Every congregation, Presbytery and Synod is different. The key to successful transformation is to build on a congregation's strengths, and listen for the direction that God is calling. When a process is on the right path, God's path, the results are new energy, deepened spirituality, and a fulfilling sense of following in the footsteps of the one who transformed a rag-tag group of individuals into a world-changing Christian movement.
The process we use with any congregation is unique we design each process based on the reality of a congregation's situation. That means the first thing we do is sit down with a small group from the congregation and ask two questions: "Where are your now?" "Where do you want to be at the end of the transformation process?" We then design the specific process that we think will take you where you want to be and submit that in a proposal that includes costs and timeline. It is then the congregation's choice if they wish to proceed or not.
"We want our congregation to be vital and alive!" We've been working at the Congregational Life Centre these past ten years to make that wish come true for main-line congregations.
Where lay leaders and clergy really want that to happen, the results have been outstanding. Congregations experience a deep sense of identity, a focused vision, a deepened spirituality, and renewed energy.
Our process involves four phases: Information Gathering, Assimilating, Strategizing, and Implementing. It is a process available to a congregation, or for that matter a Presbytery, Synod, or any body in the church.
In this phase all the information essential to discern what God wants for the congregation is gathered. This includes exploring the gifts of individuals, the strengths of the congregation, identifying who is coming and why, and identifying who in the community is not coming.
This is also the time when dreams and values are shared, and when understanding the role that leadership has in the life of the congregation is developed.
Interviews are conducted with various agencies in the community to identify potential partnership possibilities and ministries that may be missing in the community.
Once the information is gathered the assimilation phase provides the opportunity to reflect on the data and discern some possibilities for the life and work of the congregation.
The key event is normally a workshop in which members of the congregation are able to articulate their vision and their mission, and begin to explore the possibilities for ministries that use their strengths and match identified needs.
When a number of clear possibilities emerge, the next step is to develop a strategy for achieving them - in other words a plan. This phase includes articulating the goals, objectives, and actions that constitute an exciting, energizing plan. It also includes identifying the types of support that will be needed to implement the plan.
This is the time to recruit a "Dream Team" whose task is to lead the congregation through the steps necessary for implementation. This may include members of the Transformation Leadership Team that have brought the process to this point. The appointment of a new group recognizes the fact that the skills to negotiate and facilitate action are different from those required for a planning process.
Only one step remains, to "make it so" as Jean Luc Picard puts it on Star Trek. This is where many fine planning processes falter. Dealing creatively with the blocks and being intentional about the use of resources will make it so.
Centre staff continue to work with the congregation's Dream Team, encouraging and providing advice.
A valuable resource during this process is our book Wings Like Eagles. It outlines the five areas key to congregational health: vision, spirituality, leadership, identity and creative contact with the people who form the congregation's context - the community the congregation serves.
There are a number of gifts that staff from the Congregational Life Centre bring to a transformation process:
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