What do hard times look like? How about diaper rash?

It seems the infant population in America is down 3%, but the rate of disposable-diaper sales is down 9%, while sales of diaper-rash cream are up 3%, according to Advertising Age.

In other words, parents are economizing by changing their babies’ diapers less frequently, even though pediatricians say regular changes are the best way to prevent diaper rash.

I’ve been noticing many indicators of hard times: empty houses, thousands showing up for a handful of job openings, New York’s mayor worrying about job riots, stores closing, empty parking lots at malls, unpatched highways, debt-burdened graduates not getting jobs, downward mobility.

Every one of these indicators is a sign of human suffering. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 5% of Americans grabbed 82% of all economic growth since 1983.

If that doesn’t preach, nothing will.


Q: Is the strength of the church in the clergy or the congregation – or perhaps does the clergy need to do more congregating and the congregation do more ministering?

A: It’s both-and. A healthy congregation needs strong, assertive, entrepreneurial clergy who feel empowered to lead, to pursue promising ideas, to take risks and to learn from failure. It also needs strong, assertive laity, who exercise the gifts given to them in service of the congregation’s mission. A weak congregation will have beaten-down clergy who fear for their jobs, who feel they must ask permission before doing their jobs, and who play it safe. They will have controlling laity who do that beating down, lazy laity who won’t lift a finger for others, and passive laity who feel entitled to care and privilege.

Strong churches welcome all expressions of strength and resist controlling and passive-aggressive behavior. Dying churches keep their clergy “in line,” keep longtime members in power, are overly solicitous of the wealthy, and do as little as it takes to keep their doors open.

"Turnaround" webinars starting next week will offer practical guidance on how to turn your congregation toward growth and vitality. Click here for details.