Thursday, November 2, 2023

Can a Church Win Even in Death?

Last week, I posted about my newest read, The Great Dechurching. If you haven't read the book yet, I hope you pick it up or listen to it on Audible like me. It's not only about the church's vitality in our modern age—it's about the availability of a formalized spiritual lifeline for our children.

I am still chewing on a comment the authors made: "A church can win even in death." 

Yes, churches are dying. Did you know? 70% of people who go to church today attend 10% of the churches. The majority of churches today have 100 or less people attending each week. As people continue to leave the church, that means these smaller churches will continue to close their doors due to a lack of attendance and financial solvency. 

This is a sad fact. We have all seen churches, whose buildings might be paid off, cling to their dwindling resources in an attempt to hang on. It is a slow, painful death for those who remain.

What can the church do?

First, the church needs to prepare its future leaders wisely. Pastors are basically walking into a church equivalent of an ER. One can imagine that it's exhausting work, especially without the proper training. Seminaries need to train pastors how to intelligently handle dire financial situations, effectively market what they can provide using modern tools like social media, and foster adequate pastoral care avenues to support pastors so they don't burnout.

Second, I'd like to challenge us as pastors and congregants—better yet, as people who love Jesus—to consider new ways of growing his body. How can a church win in death? The authors propose that a dwindling church can gift their paid-off building to a new ministry that might be growing. This allows a dwindling church a new opportunity through a shift in perspective—they can still bless and minister by planting a mighty seed.

As a Protestant pastor, I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of a tradition that looked to put a Bible in every hand. But Christianity's many denominations and non-denominational church options have splintered our ability to see our solidarity. Quite simply, the world needs Jesus. We are all on the same team. And for Christ's body to have a viable way forward, we need to act like it.

The world today is growing increasingly polarized—politically, socially, and religiously. If the church can't model humility and conversation with the other, who can? Especially when the future of Christ's very body is at stake, each of us is an essential member. My prayer is that God opens our eyes to the unique gift we have in one another. 

This week I invite you to consider along with me:

When is the last time I've spoken about Jesus with a Christian from a different tradition?

How do I frame the many different church options to my children when they ask?

Is it possible to find a local service opportunity for my children that brings different churches together?


Please continue to pray with me for the Middle East. Our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters need our prayer. Every drop of blood does not fall lightly.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Alert! The Church Is in Serious Decline

Did you know? More adults don’t attend church versus the ones who do for the first time in United States history. I recently read the book “The Great Dechurching,” and I can’t recommend it enough. I am appropriately concerned by its accessible and applicable statistical study about the church’s dire straits, and also, its hope.

I read the book because I was aware of the number of people leaving churches coupled with the number of churches closing their doors. Around the week that I learned of this book, a church from a former call reached out to me to consider serving there again. I was honored. Over ten years ago when I had been their associate pastor, the church had two other full-time pastors plus a Christian Ed Director. Now, the church is looking for a solo pastor position. I was saddened to hear of its loss of staff and congregant numbers. 

While I was aware of the decline in churches, especially since COVID, I had no idea that it was as bad as it was. Did you know? 40 million people have stopped going to church, largely in the last 25 years. People are walking away from almost every branch of Christianity. This mass migration out of the church is the largest Christian movement in United States history. Of further note is that the other three sizable Christian movements were awakenings, which added numbers to the church.


As a pastor, I care about this loss. But as a mother, I do too. 


This mass exodus from the church is producing the first generation of largely unchurched youth in United States history. And this unchurched generation is growing up at precisely the time when the world feels more lonely, anxious, and depressed.


My sense is that the two are in fact causal rather than unrelated. Studies document the health benefits of regular worship—it has the capability to decrease depression, loneliness, and even heart issues. The Great Dechurching mentions these findings as well. I have seen the health benefits of persons igniting faith connections in real time while serving for two years as a hospital chaplain. At the hospital, spirituality and pastoral care were regarded as integral to the healing process, especially when other modalities simply could not produce the desired outcomes in the patient. 


Our children are not only lacking the health benefits of regular worship, but they’re lacking the formal formation of a spiritual rudder in a world with more options and pressures due in part to the mass accessibility of the Internet. You and I might take any rudder we have for granted. After all, we were likely raised in the church and are at least aware of what we are walking away from. This is not the case for our children. 


It’s time for well-meaning Christians to care. Jesus didn’t live and die only to live on in our hearts. It’s not enough. Simply scanning the news shows me that the world needs the light of Christ and people who take this transmission seriously (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Along those lines, I want to leave you this week with three questions to consider with me:


What will be your part in transmitting the faith to this unchurched generation?

What are you doing to support regular worship for your family?

Does your child feel spiritual supported and connected?


For great ideas to support faith at home, please review my site for great faith book suggestions! I just received a new one courtesy of the publisher Zonderkidz called Managing Your Emojis: 100 Devotions for Navigating Your Feelings. It's for children ages 8-12. Such a cute title by two authors I respect and have had on my show!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Israeli-Palestinian Crisis Prayer

It's been a while since I've posted, though you have been on my mind. Watch for changes to the blog/website to follow. For now, I wanted to ask you to pray with me. This is my small attempt to be the kind of change I want to see in the world. Prayer not only invites God's power, it unites us. In humility, we come before the One who created us all. 

Dear Lord, I pray to you feeling like we may be on the brink of a Third World war. Maybe it is already occurring; it’s just in a different form.

Just as our country feels divided, the world does too, Lord. People are hurting and driven by fear. And some are using that fear to manipulate people.


Lord, my heart breaks for the slaughtering of the Israelis. You know I could barely sleep. So many dear Jewish friends felt like this brutal attack was waged at them, even though they were miles away. There is hurt, fear, and anger. Hamas demonstrated cowardice going after innocent, unarmed people, not strength. 


As the violence rages, it’s clear that Hamas is willing to hurt even its own people in an attempt to control the narrative and recruit people to their cause. Don’t let them, Lord. 


I fear Israel’s attempt to protect itself will in fact make them less safe by inciting a new wave of terrorists as innocent Palestinians suffer. I fear this will impact the world my children will know as new fuel to the cycle of violence has been added. The pain and the devastation is fresh, and it’s hard to heal.


Lord, this is your holy land. Lord, these are your people. On behalf of the grieving Israelis and innocent Palestinians, bring your peace. Arise and bring your truth and justice as only you can do…


Where there is pain, bring healing. Where there is mistrust, show us stories of bridge-building. Where there is hopelessness and devastation, bring us a path forward paved with your peace. We ask for wise diplomacy in this delicate situation that can shine like a beacon to a world who wonders if hard solutions from two sides are even possible anymore. 


Lord, you are our Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 1:8). You value every life. You also not only care about our pain right now, but also the kind of world we’re building. You lead with strength and humility—we look to you.


I pray that leaders will arise with strength that’s not their own to do the work that only you can do. Help them to make a difference, right here, right now, and for years to come. You showed us through your own example that the world is worth saving and one life can stem the tide. No situation is too far gone.


Come, Lord Jesus.



Thursday, September 15, 2022

Back-to-School Prayer and Giveaway!

Hi Friends, It's been a while since I've posted. I have been busy potty training my toddler, getting a new family puppy, and adjusting to a teenager in the house!

If you're like me, you're still knee-deep into the back-to-school frenzy. Every year, I plan way ahead, hoping that it doesn't have to feel that way (again)...but the extra meetings, last minute requests from my children for necessary items, and non-summer schedule always requires an adjustment.

The good news is: We have God who hears our prayers, even when we present the worst version of ourselves to the people we love most. We have children, who sometimes just need a hug or a hand to hold (relish it). And we have an exciting new year of possibilities.

This year my challenge to myself and maybe to you too is...Let God surprise you. Keep your heart open and optimistic. Don't let prior pain, a tinge of bitterness, or a mom fail rob you of the good that God wants to do in your life right now. Yes, we are raising children, but we can be children too...OF HOPE. And wouldn't the world be a better place if we chose—and better yet EXPECTED—to live into that identity through our eyes of faith every day?

Your arsenal: Here are two back to school prayers. I wrote the first one when my first baby went off to school. The second is a list of qualities that I intentionally wanted to pray over my children. You can try praying your own list based upon your favorite Bible verses too. A favorite of mine is, "Lord, surround my children with your favor as with a shield" (Psalm 5:12). 

And now for the giveaway...

A friend of mine who has guest posted on my site many times before has released a new book, Little Mole Goes to School. You may remember Little Mole's book on hope. This time, Little Mole is empowering children to surmount back-to-school jitters and find friends who appreciate what's unique about them. If you have a little one in mind who would like this book, you can register to win a free copy from the publisher on my Instagram (@noellekirchner). A few rules:

1. Follow me and the author, Glenys Nellist (@GlenysNellist)

2. Leave a comment on my back-to-school post (look for the toddler in the backpack) and tag a friend!

3. Be sure you live in the US for shipping purposes (no PO Boxes).

I will pick a winner this weekend on Sunday!

Download the book's free activity pack here. Thanks, Glenys!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Easter Treat: Easter Basket Book Ideas and Author Interview!

In honor of Holy Week, we have a special guest! I am delighted to welcome back bestselling children's book author Laura Sassi, who just released a new Easter treasure for little ones! I asked her some questions so that we could get a sneak peak into her newest book, Bunny Finds Easter. I pray her words enrich your Easter holiday, no matter the ages of your children. Plus, at the end of the interview you will find other Easter basket book ideas to help you ground the holiday in its true meaning—happy reading!

Welcome, Laura. Can you tell us: Why did you write your newest book, Bunny Finds Easter?

As a young child I was confused about what we were celebrating at Easter. I loved coloring Easter eggs and hunting for jelly beans, but it wasn’t until I was a tween that I made the connection that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Inspired by that memory, I decided to write a board book for preschoolers and toddlers that would celebrate those fun Easter traditions and, at the same time, serve as an introduction to the real gift of Easter—Jesus!

In my book, Bunny is on a quest to find out if Easter is all about chocolate eggs and jelly beans, or if it might just be about a little bit more? As the story unfolds, Bunny encounters many of the fun traditions surrounding Easter, including going on an egg hunt, but it’s not until she arrives at church and they sing an Easter song that she realizes JESUS is the reason we celebrate Easter.

Why does your book begin with a question—is that intentional?

I wanted to begin BUNNY FINDS EASTER with a question because kids love asking questions! I also wanted them to see, in a fun way, that asking questions is a good way to find things out. Thankfully, we have a wonderful God who can withstand any question we might bring him. Indeed, God is always ready to answer. And how does he answer? Through his rich and in-depth word—the Bible. He also uses his followers, us, to point each other and others in God’s direction.

Some questions are tougher to answer than others as parents! I noticed one question in your book reads, "Who died to take our sins away? And rose again on Easter day?" How do you explain the cross to children who are curious?

My approach with little ones who are curious about the cross is to set it in the bigger context of God’s love for us. We don’t want to frighten children, but at the same time, we don’t want to minimize the amazing gift of Jesus’ sacrifice. Through Jesus' death on the cross, he paid the penalty for humanity’s sinfulness once and for all as God’s son, perfect and without sin. And death was not the end of the story! On Easter morning He rose again and we will too—in eternity with God in heaven! As Christians, our hearts overflow with gratitude for this lavish outpouring love bestowed on us. Our response is to believe, accept, and share the good news with others.

I like to tie everything back to God’s word, which I hope plants a pattern in their hearts to seek truth there. Here are two passages that speak to Jesus’ redemptive love at Easter in a way that kid’s can grasp: John 3:16 (this is a good one to memorize) and Matthew 20:17–19 (Jesus predicts his own mission on the cross).

Do you have advice for parents who are willing to tackle tough questions in general?

Think big picture. Have some applicable passages of scripture at the ready so that you can point your little ones directly to God’s word as you work together to tackle tough questions. This, of course, will require that we spend time with God ourselves, asking questions, delving into scripture, and praying for God’s wisdom and light as we navigate through our days and nurture our children to know God.

What are you most looking forward to doing this Easter with your family?

I’m looking forward to going to church together, as a family, and gathering with others. Our church is having a very special service this year under a big tent. And my prayer is that it serves as a revival tent—that it will be just the beginning for our community. And, like Bunny in the story who hears the Easter news when rising to sing, I can’t wait to stand and sing together of the joy we have in Jesus, our risen Lord! 

Thank you, Laura! And thank you to the Christian publisher Zonderkidz for bringing Laura's book to life. For more Easter basket book ideas, check out these titles. Zonderkidz let me preview them for free, and they're adorable!

How High is Heaven? By Linsey Davis—Linsey has been on my show
Easter Egg Board Books, 3 pack, Illustrated by Emily Emerson—my toddler went right for these!
Snuggle Time Easter Stories and 'Twas the Morning of Easter by Glenys Nellist—I love the Snuggle Time series for little ones! Glenys is no stranger to my blog!
The Tiny Truths Bible for Little Ones by Joanna Rivard and Tim Penner—This board book Bible has inclusive illustrations, making the Gospel story approachable for all, since children learn and connect through images.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out my Easter devotion, Easter prayer or Easter dinner prayer, or stayed tuned to Redbud Writers Guild's Facebook page on Saturday, where I will share an Easter video!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

To Thrive and Revive, We Need to Pivot

It was my honor to contribute the vibrant and growing platform at Propel Women again. They are looking to empower female voices in the church, and nothing could excite me more! Perhaps your church has been struggling with numbers since COVID—the statistics aren't always encouraging. If you're discouraged by what you see in the pews or outside of them in our often divisive world, read this. Urge God to show you how he can use YOU to grow the church precisely when it is needed most.

Is the church dying? I am a denominationally-trained pastor, and worship statistics in the United States aren’t always encouraging. My heart breaks when I hear that more churches have closed their doors.

I recently sat down with a few female pastors for lunch. As much as we were excited to catch up, the topic quickly shifted to, “How can we creatively engage our congregation and spur its future growth?” It’s a vital question.

Brainstorming ways to reach new people about old wisdom is important for two reasons. First, God wants the church to continuously reflect the vibrancy of his Being. Second, while numbers might have dwindled in the pew, the need for God’s church certainly hasn’t.

As I look around, cultural pain is both old and new. Widespread social division is palpable. The need that the church can fill still abounds, but many are going to drier and drier wells to drink. In an online age when we’ve never been more connected, we’ve never felt more alone. Plus, we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other.

We’ve been hoodwinked.


Faith has always been capable of uniting people. Shared values and goals are more important than differences when people come together for something bigger than themselves. It’s our following of something greater than has the power to fill us in ways that don’t disappoint and heal the cracks in our collective soul.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). Christ can fill a void that nothing else can or will. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”

While the need for God is age-old, the humility that faith inspires is precisely the balm needed today. We’re poised for another revival. There’s freedom in dethroning the self and enthroning God. There’s healing in recognizing our need for God and one another amidst widespread isolation. There’s victory in grounding life in God’s unconditional love rather than our fickle culture.


I am reminded of Jesus’ observation that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few in Matthew 9:37. His truth holds true. The harvest is brimming.

Who are the laborers? We are. Fellow women, the church needs our voices too...

Read on at Propel Sophia Here

Want more? You can also read my last article for them. Thank you as always to my fantastic Propel editor and friend, Bronwyn Lea. Check out her newest book, Beyond Awkward Side Hugs.

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