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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

Pondering a Map for Conversational Leadership

by W. Craig Gilliam
For the past year, I have been working with a group exploring the components of leadership and conversation. I believe good leadership involves courageous, honest conversation with self, others and God, thus, conversational leadership. In this article, we will discuss 7 components of conversational leadership that cultivates healthy congregations.

Developing a Restorative Congregation

While the great religious traditions teach the importance of compassion and reconciliation, what is often missing among the adherents of those traditions are practical ways of embodying compassion and striving for reconciliation. Restorative practices are increasingly being appropriated in local congregations as they offer effective mechanisms for compassionate communication and restoration of relationships.

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Leading in an Age of All-or-Nothing Conflict

Pastor Bethany feels like a punching bag. For the past decade her denomination has held wrenching debates at its national conference about how to respond to individuals in same sex relationships who desire to be ordained to ministry, and members of her congregation are increasingly losing patience with the “dialogue.” Polarization has set in and Pastor Bethany feels trapped in the middle.

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Valuing our “Agents of Stability”

by David Brubaker
Much of the current literature on congregations focuses on why and how congregations must change. On the ground, we celebrate congregational leaders who are able to “revive a dying church” or “grow a struggling synagogue.” And those of us who work with congregations are often called in to assist in designing or implementing a change process. In a time of dramatic changes in our congregational environments, skilled agents of change (both internal and external) are indeed sorely needed.

Discernment and Decision Making

Think about some of the major decisions you’ve made in your life—whom to marry … or not; whether to have children … or not; where to attend university … or not; what congregation to attend … or not; what profession to pursue; and where to retire. From the day we can think independently until the day we stop doing so we constantly make choices and decisions. “Life is the sum of all your choices,” said the French philosopher Albert Camus.

Now think about how you made those major decisions. Did you gather information before deciding? Did you consult with certain trusted individuals? Did you pray about it? Whether as an individual, a family, or a congregation, how we go about making decisions will largely determine the quality of those decisions. Process matters as much as outcome primarily because the process that we use tends to shape the outcome.

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The Importance of Shared Identity and Purpose

by David Brubaker

Since every congregation occupies a spectrum of beliefs and values, all congregations experience conflict. Most manage their differences with grace and respect, while others—with no greater disagreements—blow apart. Why do differences tear some congregations asunder, while most manage them with relative aplomb? (read more)

The Congregation as Community

by David Brubaker

I love being part of a “church family.” It feels warm and comforting, and I look forward to seeing my spiritual “sisters and brothers” (along with a number of “cousins”) every Sunday morning. But adopting a “community” metaphor will be healthier for most congregations than persisting with a “family” metaphor. When we think of our congregations only as “families” our greatest desire may be to nurture and protect them. When we think of them primarily as “communities” our question may become, “how do we release them?”

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