Narrative Transformation February 14, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Core Values, Critical Thinking, Transformation and Change.
Tags: Christian Education, Communication, Unity, Values
In recent comments, an interesting thread appears: how do we in the church have open-ended conversation about the deepest and most challenging aspects of our life together? Too often, we have no vision for what a new or different conversation might look/sound like. When we think about changing our thinking, we reduce it to changing minds. For myself, I learned a long time ago that it is not my role or responsibility to change someone else, but to create a safe environment where radical change can occur. Change should always be a willing choice, otherwise it won’t last, or it does violence to the person. But how do we even open the possibility of new perspectives in ways that don’t lead to division and debate? I share one exercise and two experiences that have been effective in my ministry.
A Cracked Crystal Ball July 20, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Core Values, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: The United Methodist Church, Vision
I will make a prediction that isn’t much of a prediction. It is a conjecture based on our current state of indecision, cluelessness, and self-defeating choices. Within the next few months some well-intentioned, short-sighted “leader” in our denomination will present a proposal for the consolidation and/or elimination of the general boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church. The reasons given will be efficiency, reduction of redundancy, elimination of waste, and concentration of focus and vision resulting in greater relevancy and value. The real reason will be to save a few dollars, but no one will say that’s WHY we’re doing it. The hope will be that everyone will miss/ignore the fundamental contradiction in a church wanting to “grow” downsizing its national/global infrastructure. What will not be clear is how the proposed change will actually make us better able to serve God and the church. What will be lacking is a clear rationale for why THIS change (whatever it might be) is the RIGHT change to make.
Rocks, Hard Places, Irresistible Forces, Immovable Objects January 13, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Church Leadership, Congregational Planning.
Tags: Church Leadership, Values
Within a twelve-hour period of time I had essentially the same conversation with three different pastors. The topic was leadership and the dilemma was unrealistic expectations. Here is the gist of each conversation:
My church people talk all the time about how they want to change and grow, then they reject or argue with every suggestion to do something new or different. Then, when I back off, they start asking me why we aren’t doing more to grow. It drives me crazy.
I find myself constantly between a rock and a hard place. We set Radical Hospitality as one of our major priorities and we are training people how to be more open and welcoming. We do a good job greeting people, but just let them try to get involved in making decisions or suggesting changes, then they are no longer welcome. Last year, at every meeting, we talked about how to get new people to come to our church. This year, at every meeting, someone asks what we’re going to do about all the new people who are trying to change everything.
My church has this really bad habit of unanimously approving new ideas then expecting the pastor to organize and implement them. There is no ownership. This is a pretty big church to expect the pastor to do everything. I have to be very careful about bringing in any new ideas because I know people will give me total verbal support, but once they approve it, it will be dumped on my plate.
All three is these examples are simply illustrations of normal passive-aggressive behavior in the face of change. Change shifts momentum, and the normal response to a shift of balance is to push back. All people seek equilibrium, and any occurrence that makes them feel the least bit uncomfortable, insecure, or disquieted is met with an equal, but opposite reaction. Too often, we dismiss such reactions as negativity and opposition. Most transformative change takes time. It requires some very intentional nurture and understanding to help people move forward. Ultimately, leading change is about recreating culture — about helping people unlearn old habits and let go of outdated or less helpful practices and beliefs.
Sleeping Dragon January 10, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Church Leadership, Congregational Life, Congregational Planning, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Church Leadership
I have worked with churches in a wide variety of settings and a wide range of relative states of health. From these experiences, a conceptual frame emerges that I have found helpful as a consultation tool, and as a way of understanding not only what is happening in a given congregation, but what steps might be taken to improve the situation. Here is a simple illustration of what I call the four environments that define a congregation:
These four environments exist in every congregation, each in dynamic tension with the others, however one always predominates. The predominant environment impacts and colors the other three, and in so doing comes to define the “personality” of the congregation. Let me offer a thumbnail description of each.
Yesterday Once More April 28, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Church growth, Church Leadership, Congregational Planning.
Tags: Church Leadership, Religious Trends, Vision
I am constantly amazed at how many churches are looking for their future in their past. It’s a bit like looking in the cupboard to see if we can find the best meal we ever ate. For a people who believe that their Savior makes all things new, we certainly don’t act like it. I cannot tell you the number of Church Councils I meet with to talk about their vision for the future, and what they tell me is what they looked like in their bygone glory days. For example, across the country United Methodist Churches have very little appeal for families with young children who have no desire for anything more than Sunday child care and a fun hour of singing and stories. Yet, we continue to pin our future on recreating a (very brief) golden age from the 1950s and 1960s when our Sunday schools were filled to brimming. Of course, Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren were making more children in those days. However, Christian Educator’s Fellowships coast-to-coast do everything in their power to keep the nostalgia for those mythic days alive. This in a culture where the majority of today’s church-children are born into families of conservative evangelicals who already have a church (non-denominational) affiliation. The secular consultants that most of our agencies have hired to tell them how to be church have admitted to us that we simply do not have much of a “market” with children and youth, yet the majority of our churches still maintain “children are our future.” (Note: “children/youth/young adults are our future” is a dumb thing to say. They are the church NOW, and any “future” that depends on cultivating long-term or lifelong relationships with any one congregation in this day and age is doomed to fail…)
Time for Change April 19, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Church growth, Church Leadership.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose
I was on the phone recently with a pastor lamenting that his church wasn’t growing. Beginning his fifth year, he confessed that he thought there would be better signs of vitality. We talked about what he was doing and he told me that in his relatively short stint as appointed leader, his congregation had “done” 40 Days of Purpose, Natural Church Development, Incubator, a church-wide spiritual gifts discovery process, and was currently working on Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations! He concluded his litany with a disgusted, “None of these things work.”
Well, none of these things are working for him, but that doesn’t mean none of them work. While none is a magical answer to all our problems, each has merits — when used properly. But many development processes function like antibiotics — it takes time to get them in the system, and you need to run the whole course of antibiotics before you can judge their effectiveness. Many programs fail to yield positive results for no other reason than we don’t give them enough time. And if this is true of resources, it is doubly true of pastoral leaders.