Friday, June 11, 2010

Healthy Congregations

I have stayed up the last two evenings reading Peter Steinke's book Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach. Since the Senior Pastor retired last week, I'm temporarily holding down the fort until the arrival of a savior, um, interim pastor in a few weeks. I know when a congregation is in transition as ours is, there is a potential for a lot of anxiety, so I thought it might be good if, as much as possible, I try to be part of the solution more than a part of the problem.

To that end, I'm really concentrating on the basics of ministry: worship, preaching, pastoral care. I haven't really had that much time to think about it, as there were two funerals last week, there is a funeral tomorrow, and I have a funeral again on Wednesday. Next week begins two weeks of all-day Vacation Bible School as well. During the second week, I have some program responsibilities as the daily "storyteller".

Peter Steinke's mantra is to learn to be a "non-anxious presence" in your congregation. I'm really wanting to look at our congregation and not just see the individuals, but look at the systems and how people inter-relate.

The chapter I'm thinking most about right now, tonight, though is this: the picture of the congregation and pastor who have a kind of a romantic, "in love" relationship. Steinke says that this is not a healthy situation, because the congregation and pastor aren't looking at each other realistically (maybe also they are not differentiated from one another), so they can evaluate effectiveness.

He also made me think about the aspect of the church as a business from a different perspective. He said that sometimes churches encourage a kind of fuzzy thinking that allows evil or manipulative people get a foothold, because the systems of accountability are not as stringent as they might be in a business. While I can see his point, I do also think that evil or manipulative people have been able to get into businesses as well as churches.

My own congregation is at a cross-roads. These can be exciting times. We are in a changing, diverse community, which means that we are going to be on a high learning curve for awhile, as we learn how to reach out faithfully, welcome others and proclaim the gospel to and with others. But, when we start to realize that "the way we have always done things" doesn't quite work any more, that can be very threatening as well.

8 comments:

Rev SS said...

Steinke's stuff is good stuff ... blessings on your efforts to be a "non-anxious" presence.

Rev SS said...

Steinke's stuff is good stuff ... blessings on your efforts to be a "non-anxious" presence.

Ivy said...

Read one of his books, "Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times," for a class on Congregational Leadership. It was quite good and made a lot of sense.

Diane said...

Ivy -- I might be looking into that one, too.

Mompriest said...

Your point is well made, evil exists in business and church. There is one difference though and that is in churches people think "we need to be good Christians and accept this person/love this person regardless/etc etc" - instead of putting appropriate boundaries in the bad behavior...that's what he means...

I love that you are being pro-active. Although you are really busy!!

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

That's a lot going on. Wow, two weeks of all day Bible School??? Same kids for two weeks? With volunteer teachers? That's quite an undertaking. I can't imagine that, as our teachers and kids are worn out after 5 days of 9 - 12 Bible School.

Diane said...

P.S. yes, that's a lot. However, the first week is a Luther Park-run week which is only for young people in grade school. The second week is all volunteer and includes pre-school (although they only come for the morning.)

Our children's ministry coordinator has added field trips daily to the program because so many kids weren't coming because there was no on to pick them up at noon.

renew said...
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