A Time of Change...A Time of Hope
February 25, 2014
A Time of Change . . . A Time of Hope
by John WimberlyAs I have begun my work as a Field Consultant for the Alban Institute, I am finding pretty much what we all know: many congregations face difficult challenges in our changing times. And yet, it is crucial to note that the challenges are not overwhelming the important work congregations do in and for the communities in which they are located. Congregations around the country are engaged in incredible work serving their memberships and communities. Remove them from the fabric of our society and the garment just might fall apart. Such is the important connective role our congregations play in the United States. While many claim congregations resist change, I think a case can be made for their incredible adaptability. God made a world in which those things/creatures that don’t evolve become extinct. We still see so many congregations dotting the landscape of this country because our congregations are, in fact, evolving, even when they won’t admit they are changing or don’t appear to be changing. In some cases, the change is coping with decreasing membership and money. In other cases, the change is coping with major social and economic transformations that impact their ministries. But a recurring theme in my consulting work is congregations recognizing the need to change:
- A congregation with $820,000 in expenses and anticipated revenues of $700,000 realized they needed to change their budget in order to continue the important work they do in their community.
- A judicatory where a huge percentage of its congregations are in membership decline is asking its congregations how it can be more supportive.
- Located in a very diverse city, a congregation whose membership is overwhelmingly European-American is figuring out how it can change in ways that make it reflective of its community.
- A congregation changes to a new, non-traditional style of governance in an attempt to be more institutionally agile and responsive to the world changing around it.