a quiet but seismic shift...

Today we begin a quiet, but seismic, shift in the governance of our faith community: half of the new administrative team is made up of folks who have come on-board over the past seven years while the other half is comprised of those with longer tenure,  One third are under 40, one third from the 40-60 group and one third are in their early 60s. Half of the council are self-described former Roman Catholics while only a quarter are what used to called "cradle Congregationalists." All of the members of this team are active in the worship life of the church. They have chosen to be active in our ministries and are committed to a new phase of renewal. I note these things because::

+ First, this team is not bound by the constraints of sentimentality. There is ample institutional memory, to be sure, and the newer members bring a respect for tradition, too. At the same time, there is a fresh perspective about who and what we might become that is free from the legacy of being first. For this council - and at least half our worshipping community - we don't have a history of being at the center of things. We have always been on the periphery - and see this as an opportunity as well as a challenge.

+ Second, there is a willingness - indeed, a desire - to embrace the blessings of being small.  In churches that were once large and important, "sizism" runs rampant.  I believe this has inhibited our creativity and blinded us to the beauty of being small. Specifically, it has kept us locked in procedures that are appropriate for a large institution - Roberts' Rules of Order, etc - but feel cumbersome and bloated to a small group of believers. With 60-80 in worship we should be working with two models for decision making:  a) action teams organized around one time events that meet a need or passion and then are finished; and b) a modest-sized executive team that meets regularly to wrestle through the administrative challenges of the congregation. 

+ Third, the time has come to own the importance and limitations of true consensus building.  Big decisions demand consensus in a small church. Without it, too many important feelings can be hurt. At the same time, because this is time consuming, the way we share information must become ever more clear, purposeful and helpful. My hunch is that as we move from a large church ethos into a smaller church context, we need regularly scheduled all-church conversations that are well resourced. That means no open-ended, shoot from the hip meetings as these functions must respect the limits on people's time.  Consensus-building is vital for the choices ahead of us. But not so much for the daily decisions around parking lots, building rentals, etc. This is where consensus building bogs down a small organization. Again, to respect and utilize the gifts and time of our folk, these smaller challenges must be dealt with by a streamlined executive team.

+ Fourth, perhaps we are finally ready to let technology advance both our connection to the wider community as well as our internal communications. One of my frustrations, noted in other postings, has been how much people hate our current model of annual and budgetary meetings. They hate them so much that newer members refuse to attend and older members come with a sense of dread. Perhaps now we are ready to try new experiments? I think the shift towards smallness empowers us to let go of old habits that no longer work and open the doors of creativity. In fact, I am counting on it. Yes, there will be a bit of nervousness; this is, after all, still New England.  But this new leadership team is innovative, wise, bold and faithful.

So despite the snow that is coming down now in a flurry, I am looking forward to our first session of the new year.


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