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As we’ve discussed before, many religions are struggling to keep their flocks. However, all is not gloom and doom.

For instance, there’s a cute article this weekend in the New York Times about a non-religiously-raised kid who suddenly insists his (ex-monk) dad start taking him to church on Sundays:

He did not want his mother to come. Dianne Sweeney, 50, a customer service manager for PepsiCo, had grown up without religion, and a few times when Ryan had mentioned the pope, she had rolled her eyes.

“He thought I didn’t have the right attitude,” Ms. Sweeney said.

What follows is a touching story of redemption. Little Ryan joins the confirmation class; his dad stares at the beautiful stained-glass windows; even the mom eventually tags along and volunteers to bring a carrot salad to the church picnic. (Shrewdly, the article manages not to bring up theology, which might have made it controversial and/or interesting.)

At this point you’re probably wondering if there are any lessons your church can learn from this story.

Among the many reasons Ryan wanted to go: he’s a big reader, enjoys fantasy literature and has seen theories suggesting the world may end in 2013 due to the configuration of magnetic forces. In that case, he said, it would be nice to be on good terms with God.

None of these are traditional elements of church outreach, but they could quite easily be incorporated. Therefore, churches that are hurting for parishioners might consider one or more of the following:

The obvious caveat is that, if parents were to start teaching their kids that fantasy books are fiction and that the Mayan prophecy is nonsense and that “the reason we don’t go to church is because your religion is false,” these plans might not work. But what are the chances of any of those?

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As President, Barack Obama faces tough choices every day. What should we do about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons? What’s the best way to kill Somalian pirates? How can I funnel more taxpayer money to my wall street friends? And, um, what’s the President’s church going to be?

White House aides and close friends of the family have been quietly checking out D.C. churches on a shortlist – maybe a dozen in all – and attending services, speaking with pastors, reverends and rectors and reporting back to the Obamas, said one White House source familiar with the search.

Wait a minute, you’re thinking to yourself, it’s already been three months since the inauguration, and he hasn’t chosen a church yet? What the heck is he doing on Sunday mornings? When’s the last time he ate a piece of Jesus? What if he’s … not right with god? Luckily, he’s been getting personalized attention:

Mr. Obama has not attended a public church service since the Sunday before he was inaugurated. But the president has quietly kept up his faith, talking by phone with a handful of evangelical pastors, including Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, both of whom once served as spiritual advisers to former President George W. Bush, and the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a pillar of the civil rights movement.

The article is silent on whether his telephonic spiritual advisors also include Miss Cleo, Harold Camping, or Rod Roddy, so we can only hope.

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