About the Contributor
Having to manage any organization is a difficult task that often requires ample experience, sometimes even further education and training. That's because there are so many things that you constantly need to be on the lookout for and there is always something that may go wrong at the last minute. That is also why if you're someone tasked with the responsibility to manage a congregation, you may be finding it a difficult job to do, especially if you are in the growth phases. What you need is a community to help you learn.
Fortunately, the Congregational Resource Guide (or the CRG) can point you toward Health Congregations - an interfaith organization that offers leadership lessons to people who are new to the management of a congregation or just need some help along the way. It helps religious leaders by giving them access to training sessions, workshops, books, and a ton of other resources, both in real life and on the internet.
The Healthy Congregations facilitator training is also there to help you learn how to manage your organization from day one so that it is in the best possible condition. During these training sessions, you will be able to participate in case studies, get one-on-one consultations, and receive coaching from already established professionals in the field.
Furthermore, Health Congregation's workshops are a terrific way to connect with other people in a similar situation to yours. This chance to build your network may turn out to be extremely helpful in the future, as it will give you peers who can help with your congregation's issues from first-hand experience.
Additionally, you can always access Healthy Congregations' resources as they are online and can be helpful if you are in need of some additional learning on how to create a healthy congregation for all members.
Striving to be an asset to one's neighborhood is a worthy cause. This is an easy endeavor to overlook, but it is worth thinking about. Too often, people underestimate just what a strong, healthy congregation can do to transform a community and promote togetherness and compassion within it. Additionally, some may view a congregation as an old-fashioned entity. We should perhaps ask ourselves: why is that? What can we do to change it? Maybe, we haven't given people a good enough reason to want to be a part of a religious community.
We can change that by serving a good example to everyone in our circle of friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We can oversee a neighboring movement, where we help others and guide them toward us rather than push them away by making them feel like outsiders. Moreover, we can show the type of people that congregations help create - compassionate, loyal, with love in their hearts. Congregations can show their communities that they are people who are willing not only to be a part of the community but also to actively engage in it and help others thrive socially, economically, and spiritually, whether that's by giving loving advice or by organizing charity events. It's also good to start slow - at the beginning just do what is right, without mentioning what's guiding you to do it. Then once, the people around you start noticing and asking questions, you can give your honest answer - that you rely on faith to guide you.
If you want to learn more about how to become a good neighbor, then you might consider consulting the Congregational Resource Guide (CRG) for the neighboring movement sermon series. There you will be able to read more about what you can do to strengthen your community by encouraging your congregation to act. There are also a ton of other resources that will give you tips on how to start positively influencing your community.
It is difficult to determine what makes a congregation healthy. Is it the fact that it has a ton of young members or that it is able to manage conflicts well?
However, even though every organization is unique and has its own take on what makes it successful, there are a few key characteristics of a thriving church that all congregation leaders should take into account:
Church committee descriptions resources are vital, and every healthy congregation should have a clear understanding of all the roles in its committee and what their responsibilities are. It is a good practice to have all that written down in a description book with policies and processes. Additionally, every congregation should also know what's happening with its resources at any given moment and have a good strategy to manage them.
Moreover, most thriving congregations also have leaders that have gone through transitional ministry training. This additional learning experience enables them to assist the congregation in difficult times when it's going to a transition from one pastor to another.
A few other characteristics of a thriving church include:
- always focusing on what you have, then on what you don't.
- helping people in your congregation lead better lives by organizing seminars, training sessions, and additional teachings.
- creating an engaged community.
- giving your people artistic freedom to express themselves.
- organizing gatherings where members can bond by sharing food.
Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. Needs may vary from one congregation to the next. That said, this list is certainly a good place to start for most congregations. You can always do additional research on the CRG and find other resources that may help you make your congregations thrive and expand.
Center for Healthy Congregations
Have you ever heard of the saying “healthy pastors, healthy congregations”? In case you haven't, make sure to remember it in the future, as this mantra tends to hold weight and can even be helpful in certain situations.
Leaders are extremely important to any community. Usually, they're the ones that will lead in a certain direction, they dictate the mood and the overall success of the organization. The same applies to congregations. That's why whenever spiritual leaders seem a bit out of sorts, it's good for them to have places where they can receive the needed advice.
If you're a pastor that's currently feeling down or lost, then you can pay a visit to a center for healthy congregations. Usually, these are places where one can attend training sessions, get church health consulting or get one-on-one coaching. Remember, that it's absolutely normal to feel a bit hopeless or out of sorts from time to time. In those situations where you're unsure of how you can help your community, it's best to forgo shame and seek some outside help.
The people working in centers for healthy churches will be able to share with you best practices and give you advice, no matter what situation you're currently in. Most of them have previous experience with working in congregations or have been working with people in that field for a long time, so their advice has been well-tested already.
If you're feeling unsure about visiting a center in real life, due to Covid concerns, you can always take part in a webinar or check out the resources that are available on the internet, especially on the CRG. Additionally, a ton of centers now offer coaching online and pre-recorded training sessions, so that you can get the needed help without leaving the comfort of your home. You can find many of these on the CRG as well.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Oftentimes members of your congregation will rely on it for financial support whenever they're facing difficult times. And that's perfectly normal, as it should be a community that can support one another, whenever help is needed. However, all that is easier said than done, as getting the funds to be able to support all congregation members is not an effortless endeavor.
That's why learning how to manage the financial aspect of your congregation is extremely important. The most difficult thing is that it's not easy at all, since it would require quite a bit of knowledge in the financial field. This is where public service loan forgiveness can come into play.
Oftentimes, the people tasked with managing the resources can get into a dire situation due to a lack of financial knowledge. However, that shouldn't worry you all that much. If your congregation is struggling to give financial aid to members or to sustain itself, then you can check out the seminary debt assistance programs that are available. In case your organization is eligible to apply for some of them, get some help and start filling out the application forms.
These programs are extremely helpful, as they're designed to help not only struggling congregations but also members of the community who are having financial issues. That includes:
- already retired church members, who need housing or financial aid
- current church workers that have found themselves struggling to meet ends and need assistance
- pastors, who need aid to finance their further education such as paying for a vocational leadership training
Of course, there are other ways to get funds to the congregation such as organizing sales, charity concerts, selling artwork, or getting a well-known person to support it. However, those can take a lot of time to get organized and aren't all that helpful when you need the money quickly. They work better in the long run when you're trying to collect more funds to have in the bank, so you should definitely do them, regardless of the current financial situation of your congregation.
If you are looking for a resource with a wealth of congregational knowledge on how to grow a healthy congregation, explore the CRG today. We offer many different resources on how to manage financial burdens while still maintaining a healthy congregation, and you may find some that match your congregation's specific needs.