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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

Making Your Core Values Matter

Apple Core by dixieroadrash CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 D

Core values are especially important when identity is shifting and resources are dwindling. At such times, when decisions must be made about what to say yes to and what to stop doing, core value statements are a critical discernment tool. However, core values won’t help you if they aren’t unique, mutually embraced, and authentic to the community, or if you don’t use them regularly.

Many congregations write a core value statement as part of a planning process along with a mission and vision statement, plaster them all on a wall someplace, and promptly forget them. Is a core values statement worth doing? Yes—but only if you create it well and use it effectively.

What About the Nones?

Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

The Nones are in the news and have been for a while. “Nones” are people who, when pollsters ask for their religion, say “None.” Nones used to be a tiny group, but now None is among the top three answers, alongside Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant. The rise of Nones reflect a cultural shift that can feel threatening, especially to Mainline Protestants, whose numbers have declined as Nones’ have risen. But for leaders who can listen sympathetically and respond flexibly, Nones may offer opportunities as well as threats.

Clergy Transitions

cocoon and butterfly
Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

’Tis the season for clergy transitions in many of our congregations. I am one of those clergy who happens to be transitioning. After a decade as a denominational executive, I am heading back, full-time to consulting, coaching, trainings, and psychotherapy. I am ready and excited!

While I was ready and excited, I forgot that major transitions are hard. Once I made and communicated my decision, the machinery of major life transitions rolled into motion, and I found myself on an intense roller-coaster ride with some unexpected dips as well as highs.

Knowing When to Let Go

Kyle Hinkson on Unsplash

Six months ago, I announced my intention to retire at the end of this academic year. I’ve worked at the same university for 20 years—as a professor, a department chair, and a dean. But it’s time to step aside and let others move into these roles. How do we know when it’s time to let go and retire? For me, there were three key indicators:

  • When I realized that I was running out of fresh ideas.
  • When I noticed how much talent there was around me.
  • When I accepted that I could afford to do so.

I don’t intend to retire completely—I plan to submit a book manuscript by December (on congregations engaging their communities), do more consulting, and spend more time with grandchildren. But it’s time. As the Swiss-German poet Hermann Hesse noted, “Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”

Can We Do More with Less?

Tolga Ulkan on Unsplash

Many congregations and judicatories make do today with smaller staffs than they had ten years ago. How are they doing? Where I’m working, I would say, “Not always well.” Members want the same or even more “services” in the past from a smaller staff. They say, “We can do more with less.”

I don’t know about you, but my experience with “Let’s do more with less” is not positive. This is the hard truth: When we have less, we generally do less. How can we do more with a smaller staff? Too few admit the obvious, painful reality: We can’t. But we can focus the resources we do have on meeting the most pressing needs we see around us now.

Tips and Principles for Congregational Consultants

Rachel on Unsplash

Have you ever thought of trying congregational consulting? Lots of people think of this—and for most, the fancy passes. But if you have energy, the right experience, and strong speaking and writing skills, consulting could be a good sideline, or even a career, for you. I’d like to share some tips and principles that have helped make consulting work for me.