Why read this blog?
There are hundreds and hundreds of blogs focused on the struggles of organized religion. Many of them seek to provide solutions. It’s the same phenomenon that you find with books addressing the decline of the church. If you read a list of book titles written over the last three decades on growth and development in the protestant church, and line it up with the trends of the church, it’s easy to see not only have we not solved the problem, things have gotten worse, not better. While the debate has mostly been about the nature of leadership, and rightly so, the main problem for years has been the characterization of the problem.
Here is what I hope to accomplish by offering this weekly blog.
It turns out what “works for them” doesn’t work for us.
When I started ministry 22 years ago, I was swept up in the “it worked for us” movement. I shuttled congregational leaders to one training after another, hoping against hope that somehow what was working in one congregation would magically translate into the congregation I served. The trainings typically resulted in enthusiastic, motivated leaders returning home only to discover how unprepared they were to address the challenges of implementation.
Church strategies are often prescriptive instead of descriptive
The blogs, articles and books that seem to gain the most notoriety have some version of “Ten steps to . . . “ or “Five things every leader should . . . “ or “Twelve ways to kill . . .” in their titles. While any of these prescriptions can be useful in terms of techniques, they often fail to sufficiently understand the underlying processes. So much of the training leaders receive is designed to combat a problem that has not been adequately explained. It’s as if we’ve been taught how to fly an airplane without learning the effects of wind. In the absence of a storm, the flying is effortless. However, kick up the wind speed several knots, and everyone starts decrying and arguing about a new paradigm shift that no one can quite figure out.
When talking about a new paradigm, it’s important to focus more on process and less on content; to focus more on thinking and less on reacting.
This can be a difficult distinction to make and more than likely I’ll spend time on this blog page attempting to articulate the difference. Much of what is being offered has more to do with content than with process. And because of that, it tends to be more reactive than thoughtful. My aspiration in writing this blog is to be a resource to leaders who are interested in being good thinkers about the problems they face. The reality is we live in a highly anxious time. It can be challenging to find clarity in one’s thinking while surrounded by well intentioned congregants who are anxious about current circumstances.
I hope this blog becomes known as a place for individuals from various faith communities to think differently about how we gather as congregations and what good leadership looks like in our various contexts. If you find it useful, I hope you will share it with others. I hope you will participate in the conversation. Your feedback is important to me. Finally, I hope this blog leads to broader conversations about what it takes to lead the people we so deeply care about and are called to lead.