Create Your Own Future: Alternatives for the Long-Range Planning Committee [Secure eReader]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Lyle E. Schaller
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: This book is for church leaders, both clergy and lay, who seek to challenge the status quo and implement change in their congregations. Schaller's plan of intervention suggests that the long-range planning committee is the most effective vehicle of change. He systematically addresses the issues this committee faces, such as knowing when to intervene, how to decide which issues to tackle, how to face financial concerns, when to implement the plan, and how to overcome resistance. Key Features: Involves volunteer leaders in planning for future; Suggests long-range planning committee as vehicle for change; Presents a plan for implementing change in congregation
Key Benefit: Addresses demands for higher quality congregational life; Discusses when to choose tradition or market; Explains when to study and when to act; Show how to implement a plan; Illustrates how to overcome resistance
eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House/Abingdon Press, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2003
Do Protestant congregations pass through a life cycle that resembles the birth-to-death cycle of human beings? That was a popular frame of reference for looking at churches back in the 1950s and 1960s. This perspective suggested that new congregations were small, fragile, and dependent creations that resembled babies. As the years passed, these new missions grew in size and gradually became independent. As vigorous, future-oriented, active, and growing congregations, they resembled adults in their younger years. Eventually they plateaued in size and after several decades they naturally tended to shrink in numbers, to become increasingly past-oriented, to become less active, and to display a high degree of self-centeredness. Finally, the day would arrive when that congregation would disappear from the scene.
This scenario was reinforced by several mainline denominations who organized new churches every year to replace those that dissolved. The rough rule-of-thumb was and is two new congregations must be organized to produce a net gain of one. The parallel is that while approximately 4 million babies are born every year in the United States, that produces a net growth of less than 2 million in the total population because of the death of over 2 million Americans every year. An interesting contemporary coincidence is that in the average year 0.8 percent of the American population will die while 0.8 percent of the approximately 350,000 Protestant congregations in the United States also will cease to exist. The life expectancy of both human beings and Protestant congregations has increased greatly since the 1880s.
This life-cycle analogy was reinforced by various articles that appeared in religious periodicals suggesting how to plan a meaningful memorial service for the last Sunday of a congregation's existence. More importantly, the life-cycle analogy also was reinforced by the histories of hundreds of churches that were born sometime between 1880 and 1925, peaked in size in the dozen years following World War II, and dissolved in the 1950s or 1960s.
Those who are adherents of the life-cycle theory will find little in this book to interest them since this author is not a supporter of that analogy.
A larger number of people are convinced that God has prepared a detailed plan for every one of His churches and there is little that mere human beings can do to alter that plan. The call to Christians is to be faithful and obedient, not to question the preordained destiny of their churches. At least a few of those who share this theological position contend that at best planning is interference with the power of the Holy Spirit and at worst a denial of that power. Those Christians also will find little to interest them in this book.
A third group of Christians believe that through His creation God gave human beings a remarkable degree of freedom. One facet of that freedom is that we are free to accept or to reject Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as our Savior. That gift of freedom also enables us to enjoy lives filled with choices.
That same gift of freedom also enables churches to make choices. A worshiping community is not bound by the same constraints of a life cycle that limits the choices available to mere human beings. The 200-year-old congregation may include more people, offer a broader range of choices in response to the religious needs of people, and enjoy a greater degree of vitality than ever before in its history. Instead of concentrating on the design of a memorial service to mark its demise, the ninety-year-old parish is free to design and implement a construction program that will provide a new church home for the next half century or longer.
This book has been written for the Christians from this third group. These are the leaders who are convinced God has given to them the freedom to plan, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the future of that particular worshiping community. They can study, reflect, plan, articulate their dreams, formulate goals, and implement those plans. With God's help all things are possible.
It also should be added that this book will be of limited value in the pastor-run congregation where volunteer leaders are never involved in formulating policy or choosing from among alternative scenarios for the future or initiating changes.
The primary audiences for this book consist of three groups. The first is those congregational and denominational leaders who are convinced of the value of ad hoc study groups and long-range planning committees. The second, and the number-one audience, includes the people who serve as volunteers on these ad hoc committees. The third is the professional staff members, both lay and ordained, who work with long-range planning or futures committees.
The outline was conceptualized in sequential terms, probably as a result of the fact that this author grew up in what Neil Postman has described as "typographic America."\\Fn="pop001"1\\Fn The first chapter begins with the basic assumption that most congregations prefer continuity to change and suggests several points of intervention for those who seek to challenge the status quo. The heart of this long chapter, however, is in the argument that ad hoc committees possess several advantages that are rare in standing committees. That may explain the need to create a long-range planning or futures committee. The value of ad hoc committees is a thread that runs the length of the entire book.
One of the three most influential decisions in this entire process is the choice of criteria to be used in selecting the members of this special committee. Suggestions for creating the committee are offered in the second chapter. While rarely discussed in these terms, a second big fork in the road concerns the charge to the committee. Will it be expected to bring in recommendations designed to solve all problems? Or will it concentrate on a single issue? That choice is the theme of the third chapter.
The third of those three influential decisions in this entire process concerns the beginning point for the deliberations of that futures committee. In one sense this sets both the direction and the tone for all subsequent discussions by the long-range planning committee. The crucial importance of that decision on where to begin and suggestions on alternative beginning points is why that fourth chapter is so long.
The fifth chapter discusses one of the most significant changes in American Protestantism in this century. That is the demand by younger generations of churchgoers for a higher level of quality in all facets of congregational life. While this is a side trip from the basic sequence, the issue is one that cannot be ignored by long-range planning committees.
Two other approaches to that question of beginning points are examined in chapters 6 and 7. Another side trip is taken in the eighth chapter in a discussion of why the costs of going to church are rising faster than the increases in personal income. This chapter is of special significance to leaders in smaller churches and to denominational policy makers as well as to the members of the futures committee. The rising cost of fringe benefits, and especially health insurance, is pricing many smaller congregations out of the ministerial marketplace.
Three fork-in-the-road questions for the long-range planning committee are reviewed in chapters 9, 10, and 11. These often are overlapping concerns, especially if several of the recommendations will challenge sacred local traditions. This often means one of the tactical questions for the committee is when and how to build support for those forthcoming recommendations that will undercut tradition. One alternative is to pass that responsibility to new ad hoc action committees. Another is to make the building of support an integral part of the planning process.
For many volunteer leaders serving on ad hoc committees the submission of a series of carefully and prayerfully thought-out recommendations is the high point of a long and arduous process that required long months of meetings. The satisfaction that comes from a good job well done, however, compensates for that sacrificial investment of time and energy. Six months or a year later the disappointment sets in when it appears all of that work was for nought. It now is obvious that none of the major recommendations will be implemented.
One lesson is, do not expect those volunteers to agree to serve on another long-range planning committee! A second lesson is the planning process should include a strategy for implementation, and that is the theme of the last chapter.
For those interested in an author's strategy, this book is the last in what has turned out to be a six-volume series on church planning. The first, Effective Church Planning (1979), discusses the larger context for local church planning including some neglected variables such as large group dynamics, the importance of place, and a range of planning models. The second, Growing Plans (1983), focused on church growth strategies for different size congregations. The third, Looking in the Mirror (1984), provided a series of conceptual frameworks for a self-appraisal of congregational life and ministry. The fourth, Getting Things Done (1986), discusses various concepts and skills for leaders who want to make a difference and see results. From this biased perspective it is my best book and comes closest to any to supplementing this latest volume. The fifth, Choices for Churches (1990), supplements this book by exploring in greater detail specific courses of action open to various types of congregations.
Finally, I am indebted to the volunteer leaders, the ministers, and the lay staff members I have worked with in parish consulations during these past three decades. These experiences have been my most valuable sources for insights, ideas, questions, anecdotes, lessons, and conclusions. I came to help you as you struggled to understand what the Lord was calling your congregation to be and to do and how to be faithful to that call. I now look back on those visits and realize I took away far more wisdom than I left behind. I am grateful. Thank you all!
Copyright © 1991 by Abingdon Press