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THE Conversation

Every church I’ve ever served (in any capacity whatsoever) has had THE conversation about young people and the church.

Where do they go?

Why do they leave?

What can we do?

What will bring them in?

If you’ve been in church leadership, you know the conversation I’m talking about.

It seems everybody has something to say about this topic. And here is the latest offering.

Personally, I think this explanation is a little bit over-simplified. We’d love to think that “Facebook killed the church.” That would give us someone to blame for all our woes. But our woes began long before Facebook … or even text messaging. While it may be a contributing factor, it doesn’t get all the blame.

The value of this post, to me, is it’s laser-precision cultural critique. It’s one small (but valuable) look into the mindset of a generation of which I am not a part. And that is a treasured gift.

Read the article, then leave a comment and tell me what you think.



Today, I chucked the prepared sermon and went off the cuff at the last minute.

I don’t do it often, but it is increasingly common.

Today we were challenged to by the lesson from the Hebrew scriptures to see that life and death had been laid out before us … and to choose life.

I don’t remember all of what I said/preached, but the basic gist of it was this: it seems to me that most of us look at faith through one of two lenses. We either interpret God, scripture, faith, and life through the lens of judgement or through the lens of love.

Some will say that seeing with lens of judgement is to see a sinful world as God sees it.

I say that this perspective is too much like the way of the world to be the way of God. I can find judgement and “thou shalts” and “you shoulds” at every turn. I do not fundamentally believe we are a disappointment to God.

I wholeheartedly believe that God delights in us, and that out of that delight challenges us to be true to ourselves, compassionate with others and good stewards of our gifts. But above all, delight.


It’s NOT a Vacation!

Beginning tomorrow, I’m on study leave.

Study leave?

Yes, study leave. Study leave allows the pastor to get away from pastoral duties.

So, it’s a vacation.

No. It’s NOT a vacation. Study leave allows the pastor to get away from pastoral duties, in order to improve their skills for ministry.

What do you mean?

Study leave allows the pastor to go to workshops or attend conferences or attend continuing education classes. Study leave give the pastor the time and resources to engage in conversations about ministry and faith and the church with other ministers and with scholars. Study leave is time for continuing education. It’s NOT a vacation.

Want to know more? Below are some guidelines that are put out by the Presbytery of Shenango. Enjoy.





The churches of the Presbytery provide for study leave/continuing education time and expenses in the terms of call of pastors.  All calls for ordained pastors shall include a minimum of 1.) 2 weeks annual study leave time and 2.) $750 (as of 2000) expense allowance for said study leave.

A planned study leave/continuing education program is of great value in helping pastors to maintain and to improve skills required for their ministry.  A study leave/continuing education program should benefit each participating congregation, the pastor, and the church at large.  The intent is to provide stronger leadership for the local churches through pastors who are kept abreast of new developments and programs in the various areas of ministry, and to provide stimulation for pastors to continue their spiritual and mental growth by contact with scholars, teachers, and other pastors.

The Session has responsibility, as part of their leadership of the church, to encourage and support their pastor in continually updating his/her skills so as best to minister to the congregation.

The following are the guidelines/procedure for study leave/continuing education:

Study leave/continuing education time and expenses may be used annually or may be accumulated in accordance with the terms of call.  Accumulated study leave/continuing education expenses may be used for a study leave of less duration than the accumulated time; e.g., a pastor with four weeks accumulated time and money might choose to use the entire sum for a two week study leave, provided the expenses are documented.

Each year the pastor shall make a request to the Session for:

Use the study leave/continuing education, proposing a special plan of study to the Session.

As an alternative, accumulate the study leave for future use.  If the pastor chooses this option he/she shall submit a general plan of how he/she intends to use the accumulated leave at a later date.

In addition to the study leave expenses, the local church continues the pastor’s salary, defrays any cost of pulpit supply (one Sunday for each week of study leave), and meets the expense of other necessary pastoral services during the study leave.

Study leave time may not be used for vacation purposes.

Travel, food, lodging, registration, and related expense incurred during study leave/continuing education may be chargeable to the study leave expense allowance.  Additional expenses shall be negotiated between the pastor and the Session.

At the next scheduled Session meeting after each study leave/continuing education, the pastor shall submit a verbal or written evaluation of the study leave/continuing education to the Session.  A copy shall be forwarded to the Chairperson of the Committee on Ministry.

Additional information on possible study leave/continuing education options is available at the Presbytery Office.

Every pastor is expected to use study leave time to attend General Assembly as visitor within the first 5 years of ministry.

Unused study leave time and money are cancelled at the termination of the call.

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