The Self-Renewing Congregation
by: District President Rev. Dr. Tony Steinbronn
Early on, as a young pastor serving in a congregation in northern Indiana, I had the distinct privilege of learning insights into parish life from church consultant Lyle Schaller. Here are a few of those insights as they pertain to the self-renewing congregation:
The life cycle of most congregations tends to be a pattern of growth followed by a leveling off period; with the challenge and opportunity for renewed growth.
Steps for Renewal
1: the self-renewing congregation operates from a balanced definition of purpose: they know who they are AND they know where they are going.
2: the self-renewing congregation is able to distinguish between the message it has to deliver and the method that is appropriate at that time and place for delivering the message.
3: the self-renewing congregation is able to reach, receive, accept and assimilate newcomers into the life of the fellowship and the life of celebration and servanthood. This almost never happens in a congregation unless there is a deliberate and intentional effort to make it happen.
4: the self-renewing congregation is more sensitive to the contemporary needs of people and to the necessity of responding to those needs than it is to continuing customs, maintaining traditions, and preserving old structures.
5: the members of the self-renewing congregation not only know what their church is about and what it is doing, but they believe in what their congregation is doing.
6: the self-renewing congregation recognizes that from time to time it will encounter a threatening or disruptive crisis, but the members expect to overcome that crisis.
7: the self-renewing congregation has a redundant and effective system of internal communication.
8: the self-renewing congregation has a built-in provision for self-evaluation. It encourages the expression of differences of opinion which enables them to be lead to creative and constructive dialogue.
9: the self-renewing congregation is not overly dependent on one leader. Leadership is required, and it is present, but it shared. The best leadership is concerned with ministry and service rather than with survival.
A fundamental cause of congregational decline is the failure to adapt to changing conditions. Second, the critical factor in any congregation’s ability to adapt to changing conditions is its capacity to accept and act upon new ideas.