Our Latest Perspectives
By middle age, most of us realize the futility of efforts to force another person to change. Efforts to transform another human being—spouse, partner, friend, colleague, or child—generally shatter on the rocks of a simple reality: sustainable change comes from within.
For congregational leaders and consultants, this principle mandates doing change with people rather than to them. Pressure from the top or from outside may accomplish short-term adjustments, but long-term change comes from within.
For reasons too familiar to go into, leaders in the political and public health realms have become allergic to pandemic mandates. Rules became advice, advice became guidelines—leaving leaders of school districts, universities, and congregations to make decisions based on gut feelings and political alignments. Community leaders need a firmer way to ground their Covid policies in science.
As I talk with pastors, it is clear that many of them are not going back to their pre-Covid time schedules. They are reallocating time spent on worship, education, governance, mission, and administration to align with new, post-Covid realities. Some are doing this intentionally; others are just winging it. As a rule, intentionality will bring better results than winging it!
I still dread performance management, especially annual evaluation of staff. I’ve built a structure that makes evaluation conversations doable, but they still make me so anxious that I want to run away and hide. Recently, Frederick Buechner collided with Harvard Business Review in my morning brain, and I started to wonder about adding a new question to the evaluation process—Should we alter course?—that could draw me out of my anxiety into a richer and more meaningful evaluation conversation.
There is good reason to be optimistic about the start of this program year. People are back from a summer of traveling and reconnecting with loved ones. Staff are rested and brimming with new ideas. Many children have been vaccinated, and a more predictable school year seems likely. We are coming out of pandemic mayhem. However, a more robust start up to the new program year is not a signal that we have arrived at “the” new normal. We are still in a liminal season—and need to lead accordingly.
When I urge congregations to develop strategies to engage Millennial and Gen Z generations, someone inevitably says, “Maybe we should start a contemporary worship service to attract them.” The problem is: nothing in my research or experience leads to the conclusion that contemporary worship will attract younger generations. Indeed, is what we call contemporary worship even contemporary?
While forty years of major mergers in American Protestantism ended in the 1980s, in recent decades nearly all major US denominations have declined. From the Episcopal Church to the Southern Baptist Convention, membership numbers and denominational loyalty have diminished across the theological spectrum. But as national denominational connections have frayed, congregations’ local and regional ties are surging. Affiliation patterns are changing.