How Not to Stay on Top, a recent article by Joe Nocera in the New York Times, outlines how Blackberry and Wang both went from dominating their markets to being irrelevant. Why? They both “stubbornly clung to what they thought they were instead of what they needed to be.”
Keeping our faith communities what they need to be–healthy, relevant and sustainable–is one of the most important roles of congregational leaders. Forward-thinking boards are also learning communities. They pay attention to the changing context of the society around them and respond faithfully and strategically. They study trends and strategies as a group and then implement them as a team.
Here are some of my favorite titles that I’ve encountered over the past year that your board may find useful:
Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
Although Block doesn’t use the language of covenant, he describes the idea of how communal commitment and accountability can help organizations–such as our faith communities–invite people to serve our of a sense of possibility, generosity and gifts. This book helped to inspire the standing-room-only workshop at the 2013 General Assembly: Beyond Contentment: Motivating Members to Do More by Mark Bernstein.
Connect: How to Double Your Number of Volunteers by Nelson Searcy
(Baker Books, 2012)
This book is helping me to re-think how we set up leadership development programs in our congregations. The current wisdom is to catch someone early in the membership process, work with them to assess their gifts and passions, then match them to a ministry.
Searcy recommends that–instead–you create a “ladders and lakes” system where congregants can swim in different “lakes” of ministry opportunities to discern their passions. You do this by creating many different low-responsibility points of entry with time-limited commitments. The next part of the process is developing “ladders” where congregants are given opportunities for roles of increasing responsibility and commitment.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else By Patrick M. Lencioni
This is–hands down–my favorite organizational health and development book (so far). Lencioni (author of Five Dysfunctions of the Team, Death by Meeting and Getting Naked) is clear, pragmatic and directive. This book has two key points:
- Build a cohesive team
- Create and communicate clarity of mission and vision
The rest of the book provides the “how.”
The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leading Multi-Racial and Multi-Cultural Congregations by Jacqueline J. Lewis
(Abdingdon Press, 2008)
Lewis is a former Alban Institute Consultant and currently the Senior Minister at the Middle Collegiate Church in lower Manhattan–an intentional and successful liberal multicultural faith community. This book reinforces that notion that the method and the message of leadership need to be in alignment. If you want to be a congregation that is inclusive of other cultures, we need to learn how to lead using the communication styles of those cultures. In this case, Rev. Lewis shares that she spends 25% of her time mentoring the other leaders in her congregation, and encourages them to do likewise with the next tier of leaders.
Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All by Landon Whitsitt
This is another book that has offered a game-changing model of how we may want to structure our congregations in the future. You can read an early draft of chapter 2The Church as Wikipedia. (I have this as an e-book so it’s not in the picture above.)
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Leadership Development Consultant