Rev. Melissa Cooper


Let's share.

The blog is moving!

Hi all!

If you read my last post, you know that some pretty big changes have happened in my life in the last 6 months.

In addition to all that excitement, I’m also moving most of my writing over to a column at Patheos. I’m calling it “Always And,” and you can read more about why in my first post over there that will be launching tomorrow!

I hope you’ll join me in this next phase of ministry online. I’m still figuring things out in this new life I’ve been called to, but I know I am still called to share ministry and life with all of you through my writing.

If you want to join me, you can click here and subscribe to future updates from my Patheos column.

And as always, thank you for being on this journey with me!

Melissa CooperComment
Rev. Melissa Cooper: An Update

You may have noticed that this blog, my Facebook page and my website have been pretty quiet over the last few months. (You also might not have noticed, so consider this a newsletter then ...)

Well, there has been a lot of development in my life in the last few months. At the end of May, I began serving as the Minister of Worship and Arts at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Orlando (yep, the closest Methodist church to Mickey). I'll eventually write about my shift in context to the local church, but suffice it to say the vocational shift is not as dramatic as it appears. 

Since arriving at St. Luke's, much like the shift I wrote about last year, I have had to figure out a whole new normal, both personally and professionally. Things were really going well, and this opportunity was not one I was looking for ... but it found me. And now I find myself with a lot of opportunity, and a little challenge.

I'm blessed to lead the most talented and gifted team of folks I have ever worked with. They're all artists, and they're all some of the best in their fields (it's amazing to be inspired by the people you work with every single day). I'm blessed to serve with other church leadership who have the best heads on their shoulders I could ask for. The desire to be the best church we can be, not just the biggest church we can be (although the size of this church is a whole other challenge!), is present in every person I work with. And finally being able to work with and learn from a clergywoman on a daily basis is something my heart never knew how much it needed. 

I'm challenged by many things, not the least of which is a 40-60 minute commute one-way each day. I'm challenged to figure out how church life and coach/consultant/speaker/writer life work together. I'm challenged to finish out some of the projects I took on prior to taking this position. I'm challenged to continue some ongoing projects. I'm challenged to bring cohesion to my team in a way that allows them to be more them than they ever have been, and at the same time stay out of their way. And I think I'm up for all of these challenges.

What that does mean is that, like you've seen by my silence over the last few months, I'll be here sharing a little less. It means I'll take on fewer projects. It means I'm not as available for speaking gigs as I was. It means I'm going to be a little more particular, because right now my biggest and most important project is right here in Orlando. (I do plan to share some about that in the coming months, because it's incredible.)

So thank you for sticking with me. I'm not going anywhere; it'll just be a little quieter around here ...

Melissa CooperComment
Intergenerational ministry isn't (just) about the kids.

Last week, I spent three days with churches from all over the country as they invested in going deep theologically around the concepts of calling and vocation. It was an incredible experience (and one I will share more about soon!), and I am looking forward to our journey over the next few years as part of the C3 Project with Vibrant Faith

And, like you do, when a room full of people is talking about calling, you have a chance to continue to explore your own calling. (In case you were wondering, that process never stops!) As I thought through the incredibly diverse journey of calling I've been on since my teen years, and especially looking at the last 6 months as I have branched into a brand new iteration of my call, I looked around the room, realizing these were folks that were my ideal constituents.

The people in the room consisted of pastors and church staff, clergy and laity, leadership and congregation. As I looked around, I saw the people I cared about the most - all of them! Representatives of the whole church

You see, becoming an "expert" in intergenerational ministry has been interesting. The study and practice itself has been absolutely fascinating, but what's more interesting is what other people think that means. Some of the most revelatory work I do with churches and leaders simply involves definitions. When I tell people I work in intergenerational culture-building and intergenerational ministry, they usually form a picture in their head of what that means, even before I have spelled out the specifics. 

The positive is that in general, people seem to see value in intergenerational relationships and intergenerational culture-building. However, their understanding of what it means is usually far narrower than my actual scope of work.

Somehow, when we talk about an intergenerational church, intergenerational activities, intergenerational ministry, people only see that as one of two things. 

1) They see it as family ministry. And their definition of "family" is the stereotypical nuclear parents-and-kids image. "Oh, that's great! Can you come teach a parenting class for us?" No, the answer is no. I'm not an expert on family ministry (I know some things, but there are much better folks out there!). I'm not a resource on parenting. Family ministry is a subcategory of intergenerational ministry, not its entirety (future post coming on that relationship!).

2) They see it as doing more things that are "for the kids." Do I spend a lot of time talking about how we better include children in our congregations? You betcha. Is intergenerational ministry about kids? Yep. And teenagers, and babies, and emerging adults, and middle adults, and older adults, and anyone else you can imagine. 

What ends up happening is as an "intergenerational ministry expert," I get put in the kids' or youth ministry box. Now don't get me wrong, these are some of my favorite folks to work with, and they are a lot of the reason I do what I do! However, the best thing I can do for them is to get in the room with the senior pastor. The best thing I can do for them is to cast the full vision of what I'm talking about to the person who is ultimately casting the vision for their community. 

I'm excited to be leading two Intergenerational Leadership cohorts starting this month of ministers working in children's ministry or Christian education in their churches; and I expect a lot of the conversation to center around how they "lead up" to help their senior pastors better understand this importance. 

Because, folks, here's the thing. Intergenerational ministry is essential for kids. And intergenerational ministry is essential for adults. Part of being mature, Christian adults is how we engage the next generations. Our own faith formation is tied up in how we engage the faith formation of younger generations. If we're not participating in the faith formation of others, we will stagnate. We will stall. We will no longer grow. 

So sure, you can engage in intergenerational ministry because families matter. You can engage in intergenerational ministry "for the kids." But in the end, it's about all of us. And if we aren't ensuring this idea, this approach, is about all of us, then we're missing the boat. We're missing a huge part of the body of Christ. 

Intergenerational ministry isn't (just) about kids. And if you're intrigued, I'd love to talk more with you about how I can help broaden your experience and capacities for caring for all God's children, at all ages and stages.

To learn more, visit the coaching, consulting and speaking pages. Or, just go ahead and schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me! I would love to work with your ministry!

What's your Why?

I ask a lot of questions when I work with churches and ministers. As we evaluate ministry effectiveness and look toward next steps, the most common question I'll ask is "Why?"

What's your "why?" for this program; what's your "why?" for this element of worship; what's your "why?" for this committee?

It consistently amazes me how many churches have lost connection with the "why?" of so many things they are doing, and sometimes even the "why?" of their church's existence. 

It's been interesting to see the rising focus on "the why" in ministry, in business, in all sorts of areas lately. Much of it has been sparked by Simon Sinek's TED Talk, as well as his book, Start with Why.

This language of what vs. how vs. why has become more common, especially with the rise of Gen X as senior leadership in many of our churches, along with the great influx of Millennials in all of our workplaces. If you can't answer "Why?" for them, you're going to lose them before you even begin.

So why does "Why?" matter so much? (How's that for a question within a question?)

I was recently introduced to this comic's routine that included some audience participation, which paints the best picture I've ever seen of how the "Why?" changes everything ...

Knowing your why makes all the difference. How might you reconnect with your why this week and revitalize a program, ministry or even an interaction with someone?

Reconnecting with your why is at the center of my work in coaching and consulting. I would love to talk more with you about how I can help you take your ministry to the next level. You can always email me at, or connect with me on Facebook

Melissa Cooper
When Holy Week doesn't feel Holy

This week, most of my friends are in what some folks call "the clergy Superbowl." While Advent and Christmas are a major undertaking, often that liturgical season is really that: a season. There's lots happening, but over time. And it's often a shared responsibility among many church staff and lay leaders.

Holy Week, though, seems like it most often ends up on the shoulders of clergy. And those shoulders, while strong and broad, are still human. And sometimes, for them, it doesn't feel very Holy. It feels lonely and exhausting.

When I think of an icon of Holy Week, while Jesus is on the list, my modern image is that of Pastor. The pastor who just led a Lenten study, and now is planning a minimum of four services this week, during a time when many schools are on Spring Break, so many of her or his lay leadership may have chosen to take vacation, and during which time the age level leadership is also focused on Spring Break activities or, more likely, hunting colorful eggs and bunnies (I'll never completely understand churches having Easter Egg hunts, but that's for another post ...).

This week is a lot. It's a lot because it's just simply a lot of planning and leading. It's a lot because it's a week where we go through every liturgical emotion we have. And it's a lot because there's pressure to interpret and preach some of the most significant, yet controversial, parts of the Christian tradition in ways that both convict and inspire. 

It's a lot, y'all.

This week, if you're a pastor or church leader who is carrying much of this on your shoulders, I refer to Nadia's tweet above for a great reminder. It's not all on you, and it's not all about you. The truth of Jesus doesn't change based on your liturgy or preaching. Chances are, you've got this.

And if you are a church staff member or lay leadership, ask your pastor how you can be helpful this week. Be there early, stay a little late. Share the load, together.

And if you're a lay member in the pews this week, participate. The greatest appreciation you can show for the work your pastor has put in this week is to truly experience what Holy Week has to offer, from the celebration and exaltation of Palm Sunday, to the camaraderie and servanthood of Maundy Thursday, to the heart-wrenching pain of Good Friday, to the depths of despair on Holy Saturday, and finally to the new alleluias we discover on Easter Sunday. It's an incredible journey, and chances are, your pastor has prepared some incredible ways to experience it. 

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I pray you have a blessed Holy Week, and that it might be a truly Holy experience for you.