Meaning-making and belonging are core human needs. For parents and others who care about children’s future, another urgent need is to pass along our values to the young. While not every congregation excels at meeting all three of these needs, nearly every congregation tries. How can congregations respond to those needs both for their members and for those who are now looking elsewhere?
Chaos is a natural by-product of innovation. Innovation happens best in conditions of upheaval, disturbance, and dissonance. However, people expect their leaders to keep things calm, predictable, and orderly. How do we coax order out of chaos without squelching innovation?
We live in a culture that trains us to think of problems as “our problems.” As pastors, too often, we think that we must figure out how to grow the church, make sure the budget is balanced, and ensure that programs are well attended. I certainly did. Many of my colleagues feel the same way. It is a heavy burden to bear.
We’re all familiar with the universal symbol for “pause.” It’s those two parallel lines we tap when we want the music or the video to stop playing. But there are also times when individuals and organizations need to hit pause and take time to consider what comes next.
Years ago a bright Yale student asked me how I would describe the difference between a church and any other charitable group. I gave the sort of answer I imagine many of us might give. I emphasized the church’s unique life-transforming mission and its special responsibility to transmit precious traditions across generations.
It was a good answer, but today I am afraid I’d have to add that of all nonprofits, congregations—and especially mainstream, relatively liberal ones—are among the most cautious and least willing to accept risk in order to fulfill their mission. We’re not alone. Many sleepy charities, government agencies, and old-line businesses also avoid risk. But where risk is concerned, many congregations fall into the slow group.
How does a leader say, “I don’t know what to do next,” without seeming indecisive?
Do congregational leaders place enough value on communication skills and management?