A Mormon anniversary: 4-6/7-13
Learning from the unaffiliated: 4-9-13

Transforming congregations: 4-8-13

I was supposed to be at Ghost Ranch, the national Presbyterian conference center, in northern New Mexico this week. My pastor, Paul Rock, and I were to lead a week-long seminar on ways to transform Christian congregations so they can be effective churches in the 21st Century.

GPS-tree-finalBut ranch personnel had to pull the plug on our class and several others this week when not enough people registered.

Still, the subject is important. And I thought that today it might be helpful if I directed you to some resources that might be useful for your congregation (whether Christian or not) as you think about how to do ministry in this new era.

A bit more than a year ago, the visioning task force I chaired for my congregation, Second Presbyterian Church of Kansas City, released its 51-page report, full of recommendations, to our congregation. And I want to direct you to an online copy of that, available here.

One of the most helpful things our "GPS Task Force," as we called ourselves, did was to pay attention to our current context and how that has changed over the last several decades. I really encourage you to do the same with your congregation.

So in our report we have sections called "The Reality Now" both for our world and for Second Church.

My guess is that much of what we report there will be similar to what you will find. Feel free to let our work guide you in this matter.

There is much to think about when it comes to transforming a congregation to do more effective ministry in a time of swirling change, but one of the things I can't recommend highly enough is transparency. As you go through a visioning process, don't limit your sources of thought just to members of the visioning task force. Rather, find ways to invite the thinking of the whole congregation.

We did this by holding many meetings with various groups within our church as well as doing regular reports on our progress and by creating an e-mail account as well as a blog where people could respond to what we were up to.

The thing you want to avoid is dumping a big report on a congregation without preparing the congregation to receive it well. Without such preparation, the report will seem to simply fall out of the sky (though not from God) and no one in the congregation will have any investment in it. If they've been part of the process, that won't happen, though for sure no one will like 100 percent of whatever is in the report.

A final thought: If you're really changing things in your congregation, expect some no votes, and expect that some of those votes will be expressed with reduced or withheld financial support. Just sayin'.

If Paul and I can be of help as you go through a visioning process, let us know. Well, let me know and I'll see if I can pull Paul into the process, too. I don't speak for or make commitments for my pastors.

(Also, I especially call your attention to the first in the "Related Posts" below, "Faith in a shifting world.")

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Pope Francis I was formally installed yesterday as the bishop of Rome, and he continues his theme of simplicity and openness. Watch. Pretty soon he'll be criticized for consistency.

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P.S.: A book about Irena Sendler, the late Polish heroine who helped to save 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and about the Kansas high school students who uncovered her story, soon will be published in Polish for the first time. I wrote about that book, Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, by Jack Mayer, last year here. And for a short YouTube video about the book in English, click here.


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