Deep change or slow death : a practical road guide for the highway of change
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This learning manual is written to aid pastors and other congregational leaders who sense that real, significant change is needed in the churches they serve but who feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the transformation challenge. The manual may be used profitably by a church session or governing board to explore the foundational issues of church transformation and to actively set in motion a process for such change.
The manual is comprised of a series of practical learning sections that may be distributed for independent readi ng and then discussed in a variety of group settings by sessions or governing boards: regular meetings, retreats, devotions, and workshops. Most often this will happen at regular meetings of the session or board in the form of "compressed learning" — i.e. intensive, "on the run" or "squeezed" learning that uses exercises and reading assignments that can be handed out and discussed as a group.
The manual's overall focus of study is congregational transformation, and more specifically, the process for leading and realizing such transformation. The manual is written by a pastor of a medium-sized Presbyterian congregation that has been experiencing membership decline for more than ten years due to a variety of factors. The manual is written in the hope that it will aid other congregations experiencing decline to the end that these declines may be reversed and new growth (in membership, in morale, in spiritual maturity and focus) increasingly realized. The change model recommended here wi ll be most appropriate for congregational transformations carrying a high level of task complexity. It may be used in both congregational transformations that involve tower levels of conflict and in those that i nvolve higher levels of conflict, with adjustments in emphasis. In describing the change model I have written largely with medium-size to large congregations in view, but the change model may be used profitably by smaller congregations as well with some necessary adjustments.
The principle of the "priesthood of all believers," and the principle "the church reformed, always reforming," are two key theological principles that inform this manual and serve as its goals. As congregations share many characteristics with other organizations generally, leadership and management principles from the larger literature of organizational management are drawn upon as well. The principles derived from the secular leadership literature are assessed and revised as it has seemed appropriate to ensure that they do not conflict with the church's Christian faith and practice.
The manual is organized as follows. The Introduction sets forth the reality facing many, perhaps even most, mainline or "old line" congregations today — the "deep change or slow death dilemma. " It then introduces the manual's basic structure and educational approach.
The body of the manual treats the following topics.
- Part One exam ines the relationship between leadership and congregational transformation.
- Part Two explores issues relating to the congregation's readiness for transformation.
- Part Three looks at the obstacles to congregational transformation and outlines an eight-stage change process, recognizing that the process of transformation is not often "neat," but in fact frequently "messy."
- Part Four identifies principles for keeping the process of congregational transformation going once it is under way, and focuses particular attention on the things pastors and lay congregational leaders can do in cooperation with God's grace to make this happen.