stuff

It is no longer comfortable at the council meeting. Alex brought a 12-page financial report. “These numbers show that our congregation won’t be in business four years from now,” he says, “We will be out of money.”

The group is silent. It is a nervous silence, like when someone brings up politics at the family reunion. The pastor breaks the hush. “How should we talk about this, Alex?” he asks. Alex responds, “I don’t know, but this congregation needs to change, and it needs to change right now.”

Does your congregation need to change?
This is a difficult question to address. I encourage you to reframe the consideration from “does our congregation need to change?” to “what does our congregation want to learn?” All congregations need to learn new skills. This is natural. Life is a progression. Religious life is a process. Few things are settled once and forever. Challenges faced are inevitably going to test your congregation beyond its comfort level.

Your congregation can learn new behaviors. The dire 12-page financial report is not a predestined verdict. This predicament can be an invitation to take a hold of the challenge so that the challenge doesn’t bind your faith community.

Learning involves choice. Change also involves choice, but often we see change as something placed upon us, something we do not want.

No wonder we resist change
Too often our experience with change is lodged in events where our initiative is stymied. Yet, congregations can take hold of challenges as learning experiences over which they have agency. Challenges like “we will be out of money” are invitations to a learning experience. Before you consider the need to change, consider the desire to learn.

Take a look at some of the resources on the CRG related to this subject: the book Managing Transitions and the article Seven Characteristics of Good Learners.

 


Tim Shapiro by Tim Shapiro

Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – of which the CRG is a program. 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’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation Learns.

tshapiro@centerforcongregations.org