Skip to content
November 5, 2012 / Richard Bass

Comments in response to “Welcome to Religious Polarization”

Reginald Bibby is a leading expert on religion in Canada. Those who are interested in religious trends in the world today should know his work.

A while ago I became aware of A New Day, an analysis of the state of religious practice in Canada that he was making available as a free download. I offered to help spread the word through Alban Weekly. The result is this week’s article, “Welcome to Religious Polarization,” and the inclusion of the print version of A New Day in our product line. It can be difficult and expensive to ship books across the Canadian-U.S. border, so we are hoping to make the book more accessible to U.S. customers who may be interested.

I find the framework of “polarization” a helpful one in looking at current trends. I’m grateful that Bibby doesn’t focus on the usual objects of polarization, such as the liberal and conservative arguments. Polarization is not an either/or choice; it is a rich continuum between two plausible and existent alternatives. For more information on polarities, see “Mapping the Virtuous Circle” by Roy Oswald and Barry Johnson, from their book, Managing Polarities in Congregations.

September 24, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “The Challenge to Change”

In “The Challenge to Change” (the September 24, 2012 Alban Weekly, adapted from Shame-Less Lives, Grace-Full Congregations), Karen McClintock explains the decline in church membership by first describing the experiences of a young woman she calls “Amanda.” After her first visit to a worship service, Amanda concludes that people seemed to “be suspicious of me.”

What caused the behavior that resulted in Amanda’s experiences? In McClintock’s view, it’s largely shame. Seeing Amanda evoked uncomfortable reminders of the church’s inadequacy on any number of issues—rote and boring worship, unresolved incidents of misconduct, the loss of young people from regular church participation. Shame, in the author’s words, “blocks our ability to grow and thrive.” And it’s only by openly reviewing past mistakes, accepting “our own congregational climates,” and acting on clear goals that something new and vital can emerge.

What resources can support you and your congregation in facing and resolving shame? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider The Faces of Forgiveness: Searching for Wholeness and Salvation and The Way of Forgiveness.

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward to hearing from you.

September 17, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Healthy Practices for Practicing Balance”

David Edman Gray’s article, “Healthy Practices for Practicing Balance” (the September 17, 2012 Alban Weekly, excerpted from Practicing Balance: How Congregations Can Support Harmony in Work and Life) emphasizes that congregational leaders can avoid burnout by establishing healthy practices, such as these: begin each day with a centering phrase; pray daily; care for your body; simplify your wants and needs; budget your money to live within your means; designate a quiet at-home space for rest; welcome the Holy Spirit into each part of your life; take vacations and go on retreats; spend time regularly with family and friends; and “don’t go to bed right after work.”

Gray notes that these practices have helped him and reminds readers of Annie Dillard’s statement that “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

What resources can help you to establish healthy practices? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, consider Addicted to Hurry: Spiritual Strategies for Slowing Down and Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward to hearing from you.

September 10, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Covenants of Leadership Behavior”

Gil Rendle’s “Covenants of Leadership Behavior” (the September 10, 2012 Alban Weekly, adapted from Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual and Organizational Tools for Leaders) explains why developing a “covenant of leadership” is essential to helping leaders develop and maintain behaviors that keep the values of their faith. The need for such a covenant is particularly pressing when attempts at change are sabotaged by “inappropriate, unhelpful, or indirect behaviors.”

Rendle offers an example of a governing board’s leadership covenant. It includes promises to God, to the church family, and to each other. Noteworthy among the promises are these: to “respect and care for each other,” to “listen with an open, nonjudgmental mind,” and to “discuss, debate, and disagree openly.”

The author also emphasizes that a covenant is not meant to enforce behaviors, but rather to raise behaviors to a level of awareness from which helpful conversations can ensue.

What resources might support you and your congregation in developing a leadership covenant? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider Behavioral Covenants in Congregations: A Handbook for Honoring Differences.

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward to hearing from you.

September 3, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Is E-mail the New Parking Lot?”

Susan Nienaber’s article, “Is E-mail the New Parking Lot?” (the September 3, 2012 Alban Weekly), narrates a few situations in which reliance on e-mail can backfire—particularly when e-mail is used to handle contentious situations.

Her article also explains five characteristics of e-mail that make it a poor choice for conflict resolution: (1) it’s impossible to read or respond to other people’s non-verbal body language; (2) uncertainty surrounding the time when others receive a message contributes to confusion and anxiety; (3) e-mail messages are more one-sided than spoken ones, making miscommunication more likely; (4) e-mail is not confidential; and (5) important conversations require “richer and fuller” interaction than is available through e-mail.

What resources can help open up fuller communication, especially in the face of conflict? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider the following: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Second Edition); The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results; and Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Tenth Anniversary Edition).

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward to hearing from you.

August 27, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Delighted and Disillusioned with Discernment”

n “Delighted and Disillusioned with Discernment” (the August 27, 2012 Alban Weekly, adapted from the recently revised and updated edition of Discerning God’s Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church), Charles Olsen comments on the growing interest in discernment as a spiritual practice. At the same time, he acknowledges the frustrations people have experienced when they’ve made a sincere effort to discern and follow God’s will, only to find that the outcome wasn’t as they had hoped.  Olsen’s response to these frustrations is to stay with the process of discernment.

In particular, advises Olsen, stay with the discernment process in the face of multiple world views, diverse personality styles, and even divergent biblical and doctrinal sources. Patient and prayerful discernment “may seem at times messy” as the “Spirit will often turn us on our heads.” But practice is always worth it.

What resources might help you and your congregation to engage fruitfully in a spiritual discernment process? In addition to items listed at the end of the book, please consider Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations and Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward o hearing from you.

August 20, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Discovering Work-Life Balance”

David Edman Gray’s “Discovering Work-Life Balance” (the August 20, 2012 Alban Weekly, adapted from the upcoming book, Practicing Balance: How Congregations Can Support Harmony in Work and Life) cites statistics which bolster Gray’s assertion that families are increasingly suffering from an imbalance between work demands and spiritual needs. Chief among these needs are to develop a deeper connection with God and to enjoy life more.

Part of the imbalance stems from the increasing need to have both spouses working longer hours in a precarious economy, as well as from technological advances that enable our work to follow us wherever we go. As a Presbyterian pastor, Gray has found through pastoral experience that “work-life imbalance is at the heart of many of the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual problems people face.”

Gray advocates greater workplace flexibility, as well as enriched spiritual practices, to support fuller attention to family lives and to “keep people emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy.”

What resources can support work-life balance? Please consider these items: Addicted to Hurry: Spiritual Strategies for Slowing Down; Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives; and Wrestling with Grace: A Spirituality for the Rough Edges of Daily Life.

And please check out the End of Summer Sale from Alban Publishing!

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward to hearing from you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers