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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

Why Congregations Sometimes Change

photo by Dan Hotchkiss

Organizations are famous for resisting change. Despite the best efforts of their leaders, who often want change more than anybody else, organizations, including congregations, reproduce this week what they did last week, this month what they did last month, and this year what they did the year before. That’s the rule. However, once in a great while an organization decides to do something truly different—and then actually does so.

Which raises two important questions: Why do organizations—or more generally, systems—resist change so strongly? And why do they sometimes change anyway?

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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.

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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.

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Learning to Get Big Projects Done

Young adults working and laughing together

Grand visions have their place, as does strategic planning. But before a congregation can think freely and creatively about the future, it needs to believe it has what it takes to carry out whatever plans it makes. For a quick boost to congregational self-confidence, there’s nothing like succeeding at a project. So if your congregation needs its mojo boosted, it might be time to brush up your skills at leading projects.

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Know-how and Decide-what

It is a truth all but universally acknowledged—especially in small congregations—that whoever does the work should call the shots. Musicians are responsible for music, educators manage children’s programs, activists organize for social change. In the chancel, everyone defers to the altar guild. The underlying principle is clear: “Those with know-how should decide-how!”

But sometimes we go even further and let people who know how also decide what the congregation should be trying to accomplish. I want to propose an improved rule: “Those with know-how should decide-how, but everyone should have a voice when we decide-what.”

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Reorganizing, Now That You’re Smaller

Photo by Hanna Morris on Unsplash

“We don’t have enough people to fill all of our positions.” I hear this complaint a lot, especially in congregations that are smaller than they used to be. Their official structure may call for a dozen or more boards and committees. Add it all up, and a congregation that sees 50 people on its pews feels obliged to fill up 60 or more seats around committee tables. Streamlining the official structure is a challenge, but with a clear plan and some determination, it can be done.

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