Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is The Church Still Needed Today?

Rev Dr Amy Butler, had a wonderful recent post on the church – she writes,

“Why, you might be wondering, is it even worth our time to think about what we do and who we are here, as the church?

“Some would say that church is becoming less and less important in our increasingly secular society. One in five Americans would call themselves a “none,” meaning they answer “none” on surveys asking for religious affiliation. But incredible sociologist of religion from Boston University, Nancy Ammerman, begs to differ. She says that, even with these shifts in culture, the health of local congregations is more important than ever.”

Read the rest and think on her words. 

02- 9 Actions to Grow Worship and Professions of Faith

This summer I am sharing a list of 9 ideas for Cal-Pac pastors and laity as we live into Bishop Grant’s challenge to increase worship attendance and professions of faith. Here are earlier posts: #1

Idea #2 – Prayer

Are we praying for our churches to reach new people? Are we praying for people who do not know Jesus Christ and do not have a church home? Many of us are but probably just as many of us are not.

Recently a pastor shared his belief that since overall the church was in decline, his church could not be expected to grow. I guess that is one way to look at it. But it isn’t the only way.

First, while it is true many churches are in decline, it is also true our population is growing (especially in the West) and that people continue to be interested in authentic spirituality. It is like that old story of two shoe salesmen who are sent to sell shoes to a community where no one wears shoes. The first salesman calls the main office and says, “I’m coming home. No one here wears shoes.” But the second salesman calls the main office and through his excitement exclaims, “No one here wears shoes! The market for shoes is unlimited.” Perspective matters.

Second, churches, like all institutions, go through cycles – both up and down. During John Wesley’s time the church was also in decline but through his work many were brought to faith. In fact, some might say that the decline of Wesley’s time is what challenged him to grow the number of committed Christians! Times of decline call forth our creativity and our willingness risk and try new things. Wesley’s creativity seen in where he preached, in his constant publishing, and in his meeting people’s needs changed Christianity forever. Who is the next Wesley? Time will tell.

Third, if we are the people of God, saying and believing things that shut the door to growth (“all churches are in decline so why would my church grow?) invites discouragement. Let’s be honest, most of us have been there. Discouragement happens. But discouragement (or cynicism) cannot be our “business as usual.” Our work, regardless of the times in which we live, is to share our faith with new people and generations, and to be partners with God in bringing about God’s kingdom. Being discouraged by decline or distracted by nostalgia isn’t worthy of our calling.

So, back to prayer. If we want to be a vital church, reaching new people and sharing the good news, let us begin with prayer.

Some of us may need prayer for healing, asking to be healed from our cynicism, our discouragement and our belief that the past was somehow better.

Some of us need prayer so we might once again open our hearts to think and to see the world differently. For the church isn’t going back to 1950’s and the future belongs to those who will embrace that.

So, ask: How could you and your church pray in order to embrace the possibilities that the Spirit might have for you and your community?


  1. Have a discussion about church growth. Do you believe your church can grow? Why or why not?
  2. Pray daily for the Holy Spirit to show you how to open your heart (and church) to new people.

Additional resources:

Articles on spiritual practice

The Wesleyan Means of Grace

Innovative Ways to Encourage  People to Pray

Too busy to Pray? Find More Time in the New Year

Articles on understanding church decline

Coming to Terms with Numerical Decline.

How Big Data Disrupts Narratives of UMC Decline

How Not to React to the Decline of Christianity in America



A Plethora of Planners – Happy 2017

When I was in 5th grade I began a yearly tradition, breaking in a new planner. My new planner would arrive at Christmas and my winter break would be filled with time to copy all the birthdays and other milestones into the next year’s book. I loved it. (Is it weird to say some of my fondest holiday memories were spent with my planner? O well…)

Today planners are different. There is no longer one or two paper planners available, but 100s. And as an efficiency nut every time a new planner comes out, I just have to see what it offers. I have a case of planner envy.

I was a big fan of Franklin Covey planners -the classic, perfect first system. But then as electronic planners hit the market, I moved that direction. More recently, I have been using a hybrid system. With a hybrid system I have the long-term view available electronically but place weekly apportionments and to-do’s into the paper planner each week.

Over the last couple years I tried out two different planners to work with my hybrid system.

I started with Action Day. Action Day  has a place for your to-do’s & your daily schedule, plus – delegated tasks and goals. It also has paper in the back of the planner to use for note taking.  I used it for a little over a year,  it was good but I was still searching.

After finding the  Happiness Planner at Anthropology, I switched over to it in the spring.

What I loved was it was 100 days instead of an entire year, it had a place for reflection and goals, and it had daily happiness questions (“good things about today,” “what I hope for tomorrow”). The Happiness Planner was good but still, I was searching.

As December worn on I spent an entire afternoon looking at what types of planners were out there for 2017. I had no idea how many choices I had!

Here are a couple great articles/collections:

12 Planners


Best Planners

Lots of ideas, but what did I need?  I ended up making a list of what I needed in a planner:

+It had to be simple – too many boxes, questions or distractions made me anxious.

+I wanted a place for quarterly goals and a way to be reminded of them daily. This was key.

+I wanted a place for daily things like my morning and evening ritual.

+I would need a space for that day’s to-do’s.

+ Of course, I’d need a place for that day’s meetings.

+And, instead of having a loose piece of paper to track my spiritual practices, I wanted space for my Discipleship Huddle Rhythm of Discipleship (I’ll share more on this next week).

+And last, with my goal of studying six books of the Bible this year, I wanted a place for daily Bible Study Notes.

I realized that even with all the customization out there that I would need to create my own. So I did.

This isn’t a big of a deal as you’d think. Making your own planner is actually all the rage – they go by the term “bullet journal.”

I picked up a blank book I loved at Home Goods but any size and shape that connects with you would work. Here are some ideas.

I decorated the pages with stamps and washi tape

I needed something less complicated than the standard Bullet Journal. Here is what I ended up creating:

Introductory Pages:

Page 1 – Theme of the Year (I pick a theme word) and a list of Top Dream Goals for 2017

Page 2 – Quarterly Goals

Page 3 – The Brief Guide (there are several variations of this, here is one)

Page 4- Ideas for Morning and Evening Rituals (a mix and match list depending on time, energy, etc.)

Dated Pages:

Each day is two pages:

Every week ends with a two-page summary – here is a sample:

I put it all together while I watched TV with family or listened to podcasts. It was pretty fun. And here is the thing: it is really working. I look forward to using it daily and find I am staying on track with my daily commitments.

This planner is for three months, I figure it is a test run. I’ll let you know how it goes. Do any of you have a planner you love or keep a Bullet Journal? I’d love to hear about it. – Nicole

Organizational Simplicity

2015-12-01 10.33.01Over the years I have tried all kinds of life & work organizational systems. I started with a Franklin Covey planner. I loved that paper planner. I had the big one and I used it for everything in my life but, it was especially key for leading a local church. Sermon ideas, meeting agendas, dreams for what we could do, plus all the necessary names and dates made it my “work Bible.”

As technology changed, I did too – I had the Palm Pilot, various Microsoft programs, and eventually my Apple calendar and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) system.

I feel I am a productivity junkie and if something will help me get things done, I am happy to try it out.

Currently these are the best tools I have found:

Way of Life App – This app enables you to track activities that you’d like to cultivate – I track (among others) eating right, exercise, prayer. What I like is that I can set it up quickly (I use the pay version so I have unlimited items but you can start with the free version to try it out). What I have found is that tracking habits I want to cultivate grows them in my daily life. Now I floss, get up earlier and do daily reading because I track it.

Any.DO App – This app enables me keep a running list of work and personal tasks. The interface is fresh engaging (although when it calls me “princess” I do want to gag). I have used it for a couple of years and find its the best of the group.

Focus@will – This is an app that enables you to focus on your work through music. I used the free version for a while and found it worth the money so I upgraded recently. I make use of it at work to keep me focused but I also use it in the morning when I write and I have noticed a huge difference. (If you decide to sign up, let me know and I can get a free year for referring you!). I mostly use the “Baroque Piano” but I also am fond of the “Oct Beta Test” which is more techo music.

Action Day Weekly Planner: Each week I take my tasks from Any.DO and put them into my weekly calendar. I also write down my appointments so I can see everything together. This is the perfect combo of both electronic and paper for me as it lets me see everything in one place. The Action Day Planner is available through Amazon and comes in two sizes. After two years of the smaller one, I am making the leap to the larger one this year. I like that there are blank pages in the back – this enables me to put schedules, goals and projects in one place.

A Daily 3 by 5 Card: Each day, I look at the many things I could do and pick the three things I will do. I write them on the card that I leave on my desk, usually on top of my open Action Day Weekly Planner. This 3 by 5 card is actually the key to my productivity because it gives me a daily focus. I invested in some nicer cards and a Levenger folder to hold the cards so it is extra fun to use.

What simple tools make you more productive?