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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

Christian Nationalism and Congregations

US Flag with sunlight showing through it in the shape of a cross

Christian Nationalism is a significant force in American civic life, but “Christianity” and “Christian Nationalism” are two very different species. The former is a religious movement and the latter a political one. Yet because many (mostly white) Christians have imbibed the tenets of Christian Nationalism, Christian leaders must now contend with its presence. We will consider the phenomenon of Christian Nationalism and how to respond to its adherents in our congregations.

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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.”

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Pairing the Process with the Problem

In the life of every congregation, problems will eventually surface. Such challenges may involve disagreements and conflict, genuine harm, or more serious allegations of misconduct. Pairing the process with the problem requires discernment about the nature of the problem, as well as a suite of relevant processes. An effective response may also require the involvement of the local judicatory and/or outside mediation or consultation.

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Social Movements and Congregational Responses

Malu Laker on Unsplash

Congregations often experience conflict in response to social movements in the world around them. Since World War II, movements regarding civil rights, the war in Vietnam, the ordination of women, and human sexuality—each vitally important in its own right—also have raised challenges inside congregations, forcing leaders to address internal questions of power and culture.

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“Quiet Quitting” Comes to Church

Empty church pews
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

The “Great Resignation” dominated articles regarding workplace trends for much of the pandemic. Frontline workers in high-stress occupations like hospitality, health care, and education were particularly likely to walk off their jobs. Clergy joined the trend, with nearly 40% of pastors confessing in late 2021 that they would seriously consider leaving full-time ministry.

But while The Great Resignation attracted much attention, a less obvious trend, “Quiet Quitting,” may prove to be more durable. Quiet Quitting, sometimes known as the “Great Disengagement,” occurs when employees resolve to do what they are required to do—but decline to “go above and beyond.” A worker who is Quiet Quitting may appear to be productive, but their productivity is apt to stagnate over time. In schools and universities, teachers and professors bemoan the phenomenon of disengaged students. Quiet Quitting has its religious counterpart as well, as the proportion of Americans who report they “never attend religious services“ jumped from 25% pre-pandemic to 33% more recently.

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Life after Death for Congregations

For perhaps the first time in American history, more congregations are disappearing every year than are being born. But even in decline, some are finding new ways to serve people and communities.

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Who Are We and Why Are We Here?

When he was running as a third-party vice presidential candidate in 1992, Admiral James Stockdale was widely mocked for asking at the beginning of the VP debate, “Who am I? Why am I here?” The timing of the question was admittedly odd, but the question itself is spot on. Every individual, and every congregation, needs to ask itself such questions periodically. The questions of identity and purpose are essential to effective congregational life.

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