lutheran university in an Islamic context – challenges and opportunities Jongkers Tamubolon
Cherishing Baptism: relevant mission strategies which anticipate God’s choice to work in and through the waters of baptism Paul Smith
Best practice governance for Lutheran schools Michael Dean
What makes a Lutheran school Lutheran and is that an important question anyway? Mal Wegener
Teaching Jesus in a world of many religions Dean Zweck
The Holy Land, a fifth Gospel: teaching Scripture through living stones Mitri Raheb
Religious clich├ęs begone: re-imaging the faith Flossie Peitsch
Establishing partnership arrangements with Lutheran schools in Papua New Guinea Rob Fysh and Genevieve Clark
Boasting in God’s graciousness: marketing strategies for Lutheran schools – developing learning journey options for young families Sue Ellis
Sex, drugs and God Andrew Dewhirst
Anthropology and childhood spirituality: what do children say about their Lutheran-educated ‘self’? Cathy Nitschke

For more details visit

Ministry to the aged: a confernce United in Spirit

In many Western countries the simple fact is that we have an aging population. So it is important that we continue exploring how we minister, look after and outreach to the aged.

The Board for Lutheran Aged Care Australia is holding a conference called United in Spirit, which offers a number of presentations that help those involved in ministry and mission to the aged.
These presentations include:
Being Aged: A Matter for Respect
Exploring Affordable Housing Options for Older Australians
Trends in Ageing
Aged Care Funding Instrument
Youngcare - A relevant and dignified lifestyle for young people with high care needs
Shaken-ness and Engaged Spirituality in Social Care
PeaceWise – Spiritual Perspective on Conflict Resolution
Sacred Spaces
Lifestyle in Dementia – Creating a Sense of Joy and Happiness
Caring in a Time of Complaint

Dates: 11-12 September 2008
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland Australia

For more details visit

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Adventures in Lifelong faith formation

Adventures in Lifelong faith formation has been developed by the Office of the Lifelong faith formation in the Roman Catholic Church.

It is a simple to follow guide of approaches that are suitable in Faith Formation.

Life-Span Faith Formation
1. Thematic Lifelong Faith Formation
2. Milestones Lifelong Faith Formation
3. Events-Centered Intergenerational Lifelong Faith Formation
4. Faith Formation in Christian Practices

Family and Intergenerational Faith Formation
1. Family Faith Formation
2. Intergenerational Faith Formation

Age-Group Faith Formation
1. Children
2. Adolescents
3. Young Adults
4. Adults

Internet & Communication Media

It offers disscussion and suggestions about a range of resources relating to the above approaches including some currently used by Lutheran congregations.

A handbook for small Sunday School leaders

Being a leader of 3 small congregations can be frustrating, especially when we have some enthuastic Sunday School leaders and a very small Sunday School.

Sunday School leaders at small Sunday Schools should be applauded and need constant encouragement and often some inspiration. Whilst the handbook for small Sunday School leaders will not give all the answers it is a good resource for any Sunday School leader to work through with their pastor and/or church council.

The handbook covers:
  • Blessings and Challenges - reflections on some of the gifts and obstacles unique to the small Sunday School experience. This section also includes some practical strategies and “solutions” for specific challenges.
  • “Here’s What We Do” - inspirational ideas that have been used with success in small Sunday Schools (shared by small Sunday School leaders from the MNO Synod)
  • Educational Resources - links to professionally-developed curricula, teaching materials, and other educational resources for small Sunday School leaders.

Article: Best Practices in Family Faith Formation

Best Practices in Family Faith Formation by John Roberto helps us explore:
1. How does family religious involvement benefit children, teens, and adults, and
strengthen the family?
2. What is the impact of parental faith on children and teens?
3. How do families practice their faith at home?
4. What are the core family faith practices?
5. How can congregations engage in family faith formation?

It also offers some practical and easy to implement and use ideas for congregations and families of all sizes and make up.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Missiological Position Paper: Have a heart for mission then develop a head for mission

Dr Larry Merino has prepared a positions paper entitled Solid Foundations: A missiological position paper.

Its purpose is to help those who have a heart for missions to develop a head for missions as well by recalling some theological teachings.

It is an easy to read paper, with questions to provoke discussion and ideas. It is worth exploring.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Leadership and power in the ministry of the church: a discussion resource

The Lutheran World Federation has developed an easy to use and follow discussion guide for congregations, councils and leaders in Lutheran churches.
Three main areas are covered:
  • Biblical perspectives
  • Leadership as ministry from a Lutheran perspective
  • Leadership as ministry in communion

You can download a copy at:

New beginnings for Living congregations

The American Free Lutheran Church Home Mission department has produced a clear bible study based on Colossians: New beginnings for Living congregations

Three themes are foundational to this study.
Be forgiven
Forgive others
Give of yourself to the Lord's service

And it encourages us to have
Passion for Jesus
Passion for the Word
Passion for Prayer
Passion for the Lost
Passion to be Lutheran in Doctrine and the Sacraments
Passion for Holy Living
Passion to be involved in building up the kingdom
Passion for Spiritual life in the congregation
Passion for God's order in marriage, family and congregation
Passion for the priesthood of believers
Passion for God's righteousness regardless of suffering
Passion for God centred worship
Passion for Christ centred victorious living

Stories of the heroes of history

Stories are great tools to help us share what the Gospel is capable of and how God has been active in our world.

Heroes of History offers stories of some significant people that have served God in many different ways, as well as values that these heroes have

Some of the heroes include:
Brother Andrew 1928- alive
Gladys Aylward 1902-1970
Black Elk 1864-1950
John Bunyan 1628-1688
John Calvin 1509-1564
William Carey 1761-1834
Amy Carmichael 1867-1951
George Washington Carver 1864-1943
Christopher Columbus 1451-1506
Billy Graham 1918- alive
T. D. Jakes 1957- alive
C. S. Lewis 1898-1963
David Livingstone 1813-1873
Martin Luther 1483-1546
Florence Nightingale 1820-1910
Flannery O'Connor 1925-1964
Francis Schaeffer 1912-1984
Mary Slessor 1848-1915
Alexander Solzhenitsyn 1918- alive
Corrie ten Boom 1892-1983
Mother Teresa 1910-1997
John Wesley 1703-1791

Evangelism for every congregation member

The South West Wisonsin District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod offers a power point presentation focussed on evangelism for every congregation member. It challenges some the commonly held beliefs about evangelism, as well as providing some helpful starting points.

Why not visit,1,“Lost to get some ideas and begin encouraging evangelism in your congregation.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Faithink Conferences and the Lutheran Church of Australia

The Lutheran Church of Australia has invested signficantly in time, money and other resources to equip congregations for Youth and Family Ministry, no matter what their size through the Faithink approach to ministry.

Peter Eckerman has been appointed as the National Co-ordinator (a full time salaried position), and will be Australianising many of the resources.

Throughout July and August 2008 they will be launching Faithink through a series of conferences around Australia and New Zealand with Rich Melheim (Faithink founder and Chief Creative Officer), Monty Lysne (National Director of Youth and Family Ministry) and Debbie Streicher (National Director of Children and Family Ministry) presenting and exploring how the Faithink including Head to Heart confirmation ministry, Bible Song and Faith Stepping Stones can be implemented in congregations of all sizes.

Venues for Faithink conference and launch
Intensive Melbourne Southgate Vic - July 18
Head to Heart Experience Box Hill - July 18
Intensive Ballarat - July 19
Intensive Hamilton - July 20
Intensive Horsham - July 21
Conference Adelaide - July 25-27
Conference Perth - July 29-30
Conference Brisbane - Aug 1-3
Conference Canberra - Aug 4-6
Intensive Foundations Auckland - Aug 8
Intensive Auckland - Aug 9
Conference Auckland (both NZ Events) - Aug 8-9

For more details check out

To discover how Faithink equips people of all ages to grow in faith check out their web site at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why baptise people of all ages, including infants?

One of aspect that people notice about Lutheran churches is that we baptise people of ages, including infants. Some Christians question whether this is appropriate and at times many Lutheran Christians struggle to explain why it is appropriate biblically. There are a number of places you can turn for such help:

Luther's small and large catechism, section on baptism.

Australian Lutheran College offers a publication online: The teaching and practice of baptism

This document provides answers to the questions

  • What is baptism?

  • What does God do for us in baptism?

  • What makes baptism valid?

  • Who can be baptised?

  • Does the pastor have the final decision about who may be baptised?

  • What are the requirements to be a baptismal sponsor?

  • Why does the church baptise infants?

  • What is the relationship between baptism and faith?

  • Do Christians receive the Holy Spirit in baptism?

  • What is the relationship between baptism and conversion?

  • What is the connection between baptism and mission?

  • What is the function of the Creed and the Lord's prayer in the baptismal rite?

  • What ritual components can be added to emphasise the theology of baptism?

  • What ritual components could be added to emphasise the celebratory character of baptism?
    What are the essential components of the rite?

  • What is an appropriate form of the renunciation and confession for young children who can speak for themselves?

  • The location and use of the baptismal font.

  • How should preparation and instruction for baptism occur?

  • What preparation should occur with regard to infants and small children?

  • What preparation should occur in the case of adults?

  • How can congregations care for the baptised-immediate and long term?

  • How can the church help people remember and commemorate their baptism, and live as baptised people?

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod offers a short biblical response why they baptise infants at

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod offers a large section on Baptism...responding to many questions including why baptise infants?, History of infant baptism,

Lutheran Renewal movement offers two publications. God's activity of Grace by Dr Morris Vaagenes and 'What about baptism?' by Larry Christenson visit and click on resources

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America offers this short article relating to baptism

Luther Academy offers a book by David Scaer responding to many of the questions and issues that people have regarding baptism

If you have any other resources either your own or those that you know of that you would like to share please feel free to email them to me

Children's mission project: Hearts for Jesus

The Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church Missouri synod has arranged a Children's mission project called Hearts for Jesus.

In short the idea is for children to share the Gospel of Jesus with their family and friends and raise funds for those in need overseas.

This year they used the DVD story: 'The story of Jesus for Children"

They have prepared teaching notes, handouts, activities, etc. to support the project. Whilst this project is specifically for their District I am sure you could easily adapt it for your own situation. Why spend a few moments reviewing the project at:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Criticism does not necessarily mean condemnation

Something that affects ministry, whether we be pastors, staff, leaders or members/disciples is how we hear and respond to criticism. As disciples of Jesus it is important for each of us to take some responsibility of how we respond to criticism otherwise we will be doomed and allow criticism to be turned into condemnation or we will simply ignore all criticism.

Condemnation is something we all experience…being labelled…being told we can’t succeed…being told we have problems by themselves can be quite helpful but become condemnation when we believe that these things mean we are doomed.

Some years ago a young enthustic 15 year old basketballer trying out for his state team Victoria in Australia (now basketball in Australia is not that strong…most young men choose aussie rules, rugby, rugby league, soccer, cricket, golf and tennis before basketaball) was told he wasn’t good enough, he wasn’t up to standard so was dropped from the squad. Now many young people may have been devastated, believing that they had no hope so what was the use continuing. However this young man heard what was said accepted what was true and rejected what wasn’t. Then went about being transformed by coaches and other guides. That young man is Andrew Bogut, who was the number 1 draft pick in 2005 for the American National Basketball Association and recently signed a $76 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks …If Bogut had taken that early form of criticism as condemnation he would have not been blessed and neither would have has his fans been blessed.

Now for each of us Satan is always attempting to convince us that our life and future with God is doomed because of our flaws, our failures, our sins. Now if we listen to that it will be, however God has something else to say. The reality is we have exactly these issues…we are sinners, we have flaws, we mess up, sin and yet because of Christ these things lose their power to condemn us….God still wants and makes it possible for you and me to receive his blessings and share his blessings.

This is the message of Romans 8 where God addresses a Christian community through St Paul we hear the following:
Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
This is something important for each of us to remember.....
That despite our flaws, inadequacies, flops, failures, etc. and despite any criticism targetted at us if we are trusting in Jesus Christ as our hope for salvation God will not reject us...God still sees us as special and valueable.

Unfortunately at times we can respond in ways that is not helpful to criticism and sometimes even allow criticism to condemn us or be used to damage our reputation.

Responding to criticism and Dealing with criticism

Remember not all criticism is equal.
Some criticism is simply made to put us down, other criticism is made to make someone or some other group look good (now that is a pretty poor way to approach life), some criticism is made for poltical reasons, some is ill informed, whilst some criticism can actually help us in our journies with God and others.

When criticism arises ask:
  • Is the criticism true, partially true or completely inaccurate?
  • Is it justified? Something maybe true but still be unfair criticism. Is this the case? Take for instance the winging of the israelites to Moses in Exodus 14...they had experienced hardship but they were focussed on the current situation rather than the future.
  • Is it based on facts or perception?
  • How consistent is it with the commandment You shall not bear false witness agains others, and the explanations as found in the small and large catechisms?
  • Why am I being criticised?
  • What values, outlook on life, understanding do those who are making the criticism have? and how does this compare to your own or what they should be? (In the church, as well as life this is important, because we have so many different perspectives floating around about all aspects of life and what is ask people what makes a good worship service and listen to the range of answers, ask people what makes a good parent and listen to the differences.)

When criticism is true or partially true and justified?

If criticism is true or at least partially true...

First recognise this as God's reminder of why you need Jesus for his primary role of salvation, especially when cristicism suggests we have sinned. When it is true, criticism helps us see we have fallen short of the glory of God, of God's standards and that Jesus saves us from being doomed.

Secondly criticism also reminds us of our reliance on God and his gifts to help us in our lives. Being ciriticised can often be a prompter to rely on God to help us with something in our life, either help us change or help us deal with that issue. Sometimes we can't change and we need help to deal with our inadequacies/situation, other times it is possible for us to change which is possible with God's help. This involves prayer, scripture reading, discussions with other Christians, seeking help from both church and secular resources, planning, time and being open to change.

Something extra.... But what about responding to anonymous criticism

Unfortunately at times people will use institutional structures, meetings (Someone may get other people to talk on their behalf), procedures or other means to make complaints or criticism anonymously rather than directly. As leaders in an organisation we need to look at this carefully and ask ourselves how consistent is such an approach with scripture, especially considering Matthew 18:15-20. Are we going to allow anonymous criticism to occur, why and when? A lot of the time anonymous criticism is not helpful, but just poor and even destructive behaviour. Things like meetings, surveys, complaints procedures and appraisals need to be managed appropriately so when anonymous criticism does arise it is handled constructively and to help, not hurt relationships. Something to consider....criticism that has the purpose of improving a relationship is good.....criticism that has the purpose of removing someone from a relationship is questionable.

However as people who maybe affected by anonymous criticism remember there are reasons why anonymous criticism occurs. My initial response to anonymous criticism is to listen to the cristism but not to respond to it, because some anonymous criticism is simply inappropriate activity of people wanting to hurt others without their points of view being analysed and questioned. However I am also aware that at times it is encouraged so as to elicit responses (eg. surveys) and other times it arises because people dont feel confident in their own abilities or have the time to talk about the issues and therefore are unwilling to criticise unless it is anonymous.

What we can do about anonymous criticism?

  • Don't ignore it completely...ask the questions under when criticism arises?
  • Ask can we talk privately to those who have made the criticism? (This may or may not be possible)
  • Encourage our organisations/church to develop helpful and appropriate ways to deal with anonymous criticism. This should include encouraging people to take their criticism directly to those they are criticising, even with help, etc.
  • Remind people we are about journeying together and relationships and anonymous criticism is often not helpful for relationships.
  • Remind people it is difficult to respond to an anonymous person.
  • Attempt to create an environment where people don't feel threatened in bringing up issues.
  • Help people see life is not always about win/lose.....
  • Listen to what people are saying, but don't necessarly suggest you agree with them.

Pastor Richard Schwedes

Friday, July 11, 2008

Effective Church Councils

The Bishop of the North West Minnesota Synod has put together a short presentation of what makes for an effective Church Council.

It is available at

Friday, July 04, 2008

Coming up with a solution....

Most of us can see things that get in the road or interfere with ourselves and others hearing, seeing and experiencing the gospel...(if you doubt this think about what does love my neighbour mean and reflect on the explanations to the Ten Commandments that we find in the Small Catechism). We can either sit there and lament these things....or we can explore ways of doing something about them.

Now we were faced with an issue in our parish....a number of our children were interested in AFL football....but Auskick was only offered on Sunday....and it was highly unlikely they would change with 450 kids participating in Auskick on a Sunday... So we approached AFL Tasmania to see if any alternative could occur.

Now read about what happened as recorded in the local newspaper the Advocate.

God bless being able to play football on a Tuesday
24/06/2008 9:42:00 AM
FOOTY versus God.
It's a tough choice to make on a Sunday, but thanks to Devonport Pastor Richard Schwedes, the decision is no longer necessary.
As Pastor of the North Tasmanian Lutheran Parish and a Sydney Swans-supporting footy tragic, Mr Schwedes wants to ensure kids "can have a spiritual journey but still enjoy their footy too".
"There are a lot of kids in our church who are into footy but with Auskick only running on Sunday mornings, they aren't able to play," he said.
Keen to help the kids get some fresh air, Mr Schwedes got together with the AFL and the two parties are combining to offer Auskick to primary school boys and girls on Tuesday afternoons.
Not that you have to be a member of the flock to join in.
"It certainly isn't just for churchgoers," Mr Schwedes said.
"There are many families who aren't church regulars who still regard Sunday as a family day and this will give them another option."
AFL Tasmania North West regional manager Barry Gaby said the variation from traditional Sunday morning Auskick was an example of the AFL and the church working together to benefit kids and keep them active.
"AFL Tasmania want to make the sport available to as many kids as possible," Mr Gaby said.
"We try to bend the rules and be flexible."
Anyone interested in Tuesday afternoon Auskick can contact Pastor Richard Schwedes on 64278013.

Since this article 36 children have enrolled and another article appeared in the paper...Many of the children are from family's who have experienced the Sunday church and footy battle, parents feel more supported by the church and there are even some people who don't go to church who have joined and we get to touch base with.

Now football may not be an issue in your area (Auskick maybe offered at another time)...but what things are drawing people away from the gospel and what can you offer to help them....think outside the square...

Book: Christian Education as evangelism Norma Everist (editor)

This book is a series of articles orientated around the fact that if congregations (and Lutheran schools) are serious about evangelism they also need to be serious about education, and if they are serious about education then they will be serious about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. In otherwords Christian Education leads to evangelism and evangelism leads to Christian education.

Each chapter includes: the article, stories, questions for reflection and practical congregational strategies....

Articles found in this book...

  • Education and evangelism. Is the connection essential?
  • What are the theological foundations of education and evangelism?
  • How do we make the Gospel come alive through education and evangelism?
  • How do we move from apathy to transformation?
  • Congregations that take both education and evangelism seriously.
  • Christian education as evangelism in a multicultural setting.
  • Reaching out through Lutheran Schools.
  • Abiding in the Word for the sake of the world.
  • Go and make learners. Supporting transformation in education and evangelism.
  • Go and listen. Reaching out to those who seek, especially Young Adults.
  • Learn to share Christ in the languages of people's daily lives.
  • Redidcate ourselves to our calling in education: a social statement.

Know doctrine...know mission!!! No mission...cyberbrethren blog

Paul McCain from Cyberbrethren blog has written a piece called Know doctrine...Know Mission!!! No doctrine....No Mission!!!
Highlighting that doctrine and mission should not be separated....(or rather when they are there is a problem!!!)
It is infleunced by Walther's Our common task the saving of souls 1872

It is worth reading and reflecting on...especially how the core doctrines of justification and all the doctrines of the Lutheran Church influence our understanding and approach to mission.