Monthly Archives: February 2011

Amazon Vs. Borders

This is the second of a 3 part series comparing my use of amazon to other retailers.  I’m particularly interested in hearing what others think about this.

On January 27th I spent a little bit of free time perusing our local Borders store.  After strolling around for 30 minutes or so, looking at both books and music, I left without buying anything.  I later tweeted, “Spent some time at the local @borders today. Didn’t see anything that I couldn’t buy (and much cheaper) on @amazon.”

Less than a month later it was announced that our Borders was closing as the national chain restructures after filing bankruptcy.  I went in earlier this week to see if any of their bargain, closeout, everything must go, deals were worth taking advantage of.  They weren’t.  Most things were discounted by only 20%-30%.  As a general rule I find amazon to have items discounted by about 40%.  I (again) didn’t buy anything.

I understand that purchasing from a brick & mortar store in my community helps the local economy (there is another post to be written at another time comparing Amazon to The Raven or Signs of Life, two locally owned Lawrence bookstores).  However, for the most part, I buy resources where I can find them the cheapest.  And, assuming that I’ll spend at least $25 and can wait a few days, it is most often amazon.

How about you?  Are you more likely to purchase from Amazon or from a brick & mortar store in your community?


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Amazon Vs. Cokesbury

This is the first of a 3 part series comparing my use of amazon to other retailers.  I’m particularly interested in hearing what others think about this.

Yesterday when I posted about Lenten worship ideas I included links to a couple of resources.  The links are to Cokesbury’s website.  I only did this because they were the first links google returned, not because I would necessarily buy these resources from Cokesbury.  I might.  But I wouldn’t necessarily.

My experience has been that Cokesbury is usually more expensive than other book retailers, prohibitively so at times.  In fact, when I was serving in North Indiana the manager of the Indianapolis Cokesbury was retiring and Bishop Coyner organized a special “Bishop’s Bundle” of books that he encouraged all clergy in the conference to read.  They were going to be sold through Cokesbury at a special discounted rate (I believe 40% off).  It was still cheaper to buy them from Amazon.  So I did.

I know that as a United Methodist clergyperson I should maybe feel some kind of loyalty to purchase from the “company store” but I don’t.  I almost always buy resources where I can find them the cheapest.  This often isn’t Cokesbury.

How about you?  Do you buy more from Amazon or Cokesbury?  Or from somewhere else?  If an advocate of Cokesbury, can you convince me of why I should choose them?


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Worship Planning – Lent

Now that I have had a couple of weeks in my new appointment(s) I am wanting to do a little bit of long(er) term worship planning.  I know (for the most part) what I’m doing through Ash Wednesday, but am now trying to figure out what to do for Lent.  I am considering a few options:

What is your church doing for Lent this year?  What have you done in the past that is meaningful?  What thoughts do you have about the above ideas?

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Belated Birthday Post

Last Monday was my birthday.  In spite of spraining my ankle that morning and an utterly ridiculous loss by KU to K-State, it really was a great day!

We celebrated it with dinner at my parent’s house; ribs from Beimer’s and an ice cream cake from DQ (I know, not at all low-carb, but a family favorite and delicious).

h helped put the candles on my cake and then, of course, wanted to help blow them out.

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Reading Recommendations

A few weeks ago I sent a message to a number of my friends and colleagues saying,

As I prepare to return to full time ministry this coming 7/1, I have found myself wondering what I have missed out on in the world of churchy literature this last couple of years. So, I’m inviting your recommendations on things related to theology, church leadership, etc. What have you read or used as a resource in the last couple of years that you would recommend?

I have compiled their responses into the list below.  Several years ago I read Taylor’s Out of Bounds Church, but otherwise haven’t read anything on the list.  I am beginning with Slaughter’s, Unlearning Church as it was loaned to me when the recommendation was made.

  • Have you read any of the books below?
  • What are your favorites?
  • What others would you recommend?

A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin H. Freidman

Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean

Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus, Michael Slaughter

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, Peter Steinke

Dinosaur Heart Transplants: Renewing Mainline Congregations, R. Robert Cueni

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins

Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church, Nelson Searcy & Jennifer Henson

I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church!, Paul Nixon

Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Martin Linsky & Ronald A. Heifetz

Longing for Spring: A New Vision for Wesleyan Community, Elaine Heath

Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church, Reggie McNeal

The Mystic Way of Evangelism, Elaine Heath

OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, Kenda Creasy Dean

The Out of Bounds Church, Steve Taylor

Pathway to Renewal: Practical Steps for Congregations, Daniel P. Smith & Mary K. Sellon

Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church, Michael W. Foss

Practicing Right Relationship, Mary K. Sellon and Daniel P. Smith

Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60: Being Church for All Generations, Edward H. Hammett & James R. Pierce

Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples, Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger

Take the Next Step: Leading Lasting Change in the Church, Lovett Weems

Twelve Keys to an Effective Church: Strong Healthy Congregations Living in the Grace of God, Kennon L. Callahan

Unlearning Church, Michael Slaughter

Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship, Alan Hirsch and Debra Hirsch

Vital Signs: A Pathway to Congregational Wholeness, Dan R. Dick

You Only Have to Die: Leading Your Congregation to New Life, James A. Harnish


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My Recent Love/Hate of Twitter: What Might it Mean for the Church?

Somewhere in the last couple of weeks Twitter stopped pushing updates to Facebook (or Facebook stopped receiving them).  In the past there have been times when this connection wasn’t working, or when the updates did post to Facebook after some unexplained delay, but earlier this week it became clear that this was just plain broken.

I did research online, tweeted my frustration through my networks and tried a variety of things to no avail (several times getting twitter’s fail whale while working through facebook on the official twitter app).  As I expressed my frustration I heard from several others who were experiencing the same thing.  However, no one seemed to know what was going on.

I was finally sent these instructions this morning.  I tried them once (only closing my browser, not clearing the cache & cookies).  It didn’t work.  I later tried it again clearing the cache and cookies.  This time it froze up.  Finally, on the third try it worked.  I was then sent an interesting article describing a similar experience.  The author is right, the instructions were very poorly written and several steps required me to dig around and make assumptions about what needed to be done.

It was frustrating to me that I could find no clear explanation about what was broken or what I needed to do to make the connection.  It was frustrating to me that neither twitter or facebook were offering clear explanations or helps.

Completely unrelated to these frustrations this morning I had another drastically different experience with twitter.  I logged in and saw that 8 minutes earlier @lcom had tweeted, “It’s free ticket Friday. Reply to us for a pair of tickets to the Josh Ritter show tonight at Liberty Hall.”  I quickly hit reply saying, “Free tix?! Yes, please.”  Within a matter of minutes I received a direct message stating, “Alright, you and a guest will be on tonight’s list.”  Yes, it was that easy!  I sent a tweet to my bride telling her what had happened and asking if she was interested in an impromptu date night.  A few minutes later I received a tweet from her mom (who was coming to town tonight anyway) saying babysitting was taken care of.  Within a matter of mere minutes I won free tickets, shared that information with my wife, and lined up a babysitter for tonight!

On one hand, communication broke down and those responsible (me, twitter, facebook) either didn’t know what to do or didn’t seem to even care about the breakdown.

On the other hand, communication was facilitated in an incredibly quick, efficient and rewarding way.

When it comes to communicating within the church I fear that too often things look more like the first of these experiences than the second.  Too often systems to facilitate communication and connection aren’t working.  To often people who are looking for connection can’t seem to find it.  Too often, when they can’t find the connection, it begins to feel as if the church isn’t really interested in helping ensure the connection is made.

I will continue to reflect on these experiences through the lens of my work as the Director of Ministry Connections at Lawrence First and as pastor of the two churches I am currently serving.  And while I don’t, of course, have all the answers (or even know all the questions) I will continue to be mindful of the importance of effective communication and will seek ways to make these systems better in all of the organizations of which I am a part.

What have you learned recently about communication (via social media or other channels)?  What reflections do you have about my recent experiences?

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Clinger Family Photos

In December my good friend Ben was back in town and spent part of an evening chasing Heather and h and me around with his camera.  I am thrilled with the way some of the shots turned out.

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You can check out more of Ben’s work or connect with him at Ben Lamb Photo or on twitter.


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