Skip to content
August 13, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “What’s the Problem?”

What’s the Problem?” (the August 13, 2012 Alban Weekly) discusses approaches to meeting the issues congregations face. Author Susan Beaumont holds that congregations can best address these issues not by prematurely favoring one answer over another, nor by confusing the symptoms with the problem itself, nor by formulating the problem so that it assumes an implied cause and implied solution. Rather, the best approaches include stating the problem objectively, keeping the statement limited in scope, and making certain that the problem statement answers the “so what?” test (that is, it addresses why a particular event would be viewed as a real problem).

Beaumont illustrates her points by offering the example of First Church, which wrestles with problems surrounding its traditional Sunday morning worship service. How First Church defines the problem, and how its leadership names the underlying causes, create the conditions that enable leaders to brainstorm solutions and decide upon action steps.

What resources can enable congregations to better define and approach their problems? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action through Narrative, The Competent Pastor: Skills and Self-Knowledge for Serving Well, and The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems.

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

August 6, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Matching the Message with the Moment”

In “Matching the Message with the Moment” (the August 6, 2012 Alban Weekly, based on Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life) Rabbi Hayim Herring offers a scenario in which members of a congregation are invited to “use their unique gifts to make our community and our world more perfect.” This invitation entails four specific areas of focus around which the congregation will be reorganized: (1) healthy living; (2) rich interpersonal relationships; (3) relating to the local community; and (4) relating to the global community. Each area will align with “what is both meaningful for people and still authentic to the Jewish tradition.”

Practices and principles guiding how re-organizational work will be done include action-oriented work groups, collaboration, and transparency.

What resources might support congregational reorganization and revitalization? In addition to the items listed at the end of the book, please consider The Self-Renewing Congregation: Organizational Strategies for Revitalizing Congregational Life; The Turnaround Church: Inspiration and Tools for Life-Sustaining Change; and Healthy Church DNA: Transforming the Church for Effective Ministry.

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

July 30, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Initiating the Conversation”

In “Initiating the Conversation” (the July 30, 2012 Alban Weekly, excerpted and adapted from Encounters with the Holy: A Conversational Model for Worship Planning) Barbara Day Miller extends her discussion of the POWR model for worship planning by explaining the purpose and basis for planning. She also explores how this model, conversational in nature, “is based on the belief that the Spirit works in and through our speaking and attentive listening.” By participating fully in the POWR processes, and by permitting the Spirit to do its work, worship planners can realize significant benefits.

Chief among these benefits are the following: the enrichment of preaching; greater accountability for leading worship; more time for worship preparation; greater support and effectiveness; and a more fulfilling experience of participating as a co-worshiper.

What resources can support readers in worship planning? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider these items: Designing Worship Together: Models and Strategies for Worship Planning; The Roundtable Pulpit: Where Leadership and Preaching Meet; and The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary.

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

July 23, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “How Your Congregation Learns”

How Your Congregation Learns” (the July 23, 2012 Alban Weekly) outlines a learning framework that can enable congregations, and their leaders, to develop new ways of thinking and acting.

The elements of this framework, says author Tim Shapiro, include the following seven activities: (1) finding and using outside resources; (2) acting from a theologically coherent worldview; (3) asking open-ended questions that promote active listening; (4) engaging both clergy and laity in learning together; (5) attending to rites of passage; (6) thoughtfully “slowing things down” rather than rushing to action; and (7) saying “no” to activities that matter less, even as new, more important initiatives are adopted.

Shapiro asserts that employing this framework fortifies “strengths already present in a congregation while also enhancing the congregation’s relationship to its mission.”

What resources might help you and your congregation to develop this learning framework? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider The Lost Art of Listening; Addicted to Hurry: Spiritual Strategies for Slowing Down; and Paying Attention: Focusing Your Congregation on What Matters.

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

July 16, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Learning from (Dis)ability”

In the July 16, 2012 Alban Weekly (“Learning from (Dis)ability“), Mark Pinsky reflects on what he learned and on how his life was transformed during the process of writing Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion. Among his discoveries were that it’s okay to “feel uncomfortable” and to not know what to say when you first meet persons with disabilities. They’ll understand, and you’ll get past those feelings.

Pinsky also learned that terminology matters. For example, referring to someone as a “person with a disability” (rather than a “disabled person”) encourages people to think of a disability as something an individual has—rather than something which defines a person in a particular way.

And a key discovery was that “Embracing people with disabilities in our congregations is not primarily a matter of money and architecture—although commitments to those things can help. For communities of faith everywhere, people’s hearts matter more than their budgets.” The people Pinsky spoke with, and stories he collected, confirmed that congregations of all kinds are welcoming those with disabilities, including wounded veterans. At the same time, there are congregations that resist becoming more welcoming and accessible.

What resources might help your congregation to become more welcoming to persons with disabilities? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider  “The American Association of People with Disabilities, Interfaith Initiative,” Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families, and Money and Ideas: Creative Approaches to Congregational Access.”

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

July 2, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Whither Interim Ministry”

Whither Interim Ministry,” (the July 2, 2012 Alban Weekly) explores both the reasons why a period of interim ministry following the departure of a minister can be fruitful, and the reasons why such a period deserves to be challenged.

Among the reasons for a one-to-two-year interim period are that well-trained interim ministers offer the “support and counsel” to help a congregation transition successfully; that interims enable congregations to talk about their past experiences and articulate their hopes for the future; and that (particularly when the prior ministry was long or ended badly) interims can balance any urges congregations may have to prematurely attempt a “transition back to normal.”

But among the challenges to interim ministry are that such ministries tend to foster the notion of a congregation being more “ill” than it truly is; that no one has “mounted a serious, objective study” on the long-term benefits of interim ministry; and that qualified interims may not always be available.

Nevertheless, author Dan Hotchkiss supports the position that ultimately, an interim period and interim minister are worth the effort and process involved. As he notes, the day after a long-time clergy leader leaves, a congregation may ask “Who are we? What shall we do next? With whom?” And Hotchkiss points out that “when asking questions of this kind, a companion who has been this way before can be a comfort and a help no matter how much—or how little—health is in us.”

What resources can support you and your congregation as you consider interim ministry? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider the Interim Ministry Network; The Elephant in the Boardroom; and “The Interim Period.”

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

June 25, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Discernment, Theology, and Prayer”

In “Discernment, Theology, and Prayer” (the June 25, 2012 Alban Weekly, adapted from Discerning Your Congregation’s Future: A Strategic and Spiritual Approach) Roy Oswald and Robert Friedrich explain how the longing to seek and do God’s will is “discernment.” This longing is grounded in a theology that understands God as one who is “willing to offer us direction and perspective if and when we are ready to surrender our willfulness and be open to receiving such direction.”

The authors point out that because it’s important to distinguish between God’s direction and messages that stem from our own confusion, a community of faith is essential for hearing and testing our options when we engage in discernment. As Oswald and Friedrich put it, “Through prayerful reflection and empathic listening, we can let the Spirit move within us and among us to build a consensus about what is the will of God.” Such listening—and the process it entails—is more faithful than “rational,” and ultimately more life-giving than “prudent.”

What resources might support you and your congregation in practicing discernment? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations, and Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community.

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