This is an excerpt from The Sacred Valley, 2nd edition, by Peggy Hahn.
This updated and expanded version incorporates LEAD’s newest learning
and includes a chapter on metrics.
The big question is “What can we do to grow our congregation?”
Our typical expectation is that to move from where we are to where we want to be as a thriving congregation requires the addition of a NEW THING. We have been taught that growth looks like this:
There are a number of challenges with this way of thinking including a few key facts:
- With this model of change, WE haven’t really changed at all. A NEW THING has been added (a staff person, a new building, a strategic plan, a program, a financial investment, a new goal, a training event, etc.) and WE are still doing what we have always done. Sometimes we add new language but the truth is we still do the same thing.
- The NEW THING we add is in ADDITION to everything else. This is a great step toward being Out of Breath as more and more NEW THINGS pile onto the to-do lists of volunteers or staff in leadership.
- The NEW THING is for THEM. We may add something that is great for our youth or our elders or our staff or our you-name-it, but we have not created alignment or harnessed the momentum of the congregation for forward movement. In the worst-case scenario, this NEW THING for THEM becomes a THEM and US rather than a new US. It can even unintentionally divide a congregation into factions that create a downward spiral and greater unhealth.
The changes identified in this book (The Sacred Valley) are all part of LEAD’s focus on healing our congregations from too many NEW THINGS. We are committed to deepening relationships, building trust, and growing in our discipleship. It is possible that there is never a NEW THING or if there is, it grows out of a life of prayer and discernment with leadership that is open to listening, experimenting, and innovating. It looks more like this:
Healing is messy. Taking on new behaviors feels awkward at first. Some people will push back. Others will feel relief and rest a little before engaging as they heal from being over-busy. A Sabbath season is expected as people discover themselves as spiritual beings not merely people who do church. Some long-loved programs will be celebrated and ended. Alignment will move through the congregation with an outward focus. It is good hard work that takes time and commitment with rewards emerging along the way, sometimes incrementally.