Grand visions have their place, as does strategic planning. But before a congregation can think freely and creatively about the future, it needs to believe it has what it takes to carry out whatever plans it makes. For a quick boost to congregational self-confidence, there’s nothing like succeeding at a project. So if your congregation needs its mojo boosted, it might be time to brush up your skills at leading projects.
The “Great Resignation” dominated articles regarding workplace trends for much of the pandemic. Frontline workers in high-stress occupations like hospitality, health care, and education were particularly likely to walk off their jobs. Clergy joined the trend, with nearly 40% of pastors confessing in late 2021 that they would seriously consider leaving full-time ministry.
But while The Great Resignation attracted much attention, a less obvious trend, “Quiet Quitting,” may prove to be more durable. Quiet Quitting, sometimes known as the “Great Disengagement,” occurs when employees resolve to do what they are required to do—but decline to “go above and beyond.” A worker who is Quiet Quitting may appear to be productive, but their productivity is apt to stagnate over time. In schools and universities, teachers and professors bemoan the phenomenon of disengaged students. Quiet Quitting has its religious counterpart as well, as the proportion of Americans who report they “never attend religious services“ jumped from 25% pre-pandemic to 33% more recently.
“We don’t have enough people to fill all of our positions.” I hear this complaint a lot, especially in congregations that are smaller than they used to be. Their official structure may call for a dozen or more boards and committees. Add it all up, and a congregation that sees 50 people on its pews feels obliged to fill up 60 or more seats around committee tables. Streamlining the official structure is a challenge, but with a clear plan and some determination, it can be done.
The church is a volunteer organization. Even the most staff-driven congregations rely on volunteers to make ministry work. The pandemic has impacted volunteerism profoundly, in ways not yet clear. Volunteerism isn’t bouncing back as readily as other aspects of congregational life. We can take steps to engage our volunteers more effectively now, while we wait to learn more about what the future holds.
Leaders of small congregations often say, “We can’t afford to hire as many people as we need.” Leaders of large congregations say the same thing! If your vision is ambitious, you will always need more staff than you can afford, no matter what resources you have at your disposal. Fortunately, there is another way.
Do your congregation’s leaders talk about getting boomer retirees more involved? If not, you are just standing by while millions of our neighbors retire.