Veteran congregational development expert Alice Mann says the chances of turning around a congregation are not great, she cites one study that sets the odds at 25%, but that doesn’t mean a) a congregation can’t do it, and b) ending well = failure.
I first heard about Alice when I read one of her excellent books,Raising the Roof, then friends told me about her valuable consulting work with The Alban Institute (if you’re not a member you need to join). I was immediately taken by her level headed, informed, and devout approach to congregational development. She offers fascinating insight into the mainline turnaround and gives a sneak peek at her new project, ‘Befriending the Soul of Place.’ As you’ll see, she’s a woman of amazing wisdom.
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Alice tells us about a turnaround success story in Chicago, describing what it takes to help a congregation grow when the context has dramatically changed, along the way sharing her wisdom about the hard work that needs to be done and the sobering options that also include celebratively ending a ministry. Here are my notes:
‘Build It and They Will Come’ Only Happens in Hollywood
The line ought to be, ‘build relationships, a deeper understanding of your ministry context, and commit to the unrelenting work of redevelopment, and those new people you’re trying to attract may start to sample what you’ve got.’
Most Congregations Are Single-Cycle Institutions
While we all like to think our church will be around forever, they won’t be. The odds of surviving a single cycle (one generation) are about 25%, and remember, this cycle comes around with each new generation. Sure, churches can last a really long time, but renewal is never easy work.
Befriend the Soul of the Place
How much better off might our society be if people, and churches, took seriously the idea that we have been placed in a certain time – and a certain place – for a reason? While picking up and leaving with relative ease may be an American pastime, it an do more harm than good. Alice discusses her recent, and unpublished work on the importance of honoring ‘place.’
About Alice Mann
Alice Mann is an author and consultant with the Alban Institute, and resides in the revitalizing mill city of Haverhill, MA. Before joining the staff of the Alban Institute in 1995, Alice served for two decades in the dual roles of local pastor and nationally recognized consultant-trainer in the field of congregational development, with emphasis on incorporating new members, redeveloping struggling congregations, defining judicatory roles in growth and revitalization, breaking through size plateaus, and deepening parish spirituality. Her current research and writing is focused on the call that individuals and congregations may experience to “befriend the soul of place.”
Books Alice Recommends:
Pathway to Renewal- Daniel P. Smith, Mary K. Sellon
The Wisdom of Stability - Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Sponsors I Mentioned:
Church Post – If you are looking to improve your church’s communications you’ve got to check out this great email platform. I’ve found it easy-to-use, reliable, and John, Debra and Kim are great to work with.
Wistia – If you’re still hosting your videos at YouTube or another ‘free’ video sharing site you know the drawbacks. Wistia helps me put out great looking videos and see who’s watching for how long. The Wistia staff is easy to work with and very professional.
The Grow My Church Store – Everything from mugs to pens to fridge magnets, this is a promotional products store aimed at helping churches become closer communities, more hospitable, and welcoming. I started this store and shop there often because I couldn’t find anywhere else to go for these products.