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The Congregational Consulting Group, organized in 2014 by former consultants of the Alban Institute, is a network of independent consultants. We publish PERSPECTIVES for Congregational Leaders—thoughts on topics of interest to leaders of congregations and other purpose-driven organizations. —  Dan Hotchkiss, editor

Our Latest Perspectives

A Season of Letting Go

In several parts of my life, I feel a sense of letting go—as I transition into a new professional role, let go of some things in my personal life and identity, and shake off this reluctant Minnesota winter that won’t quite let me go. As a clergyperson in the United Methodist Church, I sense that we have now entered a season of letting go, as our time of denominational separation has arrived.

Re-engaging the Volunteers

Library of Congress

The church is a volunteer organization. Even the most staff-driven congregations rely on volunteers to make ministry work. The pandemic has impacted volunteerism profoundly, in ways not yet clear. Volunteerism isn’t bouncing back as readily as other aspects of congregational life. We can take steps to engage our volunteers more effectively now, while we wait to learn more about what the future holds.

Want Less Conflict? Look Out the Window!

Window seat
Chapter House Window
Convento de Cristo, Portugal

Eighteen years ago, I surveyed 100 congregations in the American southwest regarding their experience of change and conflict in the previous five years. Only one change was negatively associated with conflict—meaning that it made conflict less likely. Congregations that started a “new community outreach” in the previous five years were less likely to report a significant conflict than similar congregations that did not.

Some Very Good News

In a time when congregations and clergy are dealing with a lot of challenging issues, there is most definitely good news to celebrate. Congregations are more open to change today than at any time in my career as a pastor and consultant. During the pandemic, we learned a great deal about ourselves personally and as congregations. One of the most important and long overdue learnings: we need to change.

Four Ingredients of Successful Congregational Change

How can congregational leaders make needed changes without incurring wrenching conflict? In my previous post, Why Lone Rangers Always Fail, I stressed the importance of leading change as part of a team. While leading change as part of a Team is the first ingredient in successful change, it is not sufficient. Today I want to add three more ingredients to the mix.

Two Kinds of Customers

“I Love My Church.” It was the slogan for a capital fund drive at the little church where I belong. I turned to our treasurer, sitting in the pew behind me—he is, like me, a bit of a grump—and said, “I have mixed feelings about my church. What should I do?” To my great pleasure, he replied, “Get over it. Give money anyway.”

That’s the spirit! A church is more than a buyer’s club, a co-op that delivers maximum religious benefit to members at the lowest cost. A good congregation puts its shoulder to a bigger wheel: transforming lives in ways no one can predict, in harmony with the congregation’s purpose. Our success is measured by the good we do, not by how satisfied we are.

Are You Thinking Strategically?

Much of our decision making over the past two years has been reactive. Continually shifting COVID protocols, political polarization, and local and global turmoil leave us feeling fragmented. You may be wondering whether you have been strategic enough. Has your preoccupation with managing the chaos prevented you from pursuing mission, vision, and intentional innovation? Cultivating six habits can help you get strategically reoriented now.