Small Group Life Boats for Today's World

As we approach the Fall, here are some tips for your congregation. We are in what I consider STORM conditions. I think most of you will benefit from a "Get everyone in lifeboats ASAP!!!" approach -- this means small groups, prioritizing and promoting group life, and helping newcomers bypass all barriers between them and face-to-face community experiences (online and onsite).

Jump to video YouTube video chapters using time code links below or in YouTube video description.

(0:00) Welcome
0:40) Training Preview
1:00) Digital is here to stay
2:30) Hour long online worship not a viable first step
5:00) Prioritize lifeboats = small groups!
6:26) Expect group-LESS people to drift away
7:20) Designing a viable congregation
8:30) Different types of groups
10:20) Connecting worship and group life
12:25) If you have declining membership
13:18) Use video to communicate and connect
14:20) Engaging with video now essential skill
15:00) Digital is a primary context of...

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Making Innovation a Community Practice

community congregations Apr 05, 2022
With the rate of change in our world accelerating, we need a new approach to changing our approach!   I believe we need to "institutionalize innovation" and make experimentation, exploration, and play a community practice.
Many leaders have a process whereby they SET their approach, model, process, methods, etc... and use it until it stops working in a major way. 
Then, after frustration and associated debate, there is a focused process launched to assess the problem and "fix" it.  That might include bringing in an expensive outside expert and perhaps a major redesign of communications or staffing.  Then, once the new way is established and everything seems to be in working order, that way gets locked down.  
This no longer works.   Things are changing too quickly. 
Instead, we need to develop a mindset and process that is more like surfing on the edge of constant change. 
Given the rate of...
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5 Shifts Tipping Congregations Toward Decline

congregations Mar 23, 2022

The following is the replay from my March 24, 2022, live strategy session discussing the following question:

 "Changes in US society and culture seem to have made organized religion less relevant to our population. How can churches change how they "do church" to make them more relevant?"

What should congregations do in response to the decline of organized religion?  My short answer: Change HOW you organize!

Today's culture demands new approaches to how you lead, design, and facilitate congregational life.

Here are the 5 shifts I discuss in this video:

Shift 1: Where people spend their time and attention.

Shift 2: How people learn, research, and make decisions.

Shift 3: What online visitors need from congregations.

Shift 4: What people want from their leaders.

Shift 5: How people want their communities to be led.

The good news is that these cultural shifts are all things that congregations can adapt to.  If you have the desire, smartphones, and internet access, you...

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Crafting Engaging "Messages for All Ages"

How do you design messages for online services that are engaging for children, families, and people of all ages? This question comes from a colleague in a congregational setting.

In the video below,  I share how I approach designing messages focused on sharing a specific teaching, insight, or life lesson. 

This draws on my experience working with preschoolers through elders, working as a producer and educator on nationally syndicated children's television shows, and coaching leaders on video & digital strategy.

This is ROUND 1 in response to my colleague's question.  Do you have follow-up questions?

I'm collecting follow-up questions in the video comments and via my online questions box form. After I collect questions, I'll do a follow-up video. 

If video won't play, watch it on YouTube here.  I'm having trouble with Firefox for some reason. Thx! Peter (1/27/22) 

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COMMUNITY: Peter Bowden's Vision and Plans for 2022

Happy 2022!  To my colleagues, family, friends, and all new to my community, here's an overview of my vision and plans for this year.  This is an overview of where my heart and attention are focused.

In addition to my existing training and coaching work with community leaders, I'm expanding my community-building efforts in these new and exciting ways:

1) Video Strategy for COMMUNITY Leaders

This year I'm expanding SOCIAL VIDEO strategy and skill training for community leaders so you can engage with and LEAD YOUR COMMUNITY in today's video-dominated world!

2) COMMUNITY for all via Small Group Lab open source models

To help crush our loneliness epidemic, engage people with the justice issues of our time, and ensure all people have meaningful connections, this year I'm sharing the core small group models I've used successfully for decades through my Small Group Lab project. Think "open source" resources you may use, adapt, and build upon. Free.

Decentralized. Autonomous....

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New Year Brule Break-a-thon with Tara Sage

video Dec 28, 2021

Hi friends!

The New Year is upon us and I have an exciting way I'm kicking it off -- and you're invited! 

Recently a friend of mine, life coach Tara Sage, published the best-selling book The Brules of Life:15 Bullsh*t Rules to Break for a No-Vacation-Needed Life.

It's about identifying the unofficial rules that hold us back so we can intentionally break them and move forward. 

As I was reading The Brules of Life I had two thoughts:

1)  My face is smushed up against a BRULE BARRIER.  Yes, there are brules I've internalized that are holding me back. Time to name them and break them!  Not laws, mind you, but assumptions about what is allowed, who has permission to act, etc...

2) Talking BRULES with TARA would make for an amazing New Year live stream event! 

I reached out to Tara with that idea and she loved it.  So we are joining forces to host a New Year BRULE BREAK-A-THON!

UPDATE:  Here's the replay!

• Subscribe to Peter's YouTube...

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That's a Wrap! Retiring from 20 Years of Childrens Television Production

behind the scenes Dec 03, 2021

After nearly 20 years, I'm officially retiring from my work with children's television production!     

For the last two decades, while growing my training and coaching practice, I worked as a producer and educator on multiple nationally syndicated PBS Kids shows and web series produced by GBH in Boston.  

Here are the shows I had the pleasure of producing live-action activity segments for: 

  • The Curious George Show
  • Peep and the Big Wide World
  • Pinkalicious and Peterrific
  • Fetch with Ruff Ruffman
  • Plum Landing
  • Matha Speaks
  • Design Squad
  • Arthur 

So, why retire from such amazing work?  Two primary reasons. 

  1. My work as a trainer and coach has grown to the point where I don't need the work.  Hooray for me!  

  2. Specializing in community-building and using media to educate & inspire,  I want to use my skills to strengthen the social fabric of society and engage people with the justice issues of our time.   ...
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What is Digital Ministry? Marketing vs. Doing Ministry

For congregations to thrive in today's digitally oriented world, it is important to understand how DIGITAL MINISTRY differs from SOCIAL MEDIA and MARKETING.

The digital ministry shift is a move from using social media solely to promote ministry opportunities to actually doing ministry on social media. 

Yes, we need to promote and market events. That's true.  But to harness the power of social media we need to go further!   

In this episode, I share a concrete example related to educating and orienting newcomers.  That's right...  How to move your welcoming and membership ministry online using social! 

Watch or listen below. 


Listen to this episode via my podcast:
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Episode Notes

Social Media

Think about all the different social media platforms we have. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  Video posting platforms,...

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On Technology, Staffing & Multi-Platform Ministry

Is your congregation considering new tech staffing?  This is for you!  Please share this with any congregation you know who is in discernment on this issue. 

Here's the question I keep getting, often when the process is far along and jobs are being threatened....


Peter, should we downsize our existing program staff and invest in a full-time tech person?

Quick Answer:  No! In my professional opinion that's a horrible idea for most congregations.  Better to invest in your existing staff & volunteers, cultivate new volunteers, see how far you can go and grow together, adding tech & media skills and associated tasks to portfolios of your staff and volunteers.  If there are tech tasks that you must have covered, start with temporary contracts to supplement your existing team.

Watch this for my long answer:


All congregations need to be working to develop their media and tech capacity. But this shouldn't be implemented as knee-jerk...

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On Relaunching Congregations This Fall

digital ministry Aug 09, 2021

I'm talking with leaders about regathering their congregations this Fall.  One of my recommendations? Think about it like we are RELAUNCHING our congregations.   That's the kind of spirit and energy I think we need to bring to our regathering efforts. 

Not just gathering again, but a full relaunch.  New energy, new models, new opportunities -- new and exciting!!!  

I know that's a lot.   But I think that's what we need to bring people back and to welcome new members in.

This is serious business, especially with the pandemic accelerating declining attendance trends. Enough to make me put on my serious face... 

But it is also incredibly exciting!

Our challenge?

To reconnect our communities -- including outreach to newcomers -- we need more effective communication, leaders using social media and video in ways that build relationships and deploy intentional strategies to help people take their next steps in congregational life.

That's a...

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