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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

Sustainable Change Comes from Within

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.

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Localism Flourishes As Denominations Decline

looking at a globe with a magnifying glass
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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.

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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.

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Why Lone Rangers Always Fail

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Leading a successful change process in a congregation, even a very traditional one, is possible. But to do so, a leader must earn the right to make that change and partner with others to make it happen. Lone-ranger leaders who ride into Dodge and transform an entire community exist only in the movies. In the reality of congregational life, we need a patient posse.

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We Can Only Change What We First Love

neon sign that says "love"
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

History’s most transformational change agents—Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others—engaged consistently in three kinds of activity: they built movements, they spent years working for change, and they demonstrated a deep love for the individuals and societies they were striving to change.

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