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Program Planning in Faith Communities
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6 Resources
For The CRG Created For The CRG
Talking About Racism

Many congregations are looking for resources to help them talk about racism. White congregations want to prepare for dialogue with their multi-cultural neighbors. They want to learn more about the historical roots of racism and how it has become ingrained through social and economic structures.


Among the many fine books available, there is one curriculum that stands out as practical, accessible, and free. White Privilege: Let’s Talk – a Resource for Transformational Dialogue is a free, downloadable curriculum from the United Church of Christ.


It is designed to engage participants in “safe, meaningful, substantive, and bold” conversations on race. The curriculum contains background reading, webinars, and a conversation guide.


To get a feel for the material, it may be helpful to watch one of the five accompanying webinars, such as Whiteness as the Norm. For congregations who want to delve more deeply into racial issues impacting communities of faith, take a look at https://thecrg.org/search/results?query=race.


For The CRG Created For The CRG
Creating a Good Virtual Worship Experience

I’ve “attended” several synagogue and church worship services over the last weeks and must report my disappointment. That’s a nice way of saying that most really stink. Live streaming a regular worship service just doesn’t work.



Remember that as soon as you put something on a screen, the viewer compares it to everything else they see on their screens. I’m not suggesting you need a full multicamera production, but sticking a laptop in front of the sanctuary does not cut it.



There are lots of churches which offer well done, live services online. Many are megachurches that do this weekly. You don’t have to match the professional productions of megachurches, but think about raising your standards of excellence.


Some things to keep in mind:




  • Is your sanctuary the best place to hold an online worship service? If it’s a large cavernous space, probably not since you’ll likely have audio and lighting issues.


  • Can people hear everything well? The microphone in a laptop or webcam isn’t adequate, especially if it’s not within 3-5 feet from the worship leader. Purchase a simple, inexpensive, USB microphone and move it close to your presenter. Better yet, get several lavalier type mics and a small mixer that feeds your computer.


  • Is the video clear and well lit? Even cheap, high definition webcams are better than most stock cameras in laptops (not necessarily true for some smart phones). And they’re inexpensive. A separate camera allows you to position the camera where it sees the best not where the computer sits best.


  • If you’re using one camera as a catch-all, keep the view tight. Have worship leaders stand close together. Most sanctuaries are too dark for video and lit to focus on certain spots that aren’t optimal for video casting.


  • Don’t ask people to download worship documents beforehand, include them in the experience. This is tougher to do since you’ll need a way to split the screen. If that’s not an option, an alternative is showing just the text during singing and responsive readings. Not only is it easier to view but helps break up the visuals and monotony.


  • If your worship service is boring it will be more boring on video. Consider modifying your normal service. Most importantly, make it shorter, focused and familiar. Remember, your audience is sitting in front of a computer or holding their phones. People want the familiar and the comfortable.


  • Form a team to help. That team may be two people, and that may be enough. Have someone else (not your worship leader) run the computer and handle technical issues.


  • Rehearse! Even if it’s 30 minutes before you go live, practice! You will find things you didn’t think about. Nothing kills the moment worse than congregants watching you mess around trying to fix stuff. Oh, and by the way, start on time!



Resources You Can Use
Here’s a great list of online church resources from PRC-Practical Resources for Churches.  
Using a cell phone and Facebook for livestreaming, check out https://thecrg.org/resources/introduction-to-live-streaming  
A guide to using Facebook Live can be found here: https://www.thecrg.org/resources/how-to-use-facebook-live-the-ultimate-guide

This article first appeared at https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/virtual-worship/

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Program Planning and Congregational Learning

Your congregation is likely working on something new right now. You may be exploring the possibility of a youth mission trip. Or maybe your finance team wants to take an entirely new approach to the annual fund drive. When your congregation takes on something first-hand, your organization actually engages in learning to do something new.

What is it like to plan a new activity for your congregation?

You instinctively know that you have to learn skills and new ways of thinking to accomplish a new project. That learning process is important. After working with more than 1,000 congregations, I’ve observed how congregations learn. Leaders and members go through discernible passages of learning, what I call the learning journey.

The Learning Journey

When you intentionally embrace the learning journey, program planning and implementation are often more successful. The learning journey helps you do more than a “quick fix” to sustain the congregation’s operations. The learning can help inform and align your congregation’s activities, so you can ultimately impact people’s lives.

For the last five years, I’ve been exploring how congregations learn and how such learning leads to effectively addressing challenges and opportunities. I’m excited that the book on this subject How Your Congregation Learns, published by Rowman and Littlefield, is now available. It will help you walk through the exploration, disappointments, rewards and challenges of your learning journey. Another excellent book on the subject of program planning is Projects That Matter by Kathleen Cahalan.

Let me know your thoughts on congregations as learning communities and the challenges of program planning by emailing me at tshapiro@centerforcongregations.org

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Leadership and Management

Many congregational leaders know the importance of clear mission and vision statements. However, congregational leaders are less capable at enacting plans.

Years ago, Kennon Callahan described this as “calling plays the players can play.” There are lots of visionary congregational leaders, but not so many who can pull off Vacation Bible School. There need to be more leaders who learn to put plans into action. There need to be more who can manage annual festivals, start a small group ministry or spearhead an outreach trip. As a congregational leader, dreaming the big stuff can be seductive. But sometimes leadership means being able to design an operational infrastructure that can support a new Advent program.

After all, what good is a vision if the website hasn’t been updated?

The difference between management and leadership

I know there is a difference between management and leadership. But I also think the difference of the two apply more distinctly to very large organizations. Given the scale of most congregations, the distinction between leadership and management is certainly smaller than for a Fortune 500 company.

The link between leadership and management in the congregation is learning. Effectiveness at both means a commitment to learning how to do something new. Sometimes it is not so much vision that is needed as the ability to learn to accomplish tasks. This dynamic is true for many in the congregational system. The dynamic of learning is not limited to the lead pastor or to the chair of the board.

Flourishing congregations

Congregations that flourish function as a learning community. This is true even if the congregation doesn’t call itself that.

There is an observable pattern among congregations which learn to do new things. This pattern goes beyond the distinctions between leadership and management. The specifics of this pattern differ from congregation to congregation. However, this pattern reveals the importance of plans and behaviors as a congregation moves through:

Is all this not theological enough?

This pattern is interestingly close to the pattern of revelation, identified by James Loder in his book The Transforming Moment. This pattern is at least as important, however less enticing, than having a vision. Sometimes good management is excellent leadership.

In terms of organizational learning, the book Immunity to Change from Kegan and Lahey provides a powerful perspective on how to manage any number of relational and missional challenges while leading and managing a congregation.

book
Projects That Matter: Successful Planning and Evaluation for Religious Organizations
This book describes a six-step process for designing and implementing a project evaluation, introducing project planning as a mission-related practice.
book
How Your Congregation Learns: The Learning Journey from Challenge to Achievement
This resource lays out a process for congregational leaders to move from identifying a challenge to solving the issue, a transition that takes form in the learning journey.
About the Contributor
Contributor
Tim Shapiro
Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – of which the CRG is a program. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. 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 Learns.
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