Our Latest Perspectives
Most of us who do church work are familiar with the notion of the congregational lifecycle. It’s a bell-shaped curve: starting at the left with birth, congregations move through formation to reach peak stability. Then they start to move back down toward decline and ultimately death—unless we do something to change the curve.
Talking with another clergyperson recently, we bemoaned the current spike in COVID-19 infections and the Delta variant. Congregations were moving in the direction of “opening up” again for indoor worship and activities. All systems were go, it seemed.
But then many congregations, in an abrupt retreat, slowed down or modified reopening plans. The ink on books about the “post-pandemic church” was hardly dry as we found ourselves thinking about a possible longer arc of this health crisis.
Suddenly my colleague blurted out, “Maybe I don’t want to do this hard thing.”
Staff who negotiated the first waves of the pandemic with resilience may be hitting the wall now. The relentless stress of this season is incapacitating some of our best employees. If you are a supervisor, you may wonder how to recognize and respond to traumatized members of your team. Five key practices will help you provide a trauma-informed workspace.
In March of this year Gallup released survey results showing that fewer than half of Americans belong to a religious congregation—the lowest percentage ever recorded. Yet despite declining participation, congregations offer valuable gifts to their members and their surrounding communities.
Leaders of small congregations often say, “We can’t afford to hire as many people as we need.” Leaders of large congregations say the same thing! If your vision is ambitious, you will always need more staff than you can afford, no matter what resources you have at your disposal. Fortunately, there is another way.
The beginning of the pandemic was overwhelming, but our focus was clear—figure out how to worship, connect, and teach in an online environment. The boundaries marking what we could not do provided clarity. Now, in-person engagement is returning and we face another kind of overwhelm—too many options. How do we make choices when some boundaries have been removed, but not everything is possible? To meet the needs of this season, we must help our leaders shift out of decision-making mode and into a discerning mindset.
As more folks get vaccinated and COVID restrictions end, we all long for a return to normalcy. Still, leading congregations is hard work and may get harder as we pivot once again in response to changing circumstances. Some people and some congregations struggle even as good news comes. Part of our ministry will be to help each other move from languishing to flourishing.