This congregational assessment from Holy Cow Consulting provides benchmark data to inform decisions about identity, clergy search, strategic planning or a financial campaign.
A generation ago, observers noted that growing congregations were ones that gave clear (right and wrong) directions about life. These were homogenous gatherings. People essentially looked the same. Those gathered represented, shall we say, the same demographics.
Directions included moralistic edicts about the best and worst way to be, say, married, to manage finances, to raise children, to pray to God, and so forth. The rules were about life, yes, but the leaders of these growing congregations were clear. They were clear about what the Bible directs concerning the right way and the wrong way. Listeners agreed, for the most part, because they were from the same locus in life.
Exchange for moral direction was the not-so-veiled expectation that participants would raise their hands to support running the congregation. We need teachers, please sign up. Please serve on the building and grounds committee, we need you this year.
Now, a generation later we can do better.
Why not a community that gives more attention to your one and only life, and exploration of the world, than the needs of the institution? Why settle for being a volunteer when you could be where the action unfolds, where life sails to adventures unknown.
God’s dream is not congregational growth but the development of human beings.
Congregational life doesn’t have to be transactional. It can be transformative.
Rabbi Edwin Friedman said, “If you are going to preach, for heaven’s sake, make it about life.”
Why shouldn’t your congregation’s purpose provide trail markers of meaning, helping you navigate the ever-increasing demands of life?
Participation isn’t about right and wrong. Your participation in a congregation isn’t, without equivocation, accepting a particular ancient dogma. Instead, participation is about meaning-making today — now — not centuries ago.
Certainly, your congregation needs to pay attention to its organizational life. You need people attending to budgets, the condition of the facility, the Facebook page, the agenda for the board meeting, the proper equipment for live-streaming, and so forth.
Yet, if attention to operations subtracts from supporting your life (and the lives of people in the community and, indeed, the world), then you will feel (and it is a feeling) that participation lacks adventure.
This isn’t just about what is good for your soul.
Scientists identify a segment of the brain that encourages adventure. This segment is located in a primal area. This primal area comes alive when you experience adventure, the unknown, the precarious. This neuro-theological discovery demonstrates our propensity for sampling the unknown. God is found in the yet-to-be-experienced, the yet-to-be-explained.
When living life well (soul and brain) is not primary, your congregation becomes a membership organization in which the primary purpose is to recruit volunteers to sustain the organization (think recruitment of the finance committee). Those with a strong sense of obligation will stay engaged. Others will drift away and find adventure elsewhere.
Vigorous congregations direct attention to the brilliant multiplicity of life. Best practices don’t exist. Life is too complex and contextual. You might find yourself praying in idiosyncratic ways. You are free to ask essential questions (What does systemic racism look like?). Your congregation serves as a resource about any number of crucial matters: anti-racism, parenting, finances, justice, vocation, character-building, living with ambiguity, and for sure, how these matters shape your connection to the Divine.
No wonder an increasing number of congregations find that they don’t need a building. They don’t need volunteers. They go without a strategic plan. They meet at dinner tables, or near a garden, or in a neighbor’s basement.
During COVID-19, one pastor says, “We scraped the plans for a family life center. Instead, we will help people be, broaden their families. Nope, no building needed to do this. Let’s honor God by taking the walls down, rather than paying for more construction.”
What’s the risk if your congregation testifies about enigmatic epiphanies? The need for buildings, budgets, clean carpet, and new attendance sheets become secondary at best.
You feel (yes, it is a feeling) congregational life is more like summer camp, an anti-racism rally, or a spiritual retreat — than an institution.
It’s about life. It’s not about the congregation as an end unto itself.
What matters most in your life?
Ask (beg, borrow, and steal) your congregation to participate in your growth about such matters. It isn’t about the right or wrong way to live. Why draw such a boundary?
Instead, congregational participation is about your life, and the lives of others, with whom you share the world. All of it is messy, ambiguous, mysterious, and ultimately how developmental (rather than moralistic) character growth emerges.
Such a sense of belonging, learning, and growth is rare (particularly for adults). Yet, consider how your religious community can, and must, make room for meaning-making opportunities.
I feel (yes, a feeling) closer to the Divine Mystery at summer camp than I have at a congregational board meeting. I’ve experienced the Great Beyond in the holy space between and among others, not passively listening to a preacher who instructs one right way to live as a trade-off for serving as an institutional volunteer. It is like the Divine Mystery has escaped the building and is free-flying through the air.
As Frederick Buechner wrote a generation ago (has it been that long?),
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
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Religious Leadership Resources
There may be religious leaders out there wondering how they can be more effective. Being a religious leader, after all, is most certainly a challenge. People who go to places of worship can tend to come from a variety of backgrounds. They come from all socioeconomic classes, have a variety of educational backgrounds, and can vary across age groups, such as children, adults, and the elderly. How, then, is a religious leader expected to be able to relate to all of these people? Religious leadership resources can be helpful.
Everyone has their own leadership style. At the same time, the world is changing. With this in mind, it may prove to be a good idea for religious leaders to make sure they are being effective leaders to the members of the congregation. That is why it can be helpful to take a look at outside resources from time to time. Change can be difficult, and stepping outside of the comfort zone can be hard. If religious leaders are able to successfully step outside of their comfort zones, however, they may very well have an easier time relating to everyone who walks through their doors.
When it comes to church leadership roles and responsibilities, it may be a good idea to take a closer look at free church resources. Some of these include church leadership resources. There are plenty of resources available online. For example, some religious leaders may find watching a video to learn more about new topics to be their preferred method, whereas others might like to read a few articles that can help them expand their leadership abilities. There are also four more courses that church leaders can take. Naturally, everyone has their own personal style, and each of these resources can be helpful to different religious leaders in varying situations.
Church Leadership Training Materials
When it comes to church leadership training materials, it can be good to look into building effective church leadership skills. When it comes to training leaders in the church, there are possibly going to be a lot of topics that have to be covered. For instance, there are religious leadership resources that can help religious leaders come up with fresh ideas for their sermons. That way, they might not have to talk about the same things over and over again. There are also leadership resources that can help church leaders learn how to incorporate music and videos into their sermons. That way, they will perhaps have an easier time holding the attention of people who come to their sermon. It can also prove to be a challenge for religious leaders to shift from the pulpit to the small group setting. This is a common topic that is often covered when it comes to church leadership materials.
The importance of church leadership is something that can perhaps not be overstated. That is why it can perhaps be a good idea to access a variety of materials. For example, it might be more interesting to watch a video; however, it can also be tempting for people to click outside the video and surf the Internet when they should otherwise be watching and paying attention.
This problem could be remedied by reading articles instead; however, in the case of articles, people can tend to doze off when they are staring at a wall of text. It could also be helpful to go to an interactive conference, which might represent a great way to train the next generation of leaders; however, this can be expensive. There are perhaps benefits and drawbacks that exist for every option.
Church Ministry Resources
There is a wide variety of church ministry resources available out there. When it comes to ministry leadership, some church administration training resources might prove to be helpful for specific ministries on the church ministry list. Fortunately, there are also free ministry leadership training options available.
For instance, just about every church is likely going to have a youth ministry group. There are helpful training resources that can assist youth leaders better relate to members of the younger generation. They are also ministry resources available that can help people who regularly conduct outreach programs in the community. These training resources can potentially help members of the ministry group learn how they can make a stronger impact on the local community. There are also church ministry groups that are attempting to take advantage of social media, as well as certain training programs that can help religious leaders take advantage of social media.
Ultimately, some resources could prove to be a good fit for specific ministries within the congregation. It can sometimes be seen as the responsibility of church leaders to figure out which of these resources are going to be able to play a helpful role in their specific ministry groups. When religious leaders take the time to explore all the options available, they may be able to better place their ministry groups in the best position possible to be successful.
Church Leadership Principles
There are a lot of church ministry tools and church elder resources available out there. And while some of these are tailored to specific religious organizations, there are still certain church leadership principles that can likely be applied to just about any organization, no matter the size.
First, religious groups may have to focus on modesty. Modesty can be a good quality to have because religious groups likely do not want to send the message that they are somehow wealthy or opulent. After all, religious groups are supposed to be nonprofit organizations. Another principle that religious leaders might benefit from focusing on is self-development. Many people will often turn to religious leaders when they are trying to figure out how to become better people. Church leaders will likely want to send the message that they are focusing on becoming better people, as well. That way, they can be seen as practicing exactly what they are preaching. Furthermore, integrity can be seen as another important quality to look for in a strong church leader. When members of the congregation look at their leader as a person of integrity, then they are perhaps more likely to be honest themselves.
Finally, religious leaders may also have to show the world that they are followers of a higher power. After all, that is oftentimes going to be seen as the ultimate goal for church leaders. If they are able to show members of the congregation they are following their religion’s teachings, their members may then also do the same thing.
Church Development Resources
For the vast majority of congregations, church development resources are possibly going to play an important role. There are plenty of church resources available out there. Nowadays, a lot of religious organizations have found themselves having to move online. Fortunately, though, there are plenty of resources for online churches, as well. By taking advantage of these church administration resources, religious leaders can perhaps more effectively relate to members of their congregation even if they have moved to a virtual setting.
Some churches are getting ready to transition back to in-person sermons as well. This can also be a challenge. It can be good for religious leaders to take a look at how they can upgrade their AV equipment, what they need to do to expand their congregations, and how they can incorporate music and videos into their sermons. These can all represent potential key parts of developing a strong religious organization.
It might also be a good idea for religious leaders to look inward, as this is another aspect of religious self-development. There is likely always going to be room to get better. If religious leaders are able to improve their abilities behind the pulpit and their small group settings with community outreach, they may be able to set their charges up to grow in the future.
Church Leadership Basics
There are lots of religious leaders out there who may be looking to get started. Among the most important church administration tools, it might be worth focusing on church leadership basics. No matter what the church administration structure may be, there are likely going to be several main church leadership training topics that are going to be covered.
For example, motivation can sometimes be seen as one of the most important parts of first leadership. Religious leaders are usually going to be expected to motivate members of the congregation to live their lives in a certain way. Therefore, these religious leaders will learn how to motivate others.
Another key topic that is likely going to be covered is love. There are plenty of verses in religious texts that can be found which focus on love, and it may be the case that religious leaders need to teach members of the congregation to love other people, no matter who they might be. After all, if people love one another, the world will be a better place.
Outreach can represent another important leadership quality among religious leaders. Religious leaders are likely going to be expected to evangelize, and to recruit members of the local community to become members of the church. This topic might turn out to be an important area of focus during the process of church leadership training.
These may be just a few of the most important basics to consider when it comes to church leadership and all of these qualities may prove to be helpful in building the future leaders of tomorrow.
How To Train Church Leaders
Ultimately, the necessity to train church leaders is one that perhaps cannot be overstated. Developing leadership skills in the church can be critical for helping set up religious groups for success in the modern era. For those who might find themselves wondering how to train church leaders, there are perhaps a few key steps to follow.
First, it might be good to try and find the right people. Look for people who have already experienced standing in front of others, leading a group, or who have specific religious training.
Next, figure out what their goals are. Do they want to be small group leaders? Do they want to be financial treasurers? Or, do they possibly want to get behind the pulpit?
After that, it can be good to teach future religious leaders how to speak in front of other people. Public speaking is a common fear, but the best way to get over it may simply be to practice. Practice makes perfect.
Then, teaching religious leaders how to make lesson plans might be seen as a priority, in which they are taught how to go to religious texts, find verses that focus on the same topic and build an effective message. It can also be helpful to teach them how to build a small group lesson plan.
Ultimately, there is likely going to be no true replacement for experience. Future religious leaders may be able to practice leading others, however, and go a long way in helping set the church up for success.