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New projects fill congregational life with excitement and hope. They can be a time of community cooperation, deep visioning and relationship-building. No matter the project, though, you are likely to experience disappointment somewhere along the way.

In my book How Your Congregation Learns, I’ve written:

“Congregations aren’t magically protected from disappointment. All kinds of good projects grind to a halt. When this happens, you can’t help but feel disappointed. Natural and inevitable feelings of sadness arrive. That is the way of disillusionment. Almost every successful congregational endeavor contains some dissatisfaction.” (How Your Congregations Learns, page 73, published by Rowman & Littlefield).

The experience of disappointment invites the possibility of three different responses regarding the initiative: “No,” “Not yet” and “Yes, let’s continue working but with some adaptations.”

Essential values
To discern which of these responses is the best, reflect on how the new initiative aligns with the primary religious claims and commitments of your congregation. Or, put another way, how does the initiative support, in its current form, the essential values of your faith community?

If there is strong alignment, then it is often worth moving beyond the disappointment, making appropriate adaptations.

If there is a gap between what you are trying to achieve and the values you espouse, then perhaps this is not the right time to continue, or it is best to explore initiatives more in line with your commitments.

In chapter 5 of the book, I provide additional considerations about how to address disappointment in relationship to a new congregational activity.

Resources
If you would like to talk more about this dynamic, email me at tshapiro@centerforcongregations.org  If you would like a free copy of the book How Your Congregations Learns, let me know via email.

You may also want to consider the articles Evaluating Your Ministry and Why We Aren’t Learning.


Tim Shapiro by Tim Shapiro

Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – the parent organization of the CRG. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tim has served as alumni-in-residence at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a commissioner at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, and studied family systems theory under Edwin Friedman.

tshapiro@centerforcongregations.org