Alice Mann is a leading consultant, educator, and author in the field of congregational development, with emphasis on strategic planning, breaking through size plateaus, creating new pathways for small and struggling churches, and helping congregations to discern and care for the “soul” of their local community. In her teaching and consulting, Mann draws upon two decades of experience as a local pastor in the Episcopal Church, and fifteen years of service as a senior consultant with the Alban Institute. She is known for engaging large and small groups in practical learning and candid conversation about the choices church leaders face today.
Philosophy of Practice
My work revolves around helping congregational leaders discover or clarify their deeper sense of call—one the congregation has shaped over time and will carry into the future.
- I’m passionate about the relationship between congregations and their contexts. Congregations do not exist in isolation. They are joined to communities and civic environments. When a congregation tells its story in its context, it can find the courage to make decisions and act according to its values and deepest sense of vocation. Read more: “Ministering to the Soul of a Community.”
- Every congregation is different, and each is in a different place. Adaptation is key. Because there are so many ways of working with the issues you may face, my tool kit contains a range of options. We’ll discover together what is appropriate and what you are willing and able to do.
- Small congregations can make a powerful contribution to the life of their communities, but they need to be flexible about the way they do it. Read more: “The Smaller Congregation—Pathways in Challenging Times.”
Congregational Development. When congregations recognize that what they have been doing may no longer work, it can be liberating. Letting go of anxiety about survival enables a congregation to take risks and be creative. I frequently work with congregations by first providing them with a specific resource for self-study, perhaps a book. We talk about what from the resource would be most useful for their situation. Then, having worked through some structured processes from that resource, they are more knowledgeable and prepared to engage with a consultant. I offer cost-effective and flexible ways of working with key leaders, such as phone coaching and live Web meetings.
Planning and Visioning. Printed vision and mission statements often fail to capture a congregation’s present reality or distinctiveness. I help congregations examine honestly and appreciatively who they are, what gifts they have, what God is calling them to be or do. For example, smaller congregations may need to clarify the one excellent mission they are called to live out and consider a range of institutional options for making that mission sustainable.
Size Transitions. Many congregations are responding to internal or external pressures to grow numerically, without having an inner sense of call to reach more or different people. A healthy response is to embrace your congregation’s authentic identity and lived vocation within your current community context. Through learning, shared discernment, and careful planning, a congregation will be best equipped to navigate a size transition as a transformational experience.
- B.A., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA
- M.Div., Philadelphia Divinity School, PA
- M.A., English/Creative Writing, Temple University, Philadelphia PA
- Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations, 2003, Alban
- Raising the Roof: The Pastoral-to-Program Size Transition, 2001, Alban
- What Size Should We Be? Visioning the In-Between Church, DVD, 2000, Alban
- Can Our Church Live? Redeveloping Congregations in Decline, 1999, Alban
- The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations, 1999, Alban
- “Place Based Narratives” from Finding Our Story: Narrative Leadershp and Congregational Change, 2009, Alban
- Ministering to the Soul of a Community
- The Smaller Congregation—Pathways in Challenging Times
- Planning as Holy Conversation
- New Research on Raising the Roof
- A Model for a Board Planning Weekend
- Church Growth: Shifting Your Leadership Style
- SYNERGY Alliances, Mergers, and Partnerships Report: Lessons from the Journey 2008-2013, and a webinar on the same subject available on Vimeo from The Audiovisual Dept.
Below are some of the many testimonials for Alice, but you can read all of them here.
I’m sure you receive a lot of fan mail, because you are so good at doing what you do and being who you are. Today as I was trying to soak in all your sage offerings I wondered if you feel very often how God is calling you to this healing, hopeful work as you assist members of the body of Christ and improve, mend, and make whole their congregational life together. I do believe and feel that that this was the single most helpful day of continuing education that I have ever attended. Thank you again. — Marya DeCarlen, Groveland, Maryland
You were the best thing that’s happened to this place in a long time. I was so happy to see a group of people working as one diligently and faithfully to solve intractable problems that have plagued us for a very long time…. — Sara Weiss, a staff member with the Council of Churches in New York City