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Renewing Thought; Renewing Worship

Mainline Protestant laity and clergy, along with their judicatory leadership, tend to view congregations in a traditional way. As Methodist bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr., writes, Protestants tend to think "the typical Protestant congregation comes in three basic forms: the small country church, the stone or brick 'First Denominational Church' on Main Street … and more recently, the large suburban program-oriented church." Similarly, for generations, church leaders "have also assumed that their careers would play out within these same limited boundaries," and that their careers would consist of starting in the smaller, rural congregations, gaining experience, and moving up until they "conclude at a 'First Church' or a large suburban congregation." But, those ideas about what constitute worship communities and worship community leadership careers are outdated, writes Carter.

Church structures and rhythms have been changing for decades, and continue to change in sometimes dramatic ways from the norm. These alternatives constitute "a disruptive trend in mainline Protestantism" that mainline congregations may have difficulty understanding or finding common ground with, even though they embody "spiritual practices that appeal to both Baby Boomers and millennials."

In his article, co-written with L. Gregory Jones and Susan Pendleton Jones of Duke Divinity School and published on Faith & Leadership, an online offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Carter concludes that congregants and their leaders "must explore the many ways in which this disruptive innovation can be a force for renewal, a sign of the Spirit's fresh wind blowing to offer revival and renewal for the church."

For more on worship renewal, see our feature articles, "Beyond the Worship Wars: Creative Ideas for Renewing Church Services," and "Best Resources on Worship."

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