Wherever I go in my consulting work I ask, “How do you keep track of membership and financial data?” More times than not the answer is, “We use (whatever software vendor) but it doesn’t really work all that well for us.” Since managing financial and membership data effectively is crucial, how can we avoid this all-too-common problem in the lives of congregations?
by Dan Hotchkiss
When someone gets a new idea in your congregation, whom do they call? The clergy leader? A board member? The front-line office person—the executive director, secretary, or administrator—often manages the incoming stream of helpful hints, complaints, requests, suggestions, and reform proposals. The flow of bright ideas is a sign of life, part of the background hum of a healthy congregation.
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.
Most congregations occupy buildings. They gather for meetings around long or round tables in the library or parlor. They worship in the sanctuary. They learn in classrooms. And when they want to eat, they organize in the kitchen and sit together in the fellowship hall. Their buildings have been designed for these kinds of activities, and these activities are shaped by their buildings.
Each year, thousands of musicians, educators, clergy, office workers, and custodians start new jobs in congregations. If all goes well, the new staff member will eventually become an energetic, well-respected, and productive member of the team. The staff member helps to make this happen, but so do the governing board, the head of staff, and other supervisors. I will share some thoughts first for the top leadership, then for the new staff member directly.
by Sarai Schnucker Rice
Congregational leadership is actually always collective, not singular. In a continual process of discernment, decision-making, praying, studying, and shared living, the faith leader and members together create the congregation. Sometimes they do a good job together and other times not so much, but each brings something to the table and each is responsible for the congregation’s faithfulness.