Articles by The Rev. Margaret Marcuson
Tuesday January 30, 2024
Most of the ministry leaders I speak with are tired. It’s been a long four years. Many of you started the pandemic already tired. It’s hard to take time to rest when you feel the weight of the church on your back. It’s hard to take sabbath when Sunday is your busiest day. I’ve been thinking about Sabbath time, as part of the chapter on time in the book about sustainable ministry that I’m working on. Here are some thoughts I’ve had so far...
Friday December 01, 2023
Advent is up on us! What practices do you have to get you through to Christmas? I’ve always found that doing at least a few things for myself through these weeks help me walk through them with less stress and more grace. Here are four practices I recommend:
Tuesday October 17, 2023
Are you trying hard to get something going, and it isn’t going anywhere? Maybe it’s a new ministry initiative, a better relationship with a church member, or a new approach to budgeting like a narrative budget. You try, and try, and it just doesn’t go anywhere. What if you just let it sit for a while?
Tuesday September 12, 2023
In ministry today, you could make a long list of the difficulties... ...What would it be like to use these difficulties? This doesn't mean you minimize them--we all know they’ve been a lot more than a chair in the way.
Thursday August 10, 2023
I don’t say “never” very often. However, here are a dozen “nevers” about money...
Tuesday July 11, 2023
In ministry, it’s easy to spend a lot of time on the clock during the week and on the calendar over years doing things that don’t bring you joy, because you think you should.
Wednesday June 14, 2023
Here’s what I notice: the most responsible and hard-working clergy are the ones who are hardest on themselves. They are the least likely to give themselves a break or allow others to share the load. Why is that?
Tuesday May 02, 2023
Churches can make big decisions without enough reflection. But a lot of dithering goes on in church board meetings.
Tuesday March 07, 2023
My husband, Karl, says, “If you want to be happier, just lower your expectations.” Along the same lines, I recently discovered in a file a list of rules from family therapist and genogram expert Monica McGoldrick for relating to your family of origin.
Wednesday February 01, 2023
What’s going to happen to the church in the future? Everybody’s wondering, worrying, speculating. How much will stay the same? How much will change?
Monday January 02, 2023
When is it time to push, and when is it time to rest? The New Year is a time when our culture tells us to push on with those new resolutions, but winter is a time our bodies may want to slow down and, if not hibernate, at least sleep more.
Thursday December 01, 2022
How are you doing this Advent? Here are some "don'ts" to keep in mind through these weeks...
Wednesday October 19, 2022
Do you feel resentful? You are probably taking more responsibility than you need to, and overfunctioning for some person or group--or even for the whole church.
Monday September 19, 2022
I’m not inclined to make absolute statements. But here are ten “never” statements for your reflection about your ministry...
Thursday August 18, 2022
It’s easy to put up with things that don’t quite work. Should you?
Friday June 24, 2022
Family therapist Elaine Boomer has a challenging suggestion for her clients. When you understand the way you typically relate to others, your own “emotional process,” Elaine says, “Try doing the opposite.”
Wednesday June 01, 2022
What’s your most insoluble problem? Innumerable problems arise in church life. You had a long list before the pandemic and it’s longer now.
Tuesday April 26, 2022
It’s the Easter season, more of a time for church leaders to celebrate than fast. But I’m thinking about fasting as a spiritual practice.
Wednesday March 23, 2022
Here are four lessons for church leadership from a surprising source: a fictional medieval monk.
Tuesday February 23, 2021
When is it time to push, and when is it time to rest? Our culture tells us to push on with resolutions early in a new year, but winter is a time our bodies may want to slow down and, if not hibernate, at least sleep more. This winter, pandemic exhaustion is also part of the mix.
Wednesday January 06, 2021
2020 was a year like no other, for most of us. There have been endless retrospectives on the challenges the world, the United States, schools, the medical community, churches and families have faced this year. I recommend you consider another question: What went right last year?
Tuesday December 08, 2020
Paying attention is an essential part of spiritual leadership. Drawing is one way to learn to pay attention.
Thursday November 05, 2020
This Thanksgiving, as so many will choose not to travel or gather in person with loved ones, can we be grateful for anything about the covid-19 outbreak? Over 47 million people have suffered from the disease and over a million have died from it. Isn’t it heartless to be grateful for anything about this?
Tuesday September 29, 2020
I love genre fiction. I read a ton of mysteries for years, and now I read a lot of romance (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it…) My husband likes sci-fi. We have a catchphrase: “It’s all in the execution.” All genre fiction has what are called “tropes,” tried and true formulas which are used over and over....
Tuesday September 01, 2020
Do you wonder how to handle the diverse personalities you’ve ended up with in your congregation? Have you seen their quirks intensify under the stress of the times we are living in? Are you finding it harder to make progress with ministry when you can’t talk in person?
Saturday July 25, 2020
What is the approach to giving churches should take through this time? Do you worry that yours could be one of these churches that close? Or, is your church doing well financially through the pandemic?
Wednesday June 03, 2020
I was inspired last month by the story of Captain Tom Moore who wanted to raise money for the British National Health service charity by walking 100 laps around his yard with a walker. He hoped to raise $1250 by his 100th birthday. His efforts went viral, and he raised over $39 million. He’s being honored with a knighthood. I don’t cry often, but this brought me to tears.
Tuesday May 12, 2020
In the depths of my hard drive (from 2011), I found the following tips I wrote back then to help leaders deal with change at church. They all still apply as we walk through these days when so much has changed.
Friday March 13, 2020
Most clergy are overfunctioners, with a tendency to take responsibility in relationships and in leadership. Of course, they are not alone. Many church leaders are as well, and they can get to the edge of burnout. What do you do when you’ve got a volunteer who is exhausted or resentful?
Tuesday February 11, 2020
There’s a time to take a stand--but there’s also a time to get out of the way. When should you duck? Here are three times to duck...
Friday January 17, 2020
Church leader, when someone is upset with you or with something that has happened in the ministry, should you apologize? Sometimes.
Wednesday December 06, 2017
What do you see in the relationships in your church? It’s easy to get focused on the negative people and interactions and spend a lot of time discussing them (if not complaining). I think focusing on what’s working and how to get more of it can be more productive.
Monday October 23, 2017
If you want people in your church to be more generous, be bolder about asking them to give.
Wednesday August 09, 2017
Managing staff is an essential skill for church leaders. Here are ten things I’ve learned about supervision at church.
Tuesday March 14, 2017
Are you struggling with an antagonist in your church? How we respond to those who seem to be threatening us can be as critical as any inherent threat in them.
Wednesday November 30, 2016
It’s not too late to consider your purpose at church this Advent. Take five minutes and think about it. You’ll be less stressed and have a more meaningful experience.
Tuesday November 08, 2016
Fall is well underway. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Ministry is hard work, but there are ways to make it easier. Here are nine ideas to make your ministry (a little) simpler.
Tuesday October 25, 2016
When you provide leadership in stewardship at church, you do essential work.Here are three reasons to love asking people to give.
Wednesday July 13, 2016
It's important, especially for church leaders, to do nothing every day, every week and every year.
Wednesday June 01, 2016
Are you too nice? Being nice won't take you through a whole career in ministry, and it won't help you help your church reach its potential.
Friday May 13, 2016
Here’s a list of things your people don’t need to hear you say. I’ve said most of them over the years, or some version of them. But I think I was mistaken.
Tuesday April 19, 2016
Looking up at the sky (literally!) can help you get perspective on your ministry.
Tuesday April 05, 2016
our efforts to make people change often produce the opposite effect. It’s counterproductive to be willful. Here's another way to approach the process of change at church.
Monday March 21, 2016
Here are some ideas for surviving Holy Week with more grace and less stress.
Tuesday March 08, 2016
Whether or not you like to talk about money, and whether or not they want you to, your church needs you to talk about it, probably more often than you do now. Here are seven things they need to hear you say.
Tuesday February 23, 2016
Are you struggling with an antagonist in your church? How we respond to those who seem to be threatening us can be as critical as any inherent threat in them.
Thursday February 11, 2016
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Ministry is hard work, but there are ways to make it easier. Here are nine ideas to make your ministry (a little) simpler.
Friday August 22, 2014
Being nice can get in the way of leadership. This is what Edwin Friedman called called "valuing peace over progress."
Wednesday June 11, 2014
When anxiety is high, people often function reactively. Here are three responses that can help.
Saturday May 24, 2014
I recently wrote tips for church treasurers. Several pastors e-mailed me to say they had forward the tips to their treasurers. Here are five of the tips for treasurers.
Thursday May 08, 2014
This is a Day1 Key Voice article by The Rev. Margaret Marcuson.
Tuesday November 26, 2013
We can cultivate gratitude daily, and what better time than Thanksgiving to remind ourselves of this practice?
Saturday November 16, 2013
Who are the saints who contributed to your life and to your church? There's never a bad time to celebrate the saints of the past.
Thursday October 31, 2013
Sometimes the ghosts of the past are present in the life of a congregation.
Thursday October 24, 2013
Are you in the middle of your annual stewardship campaign? Are you having a good time?
Thursday October 03, 2013
Here are a few books I've found helpful recently and over the years. Many of them come from a slightly different angle than I am used to, such as those from the monastic tradition. The difference in language and perspective helps me wake up and pay attention to see what God might have to say to me that day.
Saturday September 21, 2013
Are you facing some difficulties at church lately? Whether your challenges are internal or external, you can learn something from Winston Churchill.
Sunday August 11, 2013
Here are six tips for pastors for dealing with music and music staff in the life of the church.
Thursday July 25, 2013
I've been thinking about the mistakes I made about money when I was a pastor. Here are ten.
Wednesday July 03, 2013
Leadership depends on relationships. Why not take summertime not only to plan for the fall but also to build relationships?
Friday June 21, 2013
What if churches engaged in a practice of year-round stewardship education and promotion? A little emphasis year round, rather than a few weeks once a year can help people grow in faith as they relate to their resources-and help develop greater support for the ministry of the church in the world.
Wednesday June 05, 2013
Here are some test-taking tips from elementary school which just might apply to ministry, too.
Tuesday May 21, 2013
Knowing and communicating financial facts (whether good or bad) can calm anxiety in a congregation.
Wednesday May 08, 2013
While fasting from food has its place, I think a fast from complaining is worth a try.
Thursday May 02, 2013
Here are ten things I learned from my father about ministry, in honor of his 90th birthday.
Tuesday April 09, 2013
How do you know when to take a stand and when to let things go? Here are five common mistakes, and some questions to think about.
Wednesday April 03, 2013
Having fun can benefit church leaders in their life and ministry.
Wednesday March 27, 2013
This is a busy week. Yet it can be less stressful, if we think about the week and the many services a bit differently.
Monday March 18, 2013
What is congregational health? It has little if anything to do with the size of the congregation.
Thursday March 14, 2013
Here are eight things Francis I has in common with other church leaders, no matter their tradition or denomination.
Monday March 11, 2013
Do you have a decision you need to make - at church or in your personal life? Here are three things to consider.
Thursday March 07, 2013
Do you want an opportunity to reflect on your ministry while entertaining yourself? Try the novels of Susan Howatch.
Tuesday February 26, 2013
We all have people at church we love - and then there are the others. Rather than lying awake at night, avoiding them or going head-to-head in a meeting, here is another option - pray for them.
Friday February 15, 2013
Do you find it hard to lead regarding church finance because you are distracted about your personal finances? Do you feel like you are not measuring up to what you preach and teach about money?
Tuesday January 22, 2013
Churches, large and small, can find themselves facing a divide over issues, large and small. What can leaders do when they find themselves facing a great divide?
Wednesday December 12, 2012
8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind by Ed Bacon, is a book that can help you think about your own life, your place in the world and how you relate to others.
Monday December 03, 2012
If you're having struggles in your ministry - and even if you're not - spend more time with the people in your church who are happy and centered.
Monday November 19, 2012
How can you engage more fully in the stewardship process, without overfunctioning or underfunctioning? Remember: the functioning of the leader is more important than any stewardship program.
Monday November 12, 2012
With all due respect to military veterans, I wonder if we need a "veterans of church warfare" day.
Thursday November 08, 2012
How much would your church's income need to increase for you not to worry about it?
Thursday November 01, 2012
Here are seven mistakes it's easy to make when we attempt to communicate with our churches, both individuals and as a group.
Wednesday October 24, 2012
Staying connected is a critical part of leadership. Virtual connection can help, but there's no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
Monday October 15, 2012
It's Pastor Appreciation Month. If you're a pastor, why not use this month not only to receive appreciation but to give it. Find a way to appreciate your predecessor.
Friday October 05, 2012
Advent starts in two months. What can you do now to make those weeks easier for yourself? Here are six ideas.
Thursday September 27, 2012
Are you working hard and getting nowhere at church? Perhaps it's time for a different approach.
Monday September 10, 2012
How do you get more reflective about your experiences with money at church? This is the fifth of a series of posts briefly looking at some basic systems ideas in relation to church and money.
Tuesday September 04, 2012
This is the fourth of a series of posts briefly looking at some basic systems ideas in relation to church and money. A church system develops over time a certain balance, or homeostasis, in its relationships in regard to money.
Tuesday August 28, 2012
How do you get more reflective about your experiences with money at church? This is the third of a series of posts briefly looking at some basic systems ideas in relation to church and money.
Friday August 24, 2012
You can transform your experience of your church financial life if, rather than bemoaning the fact that you don't have money, you celebrate it.
Tuesday August 07, 2012
How do you get more reflective about your experiences with money at church? This is the second of a series of posts briefly looking at some basic systems ideas in relation to church and money.
Wednesday August 01, 2012
How do you get more reflective about your experiences with money at church? This is the first of a series of posts briefly looking at some basic family systems ideas in relation to church and money.
Monday July 23, 2012
We often do little to acknowledge those who give. What can you do to thank givers and to celebrate what they contribute?
Thursday July 05, 2012
I've been thinking about the complex threads in the Bible related to money and wealth.
Saturday June 16, 2012
How can pastoral leaders address economic issues from the pulpit on an ongoing basis? It's vital to present an alternative view of economic reality, one founded in Scripture and the values of our faith.
Thursday June 07, 2012
Church leaders are faced with the necessity to act, and to make decisions which are difficult. How can you find the courage to take the necessary difficult actions?
Saturday June 02, 2012
Missional Preaching, by Al Tizon, is a valuable resource for preachers who are attempting to present the broad range of the gospel in their preaching.
Friday May 18, 2012
I’d like to suggest some ways to generate new ideas. We all have more resources and creativity than we realize, both within ourselves and within our church.
Thursday May 10, 2012
Church leaders can benefit from talking about money more often. Here are eight reasons why.
Friday April 27, 2012
Just as mature parents are the best gift to their teenage children, mature leaders are a gift to the congregation.
Saturday April 07, 2012
Easter is a time to consider hope. Thankfully, our ultimate hope does not depend on our results.
Monday March 19, 2012
What's your financial IQ? Most pastors have a lot to learn. Here are ten tips for church leaders for broadening your perspective on money and society.
Thursday March 08, 2012
I'm giving up worrying for Lent. I'm not a constant worrier, but I do have my list.
Thursday February 23, 2012
When is it time to shut up and when is it time to speak up? Sometimes anxiety leads us to be silent when we should speak, and to speak when we shouldn't.
Thursday February 09, 2012
Preaching in Plenty and in Want, by Matthew Tennant, is a thoughtful reflection on how pastors can engage with economic matters in their preaching.
Thursday February 02, 2012
Ministry is about relationships - no relationships, no ministry. As I reflect on the many things I have learned from our marriage, I see elements that have kept us going that can help church leaders, too.
Friday January 20, 2012
The New Year is a time when our culture tells us to push on with those new resolutions, but winter is a time our bodies may want to slow down and, if not hibernate, at least sleep more.
Thursday January 05, 2012
I practice selective listening, both in personal relationships and organizational life.
Friday December 30, 2011
We are programmed by our culture, and often by our families, to think we do not have enough. Christians, however, are called to gratitude and celebration.
Friday December 16, 2011
Christmas is a time when you have the opportunity to be in touch with your family. Connecting with family is an opportunity for growth,
Friday December 09, 2011
Here are eleven ways church leaders can use to stay grounded during the season.
Tuesday November 22, 2011
I have the book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. If I'm having a bad day, I read a page, and it always makes me smile.
Friday November 18, 2011
Our society is very good at noticing what we don't have. What are the resources in your church, financial and otherwise, that you might celebrate?
Friday November 11, 2011
Are you able to take the long view when you think about ministry challenges? The Grand Canyon gives us some perspective.
Thursday November 03, 2011
Like trees, people grow stronger when faced with moderate stress. Part of your job at church is to frame the challenges at hand for those you lead.
Tuesday October 25, 2011
Here are some more thoughts on making it easier to talk about money at church.
Wednesday October 05, 2011
Church leadership means dealing with challenging people and situations almost every day. How do we respond?
Monday September 26, 2011
Testifying, then asking, is one of the best ways to encourage others to give more. It is far more powerful than the leader telling others what they should do.
Thursday September 15, 2011
How can you leave a leadership position in a way that benefits those you have led? It's easier when we remember leaving is a process, not a point in time.
Tuesday September 06, 2011
Church leadership doesn't mean sprinting: it's more like a marathon. Leaders need stamina and determination, and the willingness to stay in the race.
Saturday August 27, 2011
Have you ever said "yes" to a request, and then gone back to your office kicking yourself because you didn't say "no?" Leadership involves a series of yeses and nos, and it's important for leaders to be thoughtful about both.
Monday August 01, 2011
My mother died in June. I've been thinking about what I learned from her that has helped me in my ministry, in the midst of family responsiblities, grief and all kinds of memories.
Saturday June 18, 2011
If you struggle with preaching, teaching and talking about money at church, here are some reminders to ease the way.
Wednesday June 08, 2011
Times of change at church raise anxiety. Here are ten tips for dealing with change.
Saturday May 21, 2011
What does it mean to preach about money? Often it only means one thing: to get people to give more money to the church.
Saturday May 14, 2011
Volunteer church leaders have a key role to play in church finance. Here are some thoughts on how you can make a difference, whether you are on the board, finance committee or team, trustees, or simply a key leader in congregational life.
Saturday April 30, 2011
It seems like the same people are willing to help with the ministry every year. The church might be able to learn something from a secular organization: Toastmasters.
Friday April 22, 2011
Are you experiencing some dark in your life now? You may find yourself in the mood for Good Friday.
Saturday April 16, 2011
Is there silence in your life? T. S. Eliot wrote, “Where shall the world be found? Where will the word resound? Not here. There is not enough silence.”
Friday April 08, 2011
Have you broken your Lenten discipline? I have.
Friday April 01, 2011
Do you know who you are? Every leader needs to consider this question.
Friday March 25, 2011
We don't usually think of Lent as a time to focus on finances. But what better time to look for spiritual support or guidance for this aspect of your leadership?
Friday March 18, 2011
Our "self" is God's gift to us and our gift to others. That's not selfish.
Wednesday March 16, 2011
Lent is a time to focus on our own spiritual growth, not to simply find ourselves busier than ever.
Wednesday March 02, 2011
Understanding your church's story in relation to money can help you lead in the present and move toward the future. Here are ten tips for paying attention to the past.
Saturday February 19, 2011
Church leaders can respond differently to the challenges of dealing with money in congregational life. Some take too much responsibility; others don't take enough.
Saturday February 05, 2011
What is the difference between a church leader who is embattled, and one who is challenged? You can see the difference.
Wednesday January 26, 2011
What are the top 10 books that have changed your life and ministry? Here are mine.
Thursday January 13, 2011
Leadership at its best is about being present with those we lead and being less reactive to the inevitable ups and downs of church life - including the inevitable financial ups and downs.
Tuesday January 04, 2011
New Year's resolutions are an opportunity to pay attention, not a chance to beat up on yourself for failing.
Monday December 20, 2010
As you finish up your gift-giving for Christmas, I want to suggest five gifts you can give yourself to help you manage your anxiety around money.
Tuesday December 14, 2010
Here are five gifts you can give your followers this Christmas and into 2011.