Family or Institution?

by Dan Hotchkiss

A church or synagogue always is two congregations at the same time. One is the formal institution, governed under bylaws by elected officers and ministers and staff. This congregation has procedures, rules of order (whether Roberts or some new alternative), and stated decision-making methods. Each newcomer who joins has the full rights and privileges of membership. If you want to know how this congregation runs, you read its bylaws, policies, and job descriptions.

The other congregation is more like a family. Its leaders are selected for charisma and respect, and remain indefinitely in office. Decisions are made informally, according to unwritten rules. Newcomers are accepted slowly, and until they are accepted have little or no voice in the deliberations of the group, even if they hold high office. Some things are “done” and others are “not done,” and there is no introductory brochure to clue the stranger into the folkways of the tribe. read more

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

by Susan Beaumont

On airplanes, adults are told to put their masks on before helping others so they will be fully conscious. In churches, adults need to attend to their own spiritual consciousness before they can ably assist children and youth with faith formation.

Unfortunately, the way we structure our staff teams reinforces semi-conscious adult faith formation. We follow time-honored traditions of staffing faith formation in children and youth first. Then we staff the needs of the organization. We give left-over oxygen to our adults. Can we really “train up a child in the way he should go,” when the quality of adult faith formation is so far behind the quality of our children and youth programs? read more

“The tree this year is monkeys”

by Sarai Rice

As I write this, we are just hours away from the beginning of what I call “Happy-Thanks-Merry,” that period in the calendar year when secular and religious holidays align to create five golden weeks of charitable giving (and non-charitable spending). It was during this time last year that I heard the single most tantalizing statement I’ve ever heard in a council, session, or board meeting—an elderly woman’s announcement to the group that “the tree this year is monkeys.”

I was sitting with the council, waiting for my opportunity to explain why I hoped this small congregation would contribute to the capital campaign of the non-profit I direct, and even though it wasn’t my turn yet, I had to ask— read more

Rightsizing Teams

by John Wimberly

Building on my last post on teams, I want to talk a bit about the size of teams. As I researched my upcoming book on teams, I was surprised at the unanimity of opinion on this topic. Five to seven members is what research reveals to be the most effective number of people on a team. read more

Why All God’s Children Need to Plant New Spiritual Communities

by Susan Nienaber
One of the greatest joys of my new role as District Superintendent (and part-time congregational consultant) is that I am learning so many new and exciting things. In recent years my denomination has placed a strong emphasis on starting new churches. Clearly, congregations that are growing in vitality are the ones who best engage their immediate communities and this is the essence of what a new church start is all about. read more

Aligning our Congregational Systems

by David Brubaker
I’ve consulted with about 100 congregations and other organizations in the last 27 years, and in the last five years I’ve noted a distinct trend. Congregational and other organizational leaders used to contact me with a vague request for mediation or consulting services because “we have a conflict and we need help to resolve it.” In recent years, however, leaders have been much more likely to specifically request strategic planning or structure review processes—and often both together. I’ve experienced this shift as an encouraging move towards proactive rather than reactive intervention processes in congregations and other organizations. read more

The Short List

by Dan Hotchkiss

Sometimes it’s the simple ideas that are the most useful. I am continually struck by the way multiple priorities, distractions, interruptions, and alternative perspectives cloud my view each day. It is part of ministry, of course, to be “accessible”—which is to say, open to interruptions—but over months and years it is important to maintain sufficient focus to be able, at the end, to say, “This is what we did.”

The Short List is a concept I use to keep myself on track. The basic idea is that no one can keep in mind more than three or four major priorities at once…. (click to read more)