Want to Know a Secret?

by Tim Shapiro

Here’s a secret for you. The Center for Congregations in Indiana has learned something while working with 3500 congregations that we want to share with you.

Ready? Here it is.

A congregation that uses an outside resource in concert with its own creativity is likely to effectively accomplish the new things it sets out to do.

What is an outside resource?
An outside resource is just about everything you will find while searching the Congregational Resource Guide. An outside resource might be a book. It might be a website. An outside resource might be consultant, a coach or a workshop.

What is a congregation’s own creativity?
You know that! Such creativity involves the skills and talents of clergy and laity. It includes the ideas generated by a high-energy team meeting. It encompasses “aha” moments after a time of prayer.

Working together
Learning to do something new in congregations almost always requires both: an outside resource and the congregation’s ingenuity. The inventiveness to do something new is limited when your congregation gives too much power to a resource, or, likewise, tries to go it alone.

Let’s say you are working with an architect to design a portion of your property set aside for an afterschool program. Yes, you want to learn from the architect. You will listen carefully to what she has to say. And you want to make sure the architect understands your congregation and honors your ideas. God is at work in this exchange.

Continue browsing the Congregational Resource Guide. Remember that you have agency over the resources you choose. And while you want to learn from such resources, don’t abdicate the fun of adapting what you learn to your particular context.

About the Contributor

Tim Shapiro

Tim Shapiro is the Indianapolis Center’s president. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. For 14 years, Tim served Westminster Presbyterian Church in Xenia, Ohio. Prior to his pastorate at Westminster, he was pastor of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Logansport, Indiana. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Tim’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation LearnsAfter his extensive work on the Center’s Sacred Space initiative, Tim co-authored the book Holy Places: Matching Sacred Space with Mission and MessageHe has also authored several articles, including Applying Positive Deviance and The Congregation of Theological Coherence.

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