In my last post (LINK) I wrote about the Green vMEME and political correctness – the tendency of that developmental level to insist on certain ways of communicating and behaving so as to show honor and respect to others – and to avoid any sense of creating a sense of feeling diminished or shamed for differences among people.

And I wrote: Green is still a 1st Tier values system, therefore, it is fear based. At Green the acceptance of differences is not absolute. It is generally open to diversity of appearance and culture, to gender fluidity and identity politics, but it is not welcoming to disagreements with these values. Green, especially when a healthy sense of Blue structure is absent, can also be very flaccid when confronted, especially by Egotistic-Red. So there are difficulties here, just as there are at every level.

As more and more New Thought spiritual communities and the individuals within them evolve into the Green vMEME Level of Existence, the issues of appropriate spiritual leadership for this level come to the fore. How best to lead a community that is centered at Green or becoming that way?

Implicit in the Spiral Dynamics™ Model is the idea that the leader of an organization or community needs to be either at the same level or higher than the bulk of the membership. Since 2nd Tier leadership is very rare, this means that in many New Thought communities where a significant percentage of community members are at Green, the spiritual leader will most likely be at Green or above. Let’s leave out 2nd Tier for the moment and focus on the spiritual leader at Green.

VMEMEs Simplified

Spiral Dynamics – Descriptions of some aspects of the vMEME Levels

Of course, we must remember that most of us are an amalgam of the various levels, and will likely be centered primarily at one or two levels or be in between two levels (painful). So looking at someone as being centered at Green or any vMEME level will probably not be 100% accurate – but it does have value.

“. . . Green (is) in a very interesting position as the last stage before integration (becoming 2nd Tier), the stage from which the aspiration becomes possible at the same time as still being 1st tier in nature, caught in its rejection of Orange, its distrust of Blue and its blindness to much of Red – sometimes rejecting or demonizing even the healthy ego, sometimes going into sympathy with the damaged ego of the ‘victim’ and sometimes thinking that all toxic Red will be healed if we simply provide enough love. That, of course depends on how ‘love’ is delivered. Love doesn’t mean giving whisky to the craving alcoholic. Love also requires the wisdom to set boundaries. . . . Green desires to give others the permission to be who they are and not to tell them who to be, but the flip-side weakness is to be inappropriately permissive.” ~ Jon Freeman

Heart on BeachThe spiritual leader at Green will likely define herself as being “heart-centered,” whereas the same person might have defined themselves as being more cerebral when in Orange. Another shift from Orange to Green values is a movement from the individualistic seeking of good to a more communal seeking of group intimacy. Spiritual communities centered at Orange will likely be larger, with a strong focus on prosperity, personal growth, and “church growth.” With the transition to Green, those become a strong focus on community, on connection, and on church closeness. Diversity will also move to the forefront as a key value as Green emerges.

As one transitions to Green, there is less focus on income levels and status, more focus on work as meaning and fulfillment. This often means a reduction in the level of giving per community member, as they change career focus from corporate to things like non-profits and smaller entrepreneurial efforts (becoming a massage therapist or life coach for example). Spiritual leaders are often asked for help from those dealing with a reduced or at least less regular income level.

Leader - traditionalist

Authoritarian Leadership

The leadership model that works best at Traditionalist-Blue is authoritarian – like a monarch. At this communal vMEME level, the leader is representational of the overall authority (think of the pope as the direct descendant of St. Peter). People centered at Blue seek to obey the authority (the teaching and the teacher) and expect to be told what to do and when to do it. They will be very loyal.

At Modernist-Orange, an individualistic vMEME, we see the emergence of the

leader - directive

Directive Leadership

corporate-style, directive leader. Church becomes a business. There is still an authoritarian element present, but it is also important to help those in the community get what they are seeking, or the leader may not last long. In the Orange church there are lots of committees and status comes from where you are positioned in the leadership structure. Members centered at Orange will leave if their needs are not being met.



Postmodern-Green is also a communal vMEME. The difference is how authority is

United colors-38

Collaborative Leadership

viewed. Whereas Blue has absolutist values, Green is more relativistic. In fact, Green is willing to re-write the rules if they seem harsh or unfair. The leadership model that works best a Green is collaborative in nature. Green values include egalitarianism and the creation of a space where every voice is heard and honored. It is important at Green that feelings be considered – even above outcomes.

The healthy Green level spiritual leader:

  • Must be a good facilitator
  • An excellent listener.
  • Keep her finger on the pulse of the community members – what will cause them to feel fulfilled?
  • Value a healthy Blue structure of ethical behavior and best practices regarding operational aspects like employment issues and stewardship of funds.
  • Be able to enforce appropriate boundaries while keeping peoples’ feelings in mind.
  • Be able to have difficult conversations that may lead to others being disturbed or upset with the outcome or with the spiritual leader himself.
  • Be able to facilitate entry into the community of those at other vMEME levels who may feel out of place.

And some cautions about Postmodern-Green leadership tendencies:

Generally speaking, no one gets fired in a Green-centered community unless the violation is so egregious that people are actually harmed by it. Green-centered leaders often have difficulty establishing and enforcing boundaries – including holding people accountable to agreements. Being perceived as harsh is often seen as a serious negative in a Green-centered spiritual community. Spiritual leaders must be excellent at explaining their actions from a heart-centered place, AND be willing to stand firm in defending and upholding ethical decisions.

So there are complexities to these levels of values systems as they show up in spiritual community. Cultural evolution is a reality, and one that is becoming increasingly important as time passes and the various vMEME levels arise and co-mingle more and more. It is a new form of diversity, one that we ignore at our peril.


Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard


NOTE: I am offering an online Spiral Dynamics™ Workshop in June – Information and Registration at the (LINK)


In my multi-part series “Is the Church Model Going Away?” (LINK), I explored a number of factors, both micro and macro in nature, that are impacting the Sunday gathering style of spiritual community.

Church Sinking

On the one hand, macro trends which include cultural evolutionary factors*, technological changes, and changes in family dynamics have led both to fewer people being available on any given Sunday morning and to a relaxation of the social system that encouraged some form of worship attendance. What this means is that the overall trend is down in terms of Sunday attendance (which is also true in New Thought). (LINK)

While these larger trends are clear in terms of the resulting decrease in overall worship attendance, the experience across denominations, demographic groups, and geography varies. Urban centers have a different experience than suburban or rural areas; younger people different from older; New Thought different from Islam.

Since writing that series, I have traveled quite a bit in the United States and attended and spoken at a number of Centers for Spiritual Living Centers. I have done this in California, Oregon, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia in the past six months – at 14 centers. While anecdotal evidence is not always reflective of overall experience, I can share what I have observed.

Almost everywhere I have been, attendance is down over the past five years, in some cases significantly. I have been at only two centers where attendance is steady or up over that period. There have been a number of factors present:

Some of those centers are without ministers, and that certainly has to be taken into account. Frequently, centers without ministers struggle to offer a compensation package that will represent at least a living wage for their area; some struggle to pay for candidates to come to their centers and speak so that congregants can vote.

A few centers have a significant degree of internal strife of one kind or another. These range from insufficient income to open hostility within the leadership. Such factors are not as uncommon as you might think. My observations are that in some centers there either a lack of leadership skills or an insufficient amount of emotional and spiritual intelligence among the leadership, or both.


Those that are sustaining or thriving tend to be more traditional in their approach to “doing church.” This does not mean that their attendance is not declining – but it is declining more slowly and there is a presence of strong support from a core group of members who donate generously.

A challenging thing about how these macro and micro trends are expressing is that there are so many factors at work that it is often difficult to identify which factors are playing a role in any given situation. And while there is really nothing that can be done to alter the macro trends affecting worship attendance, there is much to be done in the area of the micro trends – that is, the things going on at the local level that are keeping a community from thriving.

Which ties in to the more recent series on “Creating the Beloved Community” (LINK). This concept speaks to the essential nature of spiritual community – the healthy and loving pursuit of the consciousness of compassion and mutual expression of love necessary to manifest The Beloved Community. I believe that regardless of the form that a spiritual community takes, the creation of The Beloved Community is its reason for being. And I believe that The Beloved Community can be created regardless of the form that a spiritual community takes. Although the macro dynamics affecting the church model are important, they are essentially beside the point in terms of living the true essence of spiritual community.

For New Thought communities, vitality and vibrancy, compassion and connection, success and thriving, depend on the dedication and focus of those in leadership to inspire themselves and others to really learn and practice the principles of their philosophy. That means that Unity communities learn and practice the principles of Unity; that Divine Science communities learn and practice the principles of Divine Science; that Centers for Spiritual Living communities learn and practice The Science of Mind.

The foundation of any spiritual community is the philosophy/theology/principles of its teaching – how they are taught and practiced. This is always the first place to look when an individual or community is in struggle. I am frequently told that the principles of the Science of Mind are not evident in the business of the center and the actions of leadership. When you think about it, when we are not thriving, is there anything else that it could be?

Well, yes, actually, there is. And I will cover that in my next post.


*I am offering an online Spiral Dynamics™ Workshop in June – Information and Registration at the (LINK)

Spiral Dynamics - new spiral


Here is a link to a blog by Christian blogger Paul Nixon that speaks to the evolutionary changes occurring in religious and spiritual community in the 21st Century. it echoes much of what I have been writing about on this blog for some time (LINK TO SERIES).


A quote: “The media has seized upon multiple reports that now document a plummeting baseline of participation in organized religion in the USA, after several decades where it seemed we were ‘exceptional.’  Canada, Australia and Europe, of course, began this tumble decades ago.  It serves as a helpful reminder that 100 years ago, the Canadians were more faithful church goers than the Americans.  Oh how fast times can change.”

More and more people are awakening to the dynamic changes that we are all being affected by. Let’s hope that we begin to take action to create our own future before it is created for us by default through external forces.

Church Sinking


I spent the past week at The Launching Pad in Berkeley, CA, the original one of three residential ministries for New Thought Young Adults (the others are in Zion, Utah and Ashland, Oregon). The purpose of these ministries is to provide a saf

Rev. Linda Reppond

Rev. Linda Reppond

e and spiritually-supportive environment for young adults as they “launch” into the adult world. Founded by Rev. Linda Reppond, who coordiates the three ministries, the Launching Pad Ministries are truly a unique form of spiritual community in the Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) (LINK).

From the Launching Pad website (LINK):

Launching Pad is an expanding network of new paradigm spiritual communities. We are a welcoming and inclusive spiritual community that celebrates all people and all paths to God, Spirituality, consciousness, Love, happiness and peace.

Our purpose is to support emerging leaders in finding and activating their life’s purpose through inner transformation, meditation, community events,education, and intentional living spaces.

We are part of the New Thought/Ancient Wisdom movement and are affiliated with the Centers for Spiritual Living. We teach the principles of the Science of Mind.

The residents at the Launching Pads all fall into the demographic category “Millennials,” which I have blogged about in the past (LINK). As a group, they are leaving the Sunday church model and organized religion in large numbers. So, one might ask, what do the Launching Pads offer these millennials that they do not find in more traditional spiritual communities?

2016-01-16 20.36.49

Elisha Christopher Hayden-Berrios, RScP, The Spiritual Director, Launching Pad Berkeley, Standing Under the Buddha with a Clown Nose

As regular Sunday attendance declines across most denominations in the developed world, many communities are going to extremes to attract people (LINK). Many clergy members think that the key to a successful future is to attract more millennials to their spiritual communities, but most (in fact, almost all) are at a loss as to how to do this.

I had a number of conversations with young adults at the Launching Pad Berkeley this week with residents and those who were visiting the house. I asked some of them about what they were looking for on their spiritual path and whether Centers for Spiritual Living was providing it. I realize that this sampling is neither random nor broad, but it may well be representative of what New Thought Young Adults are thinking. Some of the people I spoke with have completed ministerial or practitioner training and some have not.

The comments fell into four main areas: overall spirituality, spiritual community, the CSL Organization, and course curricula.

OVERALL SPIRITUALITY: they say that they are looking for community, for participation, and for significant opportunities for social activism – to help create “a world that works for everyone.” They say that they are often frustrated at CSL Centers where there are no outreach programs. They decry the focus on “getting stuff” and the lack of focus on giving back and on helping to solve the problems of the world. They say that they are, by and large, not motivated by materialism – they want lives that are rich in meaning and contribution. They want a chance to make a difference by using our spiritual principles and they want to learn (and teach) how to do that in community. A number of the young adults at the Launching Pads have become certified in the Social Artistry Program designed by Jean Houston (LINK). This focuses on developing positive and effective social activism in the world.

SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY: A common statement about CSL Centers is that they do not know how to deal with young adults. Older members (and clergy) treat them “like children” and do not invite them into significant participation in community activities and leadership. They find  that most centers focus on manifestation of material things and not on meaningful outreach. As for attendance at Sunday Services, they say that they do not like the lecture format with little or no interaction; they do not like the music (old style and repetitive), and they often have to work on Sundays or that Sunday is their only day off. Several also pointed out that they were never told of CSL organization-wide young adult programs or about the Launching Pad Ministries at their home CSL centers.

Suggestions included involving young adults in groups that look at designing the services, have young adults on the stage, create space for young adult groups to self-organize with young adult coordinators (not older adult leaders), seek young adult input into ways to engage the larger community in meaningful outreach, have youth-oriented music at least some of the time (and The Beatles are NOT youth oriented!). They point out a need for a central on-line connection point for CSL (or all of New Thought) young adults to connect, find each other, access classes, etc.

THE CSL ORGANIZATION: The Launching Pad Ministries consist of three residential homes for young adults. In addition, dozens of other young adults attend services and classes at the LP houses or on-line. They are, in effect, larger than some CSL centers, and yet, they are classified as a single focus ministry by the organization. This means that they get a single vote at the annual CSL Business Meeting. If they were a center, they would likely get three or four votes. This may not seem like a big issue, but it has a symbolic resonance – that the organization does not appreciate the ministry or recognize its reach.

For a number of years, CSL had sponsored a Young Adult Retreat annually. In 2015, financial support for this retreat was removed from the CSL budget. A single center sponsored and hosted a smaller retreat. Some of the young adults see this as another example that the CSL organization does not see the value of young adult ministries and activities. I do not know the reason for the withdrawal of support, but I did get a sense of how the young adults I spoke to feel about it.

COURSE CURRICULA: our young adults say that the vast majority of them already have knowledge of the psychology of our teaching. Today, many people know how to visualize, how to meditate, how to focus their mind. What they are seeking is first, to find out who they are – not how to manifest things. They also believe that online courses are very different from in-person courses and need to have a very different design and format. Interaction is essential, but is very different on-line versus in-person, so online courses need to be designed differently. They do not want the curricula “dumbed down,” just made appropriate, accessible, and relevant.


My take-away from a week here includes a deep appreciation for the strong desire that these young adults have for a spiritual life. They are longing for spiritual community, but they are turned-off by most of the existing models. They want ministers to meet them half-way and to recognize that, while they may have much to learn, they also have much to contribute. Some of these young adults have already attained ministerial and/or practitioner licenses. They envision a long association with CSL and they want to be a part of a vibrant, meaningful, and relevant spiritual organization.

I know that our ministers and our organizational leaders recognize the need to integrate more and more millennials into our centers, focus ministries, and our organization as a whole. I also can see that up until now they have not been effective in this regard. As I have noted in a number of other posts (LINK), millennials are leaving organized religion in larger numbers, and CSL is no exception. We have, within our organization, an excellent resource to help leadership and others understand this trend, and, to possibly do something to reverse it – the small number of millennials who call the Launching Pad their spiritual home, and others scattered through some of our centers. We know that they love our teaching; we do not know how to make it so that they will engage with us in revealing our teaching to the world.

Maybe we should ask them.



An announcement:

I will be conducting an INTRODUCTION TO SPIRAL DYNAMICS™ WORKSHOP in Oakland, CA on Saturday, January 16th from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Anyone in the Bay Area who is interested in attending can visit the link to the workshop (LINK) to register.

Spiral Dynamics - new spiral

The all-day workshop will provide a thorough introduction to the Spiral Dynamics Model with a focus on using it in spiritual community and spiritual leadership.

We will explore the model developed by Clare Graves and further developed by Don Beck and Chris Cowan.

VMEMEs Simplified


  • Anyone who wants more effective communication with leaders, volunteers, congregants and family.
  • People in the caring professions who seek to understand the values of those they care for so as to give more effective service and care giving.
  • Anyone interested in issues of culture and diversity in the workplace or in spiritual community.
  • Clergy and other leaders in faith communities.
  • Anyone in sales or marketing, or in any business or organization that needs to reach the public effectively.
  • Anyone who finds themselves in conflicts or disputes that elude resolution.

Not in the Bay Area? This presentation will not be live-streamed, however, I will be doing an online class introducing Spiral Dynamics in March of this year – watch this space for information. Also, I will be doing at least one live seminar in Southern California in February which will be announced soon.

Once again, here is the link to the Oakland workshop (LINK), which will be held at the Oakland Center for Spiritual Living at 5000 Clarewood Drive, Oakland, CA 94618  Phone: 510.547.1979

P.S. I will also be speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa on 1/10 (LINK) and doing an afternoon workshop on Spiritual Edgewalkers there; and on 1/17, I will be speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living Fremont (LINK) – you can find info at the links.



The Community Christian Church (LINK) of Springfield, Missouri, is an example of an Orange into Green theology that embraces liberal politics (there are some that embrace conservative politics or are apolitical as well).

The minster, Rev. Dr. Roger Ray shows a sense of the rational values of the Enlightenment in his sermons, and he chastises the traditionalist-Blue and the pre-traditional (Purple and Red) value systems.

In this sermon, he speaks about whether or not the church will survive the departure from what he terms “magical thinking,” the pre-rational belief systems that have been the basis of theology for millennia.





I am not trying to be “Chicken Little(LINK) here. The sky is not falling. But the earth ­is moving.

Our entire cultuChicken Littlere, indeed, the entire planet, is in the midst of a transformational wave of change – cultural evolutionary change. The rate of change is speeding up – especially in our postmodern North American culture, but everywhere to some degree. And there is resistance to that process by those who feel left behind by the modern and postmodern eras. As we look around the planet, we see terrorism and waves of refugees from the Middle East due to ongoing wars in that region, there are waves of new technology sweeping every corner of the planet, and monetary systems are in flux as old ways of ensuring the underpinnings of currency fall away.

Closer to home, the day-to-day world of the average North American or European has changed dramatically over the last half-century, and that rate of change is also speeding up. Where and how we work, how we play, how we travel, and how we raise our children have all changed dramatically.

There is an urgency for spiritual principles to be brought to bear in our world, in which every individual can realize her or his Divine Love Essence. These spiritual principles need to replace the religious dogma that dominated centuries past and the secularization of the west that is unfolding now.

The earth is moving; and New Thought needs to move, too.

You might think that religion and spirituality, would be different, more stable. That it would be the place to ground us in remembrance of who and what we are in the center of all of this change. You might expect that people would long for the traditions and rituals of religious practice and community to an even greater degree than in the past.

But you would be wrong in those expectations.

What is happening is the opposite – the more traditional the religious community, the greater a decrease in attendance and support. There are some traditional religions that are seeing less of a decline – for example the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S., but that particular example is due to large numbers of immigrants joining that denomination. The same can be said of Islam in North America. The changes are not all generational either, but a look through that lens can be informative:

“If you were born between 1925 and 1945 there’s a 60% chance you’re in a church today. If you were born between 1946 and 1964 there’s a 40% chance you’re in a church today. If you were born between 1965 and 1983 there’s a 20% chance you’re in a church today. If you’re born after 1984 there is less than a 10% chance you’re in a church today.” ~ David E Fitch (LINK)

Church Uncertain

No I am not Chicken Little, but I am noticing that the earth is moving.

And I am not the only one.

If you or I owned a business (and alas, church is often too much like a business) and 30-50% or more of our customers vanished, would we blame our customers? Of course not. We would examine our product, services, and market to identify something that has gone very awry. We would not be passive. We would panic. If we lost 30-50% of our client base, we would not fine tune or try to tweak this or that. We would not resort to gimmicky quick fixes. We would not dally around the perimeters of our operation, changing fringe features. We would do a thorough and deep assessment of our operation from top to bottom.

“Only in the dysfunctional world of religious Christianity (New Thought?) would these eminently reasonable actions in the face of evidence not be considered.  We try to tweak existing structures, values and methods to try to be more “generationally relevant.” We try contemporary worship. We try fixing or amending this or that program, not realizing that all these efforts are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: the ship is sinking. We fixate on changing methodology, never considering our message, values, beliefs, structures, and ethics may need a tune-up, overhaul, or jettisoning.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

There are those who say that New Thought spiritual communities are somehow exempt from this trend that Dr. Crosby, a Christian author, notes, because we are more theologically relevant than more traditional religious denominations. Indeed, we have a number of thriving churches and centers across the movement. But we have become very non-committal about tracking numbers in our movement (at least within Centers for Spiritual Living). It is clear that at a minimum we are not growing and have not grown for several decades. New Thought churches and centers with full meeting spaces on Sundays are relatively rare, and I am unaware of any large ministries (350 or more) that have been developed over the past decade from scratch.

Please let me know in the comments section if I am incorrect in these statements – I am aware that there are large ministries, but I am saying that we are clearly not trending in that direction.

“The spiral of life is upward. Evolution carries us forward, not backward. Eternal and progressive expansion is its law and there are no breaks in its continuity. It seems to me that our evolution is the result of an unfolding consciousness of that which already is, and needs but to be realized to become a fact of everyday life.” ~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind, page 387

New Thought has a history of being on the leading edge of human thought. Dr. Holmes was certainly not the only one who saw the value of mental science, but he was one of the few who put his knowledge into action, creating an organization and a denomination to bring mental science to the world, joining Unity, Divine Science, and other New Thought organizations. For several decades, New Thought communities were pretty much alone in teaching the Universal Principles that transform lives from within. New Thought grew exponentially through the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s, offering leading edge spirituality to people for whom mental science was a very new concept.

Over the past 50 years, the fields of psychology, sports medicine, athletic coaching, just to name a few, have used concepts akin to mental science to transform how people see themselves and perform. The concept of “positive thinking,” once the province of New Thought and a few authors, like Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale, became much more mainstream in a more secular sense.

In the 1970’s and beyond, individuals like Earl Nightingale, Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, Anthony Robbins, Dennis Waitley and others brought the concept forward using a psychological/medical model and reaching millions of people. Affirmative thought became the watch word of high performance people from athletes to astronauts to corporate executives. My very first exposure to the concept was in a corporate training program called Investment In Excellence, developed by Lou Tice (LINK), a former high school football coach from Seattle.

Positive Thinking

As these became sources for Affirmative Thinking in the larger world, New Thought began to lose its uniqueness. What it did have, however, was spirituality. The positive thinking movement, for the most part, limited its approach to what was within the individual – “If you think you can, you can.” What attending the “Science of Mind Center” in Fort Lauderdale, Florida added to that for me was the concept of being connected to the whole universe of possibility. As Ernest Holmes so famously put it: “There is a Power in the Universe that is greater than you are, and you can use it.”

So what happened? Why didn’t New Thought continue to grow – taking advantage of two things: its inherent spirituality as a vehicle for the great amplification of secular positive thinking and the growing trend for people to leave traditional religion and seek something more relevant?

I believe that there are a number of factors involved, but I will focus on two –

  1. The trend away from a “standard week” for most North Americans, where the work week was Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Saturdays were for recreation or housework, Sundays for church and family dinners.

Church Family

  1. The fact that New Thought tended to stay with the forms associated with mainline Christian churches – Sunday services, ministers, robes, stoles, sanctuaries, altars, communion (in some cases), church buildings; terms like prayer, blessings, tithing, benediction, etc.

Today, for many people, the term “family” has a very different meaning than it did in the mid-20th Century. Combine that with the move toward the seven-day work week, with time off being very irregular and the new trend to schedule little league and other activities on Sunday mornings, and you have a strong trend away from Sunday attendance across the denominational board. New Thought is certainly not immune from this.

The second item is a bit different and subject to a lot of sensitivity within our movement. I will just sum it up like this. Why would someone who has left a denomination because it was no longer relevant to their lives go to another denomination which has the appearance, for all practical purposes, of the one that they left? Would someone expect something very different from such a circumstance?

“It’s not enough to stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s about initiating metamorphosis in new ways. For millions. For the next decades.” ~ Albert Klamt

I won’t even go into the fact that many in organized religion consider New Thought denominations to be cults or New Age woo-woo kinds of places disguised as mainline churches. Or that today’s younger people, the Millennials, are displaying different value systems than their parents, including a strong reluctance to be a “member” of any organized institution (LINK TO POST). Let’s leave those for another day.

For today, let’s look at the need to do that “thorough and deep assessment” that Dr. Crosby mentions above.

Things are speeding up – Evolution only goes in one direction – You cannot stand still without going backward.

Here is a quote from Scott DeMarco, a long-time New Thought student in both Religious Science and Unity that speaks to what I am saying:

“I am just in the process of taking on a Unity Church but it needs a new model. New Thought has merely created a model which is an egalitarian reflection of traditional churches and expected it to grow and attract an expanded consciousness. These folks (postmodern) don’t want to stand in a circle and sing ‘Let There be Peace on Earth.’ They don’t want coffee and donuts.

A blog post I responded to said that maybe were being too Absolutist. No. We’ve become so accustomed to dumbing down our message that we are no longer relevant or interesting. I happen to have been attracted by ministers who were tough, who stressed Principal above all else, and who were not afraid to speak and teach way over our heads. I am working with members who have been doing a book study for two years on the same book…discussing 2-3 pages at a time! I can’t be in an environment like that and then go to a center where no one is challenged to stretch beyond their comfort zone. We need to create dynamic, diverse and thriving communities that attract by joy, brevity (honoring people’s time) and are very much in the Absolute – focused on Principle. In that place we are challenged not to conformity but to expansiveness . . . tolerance . . . revolution.”

Scott speaks as that student of New Thought who wants to stretch and be challenged to deepen his spirituality. Have we really become so reluctant to take people out of their comfort zones? How then, do we expect them to truly grow? I do happen to know that the Unity Movement is taking a serious look at what models for ministry may emerge in the future, and that they conducted a pilot program that explored how to create integral ministries in their churches.

It is time for us to rise to meet the unfolding future. We have to release our attachments to form that are inhibiting us from realizing our vision and mission, from realizing the “eternal and progressive expansion” that Dr. Holmes wrote about – to take New Thought principles to the greater world in a meaningful way.

(Thanks to Dr. Gary Simmons for the inspiration for the title of this post. You can find his excellent blog at this (LINK).

Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard.


It’s not just in North America.

In a multi-part series earlier, entitled “Is the Church Model Going Away?” (LINK) I wrote about the shift away from church/temple that is happening across denominations in North America. There are a variety of reasons for this shift, and it is happening very quickly when viewed through a historical lens.

A recent article in The Irish Times (LINK TO ARTICLE) delves into a similar pattern occurring in Japan, where thousands of Buddhist temples have either closed or changed their focus to pay the bills as people stopped coming and supporting them.

Here is a quote from that article:

“Monks shunning asceticism is one of the spiritual cartwheels Buddhism has turned to survive a steep decline in Japan. Some of the nation’s 75,000 Buddhist temples have opened cafes, run fashion shows and hosted funerals for pets. Still, hundreds close every year. By 2040, up to 40 per cent will probably have vanished, laments Hidenori Ukai, author of a new book, Vanishing Temples, on the crisis in Japanese Buddhism. Thousands of rural temples are being hollowed out by a combination of secularism and depopulation.

Priests are aging and temples are struggling to find successors. The elderly cling to the faith: like the once ubiquitous votive-lit picture of the Sacred Heart in Irish homes, Japanese pensioners keep mini-Buddhist altars, but the practice is declining among the young.”

Buddhist Temple Japan

The article also speaks to the decline in Roman Catholic attendance in Ireland, especially among the young – which is also the case in Japan.

I bring this up again to illustrate that we in the industrialized modern and the technological postmodern worlds (Orange and Green on the Spiral Dynamics™  spectrum), are seeing vast changes in how people relate to religion and spirituality, especially the young – the Millennials.

Perhaps we in New Thought will have cafes and other businesses in our churches and centers to make up for the loss in revenues and the lack of use of space that is a basic fact of life for many in these times. And the future direction seems to be more of the same – only faster.

To be sure, there are a number of different dynamics involved from nation to nation, and within nations. In Japan, there is an aging population with fewer children to take over, and many of those who are still there are abandoning the temples. In Ireland, the scandals of the Catholic Church have hit particularly hard, and many have effectively left active participation. In North America, there are different dynamics in urban, suburban and rural areas; different demographic situations; and other factors.

One thing that all of these places share, however, is that we exist in a time of great cultural transformation, and the forms and trappings of traditional organized religions are like an analog watch; seen as a bit interesting and quaint, but not of great relevance to the world in which so many live today.

I really hope that New Thought organizations are finding ways to have this conversation; at conventions, on-line, at regional meetings, and more. The future of New Thought as a delivery system for mental science and as a provider of spiritual community is at stake.

Buddha Statue


I am truly appreciative of those who have taken time to read and comment on the posts in this blog on New Thought Leadership and the evolutionary changes that are affecting how spiritual communities operate now and in the future. We have explored the trends that have been apparent in decreased Sunday attendance across denominations for the past two decades or more. These changes in the Church Model are happening at an increasingly rapid pace.

This post is in part a response to some of the comments here and on Facebook about the trend, and how the timing might work – in other words, how much time before we have to place new models into play to replace Sunday services?



This isn’t an overnight thing. There is no need to panic – in fact that is the least desirable option. Fear and panic generate negative energy that can permeate the community, and the community may already be in a precarious place if they perceive that the church/center is in decline. This is the time to do your own spiritual work (see previous posts on this) and to convey a sense that the leadership of the community is fully open to a positive way forward. Not a false front, mind you. Sometimes New Thought leaders can project that “it’s all Good!” sense while all around them things are collapsing. People will see through that. I am talking about an authentic sense of openness to whatever is emerging, along with a trust in the Universal Oneness from which the emergence is coming forth. That means that you may experience fear, but you will lead with courage to the best of your ability.

As Dr. Gary Simmons (LINK TO HIS BLOG) said in a comment to the last post:

“I imagine that some folks, at first glance at all of the “doom and gloom” about the future of the Pastor / Flock paradigm of ministry, equate all of this to echoes of “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” More like the “ground is shaking, the ground is shaking!” The world is changing so rapidly, in part by the emergence of multiple tipping points and extremes. The ground of what is normal or traditional is literally shifting under our feet. Think of how rapidly the world is changing with no sign of a new normal on the horizon. Consider the social, political, economic, financial, environmental, technological, educational and spiritual tipping points emerging as a chaordic* epicenter.

“By tipping points I mean a polarization of extremes that cause an irreparable movement toward a new order or certain dissolution. Here are some examples of the more obvious tipping points: The disparity between the haves and the have not’s; climate change and weather extremes; inequalities; police shootings of unarmed persons of color; school shootings; police assassinations; terrorism; mass migration and the displacement of citizenry due to war, poverty, or repression; epidemics; world hunger; impoverishment; campaign financing; political extremism; government distrust; racism and homophobia; and a myriad of other dynamics all of which impact people’s lives that sit in our sanctuaries.”

*Chaordic: (of a system, organization, or natural process) governed by orcombining elements of both chaos and order

As Simmons points out, there are sweeping evolutionary cultural changes that are affecting our world, and are affecting the people in your spiritual communities. This changing world is reflected in the choices people are making about how they spend their time and how they search for meaning.  The formerly “automatic” weekend attendance at a church, synagogue or mosque is no longer automatic for a growing majority of people. We are coming to understand these trends, but we do not know what is coming next, including what our own responses to these trends will be. There is no way to say, “Well, if your Sunday services are declining, just do A, B, and C.” The A, B and C have not fully emerged yet, AND, there is no sign that we are going back to the stability of culture that existed for many in the middle of the 20th Century and before that, when you got your answers and they were valid for a long time horizon. Now what works today can become obsolete in short order.

This is why true spiritual leadership is so critical at this time. But it is a different kind of leadership than the kind that used to work so well. This new leadership brings with it the necessity of operating in a larger field of unknown possibilities and without proven strategies to apply. There are no experts in how to evolve spiritual community in these times. You are not alone in feeling that you do not have all of the answers.

If Sunday services are sustaining your community, then it might be a good idea to vision about how to expand the community activities beyond Sunday services – at this point, it is what can be added to Sunday, not what can replace Sunday. Each community will be in a different place with regard to the evolutionary process. Some may already be in steep decline, while others are still seeing vibrant support for their Sunday services and may continue to for many years.

The data generally shows that many communities are in a pattern of no growth or slow decline; that auditoriums and sanctuaries may be half-full or so, and that has been the case for some time. Just about enough new people come to replace those who are leaving, but no more, and sometimes, a bit fewer.

The role of the spiritual leader is to clarify the vision and ensure that the vision is central in all activities and all decisions. He or she (or they) need to be extremely clear in their own minds and hearts about the vision that is unfolding in and as their spiritual community. That clarity must be obvious to others, and it should be communicated with sufficient regularity so as to become a core element of the community’s culture.

The community’s culture is its operating system, if you will – the internal software that binds the people present into community in the first place. It includes the New Thought Principles and Practices taught, it includes any affiliations with a larger organization (CSL or Unity for example), and it includes the internal culture, of which the vision is the key element.

There is no rush to make changes, unless a community is already in a place where Sunday has faded to the point that it is no longer sustainable. If that is the case, you are on life-support in the sense that there are not enough resources – financial and/or human – to keep the community operating. We do have New Thought communities in this position, and some of them have closed their doors, or morphed into study groups of one kind or another.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is often the case that the way forward is to take a step down so that a future step up is more likely to be possible. And, like all things, some communities run their course and are essentially completed, so closing can be a healthy option at that point.

But for the present, here is what I recommend:


  1. Do an assessment of your own community’s situation or status. What are the trends in terms of membership, finances, and demographics over the past five years? What changes do you see occurring, if any?
  2. Do an assessment of the existing visions. By that I mean what is the vision of your community? Is that vision being realized in a meaningful way? What is your personal vision for your own ministry? Is that vision being realized in a meaningful way?
  3. Do an assessment of your leadership team (Board, ministers, practitioners, lay leaders, etc.). Are they in congruence with the vision of the community? What is their attitude toward your current situation? Have you had conversations about what positive changes might be possible and how to get going on them?
  4. Design your spiritual practices to be in a place of deep connection and response to what you discovered in the above assessments. Meditate, pray/treat, and contemplate the deep spiritual perspectives here. Then be in service to your community and its vision as best you can.“I cleanse the windows of my mind, that I may become a mirror reflecting inspiration from the Most High.” ~ Ernest Holmes
  5. Create a team to look at the results of the assessments and to explore ways forward. Begin, of course, by visioning. See if you can create an evolutionary lens together that will give insight into the evolutionary forces affecting and likely to affect your community.
  6. Have conversations in your community about the nature of change and transformation. You may find that even with evidence that things are not working, there will be a resistance to changing things. Explore that, plant seeds, and listen deeply.

I know that I have now given you about five lists of things to do. Rather than go into overwhelm about this, be selective about choosing what the best path is for you now. Keep the rest in reserve in case you need it.




I believe a little straight talk is in order regarding the state of New Thought Spiritual Communities.

New Thought communities are, on the whole, not thriving, not growing, and not sustaining (I define sustaining as at least breaking even financially and holding steady or better on membership). A minority of our communities are doing fine, paying the bills, tithing, supporting outreach programs, maybe even giving some raises to employees – but they are the exception, not the norm.

2015-09-14 10.39.10

Many, if not most are in some form of struggle. I will not go through the entire litany here, but it includes a lot of not enough. In too many cases, there are insufficient resources to maintain what is, much less to launch new programs or expand capabilities to serve the membership.

What is a spiritual leader to do?

Most of us try to ramp up our own energy – to bring a greater sense of ourselves, our most optimistic selves, to the community. We do this with the intention of somehow generating and passing on an “enthusiasm and commitment virus” to the membership. By God, we will get in there and show them that we mean business and that our expectations are high and that we are filled with the joyfulness of Spirit! That should do it!

But it doesn’t, does it? Or at least not for very long.

Or we go into a board meeting, somehow convinced that the Board has dropped the ball, they are not supporting the ministry as vibrantly as necessary, and perhaps they aren’t even tithing themselves. Someone must be withholding, right? And it isn’t you! So we are going to have a rallying call for greater participation, more giving, to get out there and talk to the membership about how important it is that they step it up!

Then we go to the practitioners, the lay leaders, the choir, the bookstore team, the greeters, and the men’s group and try the same thing. Rally the troops and all will be well!

Is it time to offer another prosperity class where everyone has to tithe for eight to twelve weeks? Which one haven’t we offered in a while?

But nothing really changes.

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” ~ William James

But wait, we are the POSITIVE THINKERS, right? We turn from what we don’t want in our lives and affirm a Greater Truth. If our communities are shrinking or not sustainable, all we need to do is change our thinking. We must be thinking thoughts that create beliefs that marginal or worse finances and declining attendance are normal, because that seems to be what so many are manifesting. Why don’t we just envision every seat in the house occupied and the offering baskets overflowing? Have we forgotten our own New Thought teachings?

No, that’s not the problem. The problem is not that so many of our spiritual leaders do not want growth and success, or that they are not visioning or praying properly. The overall problem has to do with huge social and cultural shifts that are happening in North America and elsewhere. People are making different choices about belonging to and supporting institutions of all kinds. Institutions with membership are declining across the board, from church to the fraternal societies like the Elks and Lions Clubs – they are aging out. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep such organizations operating even in a diminished way.

Do you know many ministers who are not frustrated and exhausted? I know a few, but only a few. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that what worked for our predecessors, including our own teachers, no longer works the way it once did. It is no longer enough to possess the skill set that it took to have a successful, thriving spiritual community in the last century. Times have changed.

Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) ministers flocked to the last annual convention in Las Vegas, where the theme was on building church. Expert presenters were brought in and ideas and techniques were presented and discussed. I wonder how many ministers who attended that convention have seen growth in their ministry large enough to, say, pay for their convention expenses?

It is not that some of the ideas presented were not implemented, just as many leaders have implemented ideas from books, seminars, and programs in the past. But the overall trends away from those ideas continue to move – in fact, they are accelerating.

Refusal to see the evolutionary change of the church model as most of us understand it today is similar to denying that climate change is happening. The denial does nothing to change the trend and everything to prevent constructive action in a different direction.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” ~ Steve Jobs

Imagine it is the 1930’s and your company make the very finest buggy whips in the world. They are beautifully crafted and do their intended job perfectly. But people are giving up their horse-drawn carriages in droves for automobiles. Would the answer be to double-down and try to make even better buggy whips? Would the answer be to so spiritual mind treatment to demonstrate a return to the horse and buggy? Of course not. Times of transformation call for transformative actions, not business as usual.


“An evolving system cannot return to the past.” ~ Barbara Marx Hubbard

At some point in our history (and my experience here is with what is now CSL or Religious Science/Science of Mind, but my suspicion is that other New Thought denominations have had the same trajectory), we went from a teaching whose main appeal was spiritual healing to a group of churches/centers whose main appeal is the personality of the minster(s). Centers rise and fall on who is the minister and will enough people come to see him or her speak on Sundays. There is nothing wrong with this, it has generated much success over time, but now things are changing. There is nothing wrong with the existing model until people stop showing up for Sunday services in sufficient numbers to sustain the community.

So what can you as a spiritual leader, a board member, a lay leader or a member of a spiritual community do?

As I see it, here are the options:

  1. Keep Doing the Same Things. Keep doing what you have been doing with the same level of intensity.
  2. Do what you have been doing, only LOUDER. Get livelier music; give livelier sermons; put more provocative titles on your classes; greet people with more gusto; get a bigger sign out front; maybe offer yoga.
  3. Do something different. Get creative. Go online in a bigger way. Start doing things for free (have you noticed how many things are free now?). Revisit the idea of brick and mortar based ministry and the overhead that requires. Be willing to really challenge what you and your leadership have come to believe about success in ministry.

“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.” ~ Barry H. Gillespie

 If #3 – Do something different – is your choice:

  • Do some research. Find out what the people who DON’T come to your community are looking for. See if someone else is doing something creative that you can adopt for your community. Notice what is emerging and look for what is ready to emerge that is new, different, and compelling. Young people are really into spirituality as an idea, but they seemingly don’t want to sit and listen to you talk about it in a sermon surrounded by music they don’t like on a Sunday morning. Have you noticed that? Have you done something about it?
  • Churh Exit Millenials
  • What’s the matter with young people anyway?
  • “It’s tempting to blame our parents or children for our chaos. However, blaming others moves us in the wrong direction. Becoming accountable for everything is the essence of true transformation.” ~Yehuda Berg
  • Younger people, in fact, people of all ages, are eager to participate in spiritually directed action. They want to help to create a world that works for everyone at every level. Outreach is key here – creatively directed outreach that has true meaning and where people can make a difference. This can involve interfaith activities or be projects solely conducted by a single community or a portion of a community. And these action programs need to move to the center of who you are and what you do in community, not be relegated to the edges. The question is not “how big is my church?” it is “How many are being served through this ministry?”
  • Analyze yourself. Ken Wilber wrote: “Evolution is in part a self-transcending process.” How are you stubbornly staying in your own comfort zone? (You know that you are.) What expectations were set when you were being trained in ministry that you became attached to: Giving Sunday talks? Getting and giving hugs in the receiving line? Being the authority on everything in your community? Getting that magical REV in front of your name? Maybe some or all of these things don’t really work well anymore. That robe you love so much – shouts “separation” and “old-fashioned” to younger (and some older) people. How is your Shadow doing – how is it showing up in your ministry? Remember that question in the Visioning process: “What am I willing to release to manifest this vision?” Have you really answered that question for yourself? Times of great transformation call for leaders who are spiritually and psychologically prepared to lead. Are you doing your personal work?

“Continuing to do pioneering sacred work in a world as crazy and painful as ours without constantly grounding yourself in a sacred practice would be like running into a forest fire dressed only in a paper tutu.” ~ Marion Woodman

  •  Vision. Vision by yourself, vision with the leadership, vision with the youth, vision with the practitioners and lay members, with the men and the women, with everyone at once. Vision on what is next and new for your community. If you are to survive and thrive, it isn’t going to be doing something that probably hasn’t given birth to significant fruit in a decade or more. What’s new for you? What is ready to emerge within and for your community that you need to open to and welcome by making room for it?
  • Act on the Vision. We all, or many of us anyway, have lots of visioning notes lying around – in notebooks, on easel pads, on sticky notes. How often have you taken the next steps to clarify and actualize the vision that emerged? Maybe it is time to do that – no visioning without follow-through!

“The future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” ~ William Gibson

Spiritual leadership is evolving and transforming. Cultural evolutionary change is speeding up. This is not happening at the same speed everywhere and in every way, but it is happening. New Thought is affected more than many traditional denominations because unlike many of them, New Thought actually has a philosophy and a theology that offer something to the emerging cultural stages; one that isn’t trapped in pre-scientific, even pre-rational thinking. People in those stages will want something new, not something that reminds them of what they have left behind.

“The moment you step out of the ordinary ranks, the moment you step out of the procession that moves endlessly down the aisle, you are in the spotlight of evolution. Your own choice has decided you, and you are no longer going to think as others. You are no longer going to lay your greatness at the feet of a person whom you recognize to be great. The moment a person steps out of the endless stream of humanity, they no longer go by the norm that was set by the mass mind. They are a leader, they are a thinker. They are one who introduces new things to the world.” ~ Ernest Holmes (The Beverly Hills Lectures)

We in New Thought often package our philosophy and theology in a traditional manner. We originally copied the Christian Church Model and its trappings, which may have made sense in the 1920’s and 1930’s but makes little sense now. People are leaving that model in large numbers in North America, as they have already done in Europe. It is time to recognize this and begin to plan for a future that allows our teachings to expand into a world that needs them so much. We are falling farther and farther behind as we ignore the issue or actively refuse to face it. We choose to stay in our rapidly shrinking comfort zone of doing what we have become used to while, ironically, we try to teach a dwindling membership about how to embrace change.

Chart - Comfort Zone

It is time to look toward the new horizon that is right in front of us. In doing this, we do not turn our backs on the past. We transcend and include it because the times, the world around us, and, I suspect, our own hearts are calling us forward.