Author: Tom Schwolert

Father, husband, fisherman, golfer and pastor.

The Scary Bridge

I love bridges. But I didn’t used to.

A couple of days ago, I drove over the causeway bridge that leads into St. Petersburg, FL. It’s a long bridge with a super high point. It was a beautiful drive. As I began the ascent a memory came to mind:

When I was a child we went on a family vacation to Galveston and I experienced my first tall causeway bridge. I’ll never forget looking up and seeing that bridge that seemed to go straight up into the clouds and not come down. I remember the lump in my throat and the butterflies in my stomach. And I remember the climb that seemed to go on forever and there was no end in sight until we got all the way to the peak of the bridge. And then it happened – my dad said, “Whoa! Here we go!” And the descent ensued with laughter from me and my siblings and a huge, “Wow!” as we headed down to the other side.

Are you looking at a bridge with fear and trepidation in your ministry? Are you hoping for change but not sure how to get there?

Maybe you need a bridge.

Many congregations are in need of a bridge, a bridge that leads to the place that you know you need to go but seems a bit scary. Where do you want to be? One of our consultants Jim LaDoux has great insight on the image of being a bridge to 21st Century Faith Formation. Check it out.

At Vibrant Faith, we see ourselves as people who accompany leaders and congregations as we pass over the scary bridges, knowing that God is with us all the way. There is no question that as we lead the church in the 21st Century, we need to look at innovative ways to equip the church to be God’s love.

And that’s faith. It’s like looking up to the top of the bridge trusting that there is hope on the other side. And boy, when we make that descent we can enjoy the rush of God’s life-giving Spirit as we are led into the future of the church. And we can joyfully say, “Here we go!”

Don’t be afraid of the bridge.

TomPromo copy 3 ~ Tom Schwolert

You Too Can be a Hula Hoop Champion

One toy that has not changed a bit is the hula hoop. There’s nothing you can do to innovate it. It’s simply a round circle of plastic that comes in various colors. Pretty basic, and it has never changed.

When I was a kid, everyone had a hula hoop in the neighborhood. Occasionally we would gather all the kids together on the block and have a contest to see who could hula the longest to be the hula hoop champion. I must confess: I was not very good at it and never won the championship. It always seemed to be the girl from down the street who was in dance class and could just go on forever without any effort. But hey, it brought everyone together for lots of fun and laughter. Oh yeah, and it was “groovy” and we wore bell bottoms.

Another circle that hasn’t changed is the circle of relationships that we all need surrounding us in our walk of faith, even in the forever changing landscape of ministry. If your faith is central to your life, I’ll bet you could sit down right now and write down the names of 5 people who have influenced your faith. After all, it’s how God chooses to show up in our lives – through the hearts of others. When we are encircled by a supportive, faith-filled circle we tend to stick around in the church and our faith tends to become the central compass of our lives. During the last few years of working with a youth group, I had them interview each other, and one of the questions was to have them make a list of people in their circle. There was always a marked difference in the youth who had several on that list and the ones who had one or two.

So leaders of churches, do these two things:

  1. Write down the names of at least 5 people who have nurtured your faith over the years. Then write them each a hand written letter thanking them. Even if they are no longer living, you can still write the letter. It can be transformational.
  2. Begin to cultivate circles of faith nurturing relationships in the lives of the young. Start with what they do have. Ask them. Then explore with them how you can grow that circle. (also, see yesterday’s post)

So don’t worry about having the coordination to be a hula hoop champion. How about championing circles of relationships?

Tom Schwolert ~ Tom Schwolert

You Could Write a Book

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?

You could write a book you know. That’s right. Just write 1667 words each day for 30 days and you will have yourself a 50,000 word novel. Just ask Matt Cutts, who works for Google. He’ll tell you that you can accomplish just about anything in 30 days. Take a moment to watch the video below. It’s a great motivator for trying new things.

So really, ask yourself that question. What would your book be about? You see, we all have a unique story. You have something unique to share with the world. Your journey is not mine. I can’t tell your story the way you can tell it. Not only is this true for you and I as individuals but it is also true for faith communities.

Each faith community or congregation has it’s own story. Some of those stories are difficult to hear and others are of incredible testimonies of God in our midst. Yet it seems that so many leaders feel like they are stuck with the story they have. It’s as if this is who we are and nothing will ever change. But I know that deep down, that’s probably not true for you. You want to write a different story. You want to be a part of a different kind of faith community, one that is beaming with a vibrant calling to make a difference in the world. You are hopeful but you are just not quite sure how to move forward.

There is hope. Is that not the foundation of our faith? Are we not called to write new chapters and to co-create along with our Creator? I keep seeing these 30 day challenges online to do this or that. Leaders of faith communities… what would your 30 day challenge be? What is the next chapter in your book? What is the chapter you would like to see written about your faith community?

We must never be afraid to try something new.

Tom Schwolert ~ Tom Schwolert

Let Vibrant Faith help you write new chapters in your ministry. Contact us.

The Magic Pill

The Magic Pill | Tom Schwolert

There are a couple prescriptions in our family that are very important. If we forget to fill one and a day is missed there can be some anxiety until we can get the refill. I know many can identify with this. Whether it’s a regular prescription or one that is for sickness that has come unexpectedly, it is important to take it as the doctor prescribed so you can get on the right track to being healthy.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), there is no perfect prescription in ministry. So I’m going to remind you of something you already know:

There is no magic pill in ministry!

I’ve been reflecting lately on exactly what it is that we as leaders and churches need to nurture faith for a lifetime. We live in a constant tension, don’t we? There is an urgency that we live in to reach our community with the love of God. We feel that urgency deeply. We also hear the cries of the people who come through our doors. We want so desperately to help them “get better” that we grasp for whatever quick fix program in hopes of making a difference.

In lifelong faith formation, ministry is more about improving spiritual health for the long haul rather than quick remedies. Ministry is about surrounding people with relationships that last a lifetime. And most of all, ministry is about trusting that the great Physician will do things in people’s lives that only God can do.

So think about these questions:

What are you currently doing that is not contributing to lifelong faith? Can you stop doing it?

Are young people in your faith community encircled by multiple, faith nurturing relationships to equip them with a sustainable faith?

How are you thinking about ministry beyond next week or next month? How are you equipping people with lifelong faith practices?

Tom Schwolert ~Tom Schwolert

At Vibrant Faith, we work with congregations to develop lifelong faith. Contact us.


Tom Schwolert |

Years ago I used to take youth on canoe trips to the boundary waters in northern Minnesota. This is a pristine area of the north that is unknown to many that remains one of the most beautiful places in the world I have ever been. These were always amazing trips full of challenge, fun and Spiritual renewal. I remember one particular moment when I got “stuck.”

On this particular day we had a considerable amount of rain, but we pressed on. On one portage (when we had to carry all our gear over land to get to another lake) we encountered a large muddy area. I was carrying a canoe on my shoulders and due to the heavily wooded area there was no way I could go around it. I had to go through it. Even though I tried to tread lightly, I sank in mud up to my mid thigh. The weight of the canoe and the thickness of the mud caused me to quickly get “stuck.” It seemed there was no escaping.

As the mosquitos swirled under my canoe and I became increasingly frustrated I quickly realized there were two things I needed. I needed to remove the weight and I needed help. So with all my might I tossed the canoe aside and yelled to the rest of the group. With the help of a long branch and some brute strength they were able to pull me out. And we had a great story to tell around the campfire that night.

Are you stuck?

Are you stuck in your life? Are you stuck in your ministry? Is the weight of your responsibilities and the lack of help causing you to stop in your tracks and wonder how in the world you are going to be able to move forward? Well take heart friend, you are not alone. We at Vibrant Faith often work with leaders and churches who have gotten stuck. It happens. But the good news is that you can get unstuck. By removing the weight of some obstacles, getting some help and some good old fashion perseverance and faith, you can begin to see more clearly about God’s preferred future for you and your ministry.

Where do you want to be in a year?

What are the obstacles that are causing you to be stuck?

We can help you with those questions and many others. In fact, that’s what we are passionate about, helping leaders and churches get “unstuck” so the church can flourish.

I’d love to talk to you about being stuck or getting unstuck. Call me, text me, email me or comment on the blog.

Seriously, being stuck is no fun.

Tom Schwolert ~ Tom Schwolert