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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

We Can See Clearly Now

by John Wimberly

As a consultant, when I first meet with the leadership of a congregation, I ask them a straightforward question: “What is your congregation’s primary purpose, your driving reason for being?” Usually, the response is halting, filled with qualified statements, and includes a laundry list of things the congregation does. The exchange leaves me and the leaders with one clear conclusion: they aren’t sure what their primary purpose is. They have purposes. But not one, clear, driving purpose.

I can receive this response even in congregations that have recently gone through a strategic planning process. They emerge from the planning exercise with goals and strategies. But a clear, passionate sense of purpose? Too often, it is missing.

How do we practice change?

by Sarai Schnucker Rice
Congregations unavoidably, inescapably, inevitably, unalterably change. Which is really a good thing, of course, or we would still be lighting our sanctuaries with candles and timing our sermons with sundials.

So, given the inevitably of change, how do we make it possible for our congregations to move their furniture around, sing different songs, change staff, and follow God’s ongoing call to them without coming apart in the process? How do we practice change?

Four Ingredients of Successful Congregational Change

by David Brubaker
How can congregational leaders make needed changes without incurring wrenching conflict? In addition to working as part of a Team, successful change leaders set a Tone of invitation and listening, take Time to understand the system and to earn the right to propose change, and nest their congregation’s story in Theology–their larger sacred story.

On Your Mark—Get Set—Stop—(and Reflect)—Plan

by John Wimberly
When a congregation is bleeding, the bleeding needs to stop before anyone can step back and think big picture. But a key to discerning God’s will is to stop listening solely to ourselves and the world so that we can be truly open to the new things to which God is calling us. Do our planning processes include an intentional openness to being surprised; to being quiet and listening for God’s will?

The Rabbis

by Dan Hotchkiss
The job was to facilitate what may have been the most diverse and ecumenical gathering of rabbis ever. For this three-day rabbinical retreat, I had prepared three days’ worth of material. But I became an awed spectator of a learned debate, with lasting admiration for the willingness of fourteen rabbis to struggle with their differences in the name of a shared purpose.

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

by John Wimberly
Occasionally, congregations are presented astounding opportunities to grow. One of those opportunities is upon us. The opportunity is called the Millennial Generation. We have 80 million people between the ages of 18-33, 86% of whom say they believe in God, and we are bemoaning the future of our congregations? In Wisconsin, where I grew up, that is called “looking a gift horse in the mouth.” read more…

“What’s Good about That?”

It’s good to pay attention to what’s going well. Most congregations—like most people—can accomplish more by building on their strengths than worrying about how to fix everything that could be better. Sometimes that’s all it takes. But at other times, wise leaders need to add an extra twist and ask, “What’s good about this?” This simple question takes appreciation to a higher level. read more