It’s fine to say, “We’re one big family. We agree to disagree.” But when the disagreement is about a matter of fundamental principle, such as who can be recognized as a full member of the family, it’s not so simple.
Is your board members’ time well spent? Ask them! If your board is like many others, you’ll tap into a deeper well of dissatisfaction than most leaders suspect.
Churches and synagogues often serve as incubators for soup kitchens, food pantries, nursery schools, retirement homes, arts programs, and other worthy ventures. Once those ventures are established, how much control should a congregation have over them?
It’s not easy being a pastor, priest, or rabbi. People come to congregations bearing an incredible variety of hopes and aspirations. When reality falls short—as it inevitably does—the clergy leader often takes the fall. That process is almost always painful, even when it turns out to be a good thing for all concerned. A lot of clergy fail, but others manage to avoid the pitfalls and succeed despite the odds. A key to success is to remember that the congregation’s mission, not its minister, is the central issue.
Every year about this time, I get calls from lay and clergy leaders who want help writing a mission statement. They hope that with a clearer sense of mission, their congregations will stop reliving yesterday and start building tomorrow. I think they’re on the right track, and once upon a time I would have joined them in the mission-writing process. But today I usually suggest starting instead with a vision statement.
Some churches grow, and others shrink. Most oscillate for decades around a size that it finds comfortable. When a church gets too small for its own comfort, it plugs newcomers into spots left vacant by those who have departed. When it grows too big, it lets newcomers know they are not needed. This oscillation can go on for decades, till it is disrupted by strong outside forces such as a growth-oriented pastor, a sudden run of deaths, or an influx of unusually determined visitors.
Planning only matters if it makes a difference to your congregation’s work. If, after a weekend of planning, staff and volunteers wake up Monday morning and do just what they did before, then all your planning was for naught. Grand statements of mission and vision have no value unless someone turns them into action steps.