‘If congregations can change, they can grow’

In his blog post “Going Electric,” CERG Regional Growth Development Consultant Mark Bernstein writes about the findings of the Cooperative Congregational Studies partnership about congregational growth. His conclusion: “If congregations can change, they can grow.” Among the findings in the survey of 11,000 congregations are that growth is more likely among: younger congregations, those that use multiple methods to follow up with visitors, and those that think of themselves as different from other congregations in their area. [That’d be us.]

Bernstein quotes the Rev. Dan Dick, director of Connectional Ministries for the Wisconsin Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church:

Turnaround churches almost all agree: They knew what they needed to do before they did it. For every declining church you can name, there is a growing one just like it in most ways. The key difference? Declining churches expect their answer to come from the outside; growing churches take responsibility for their own solutions.

Evaluation a constant process

The Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, writing on the website of the Central East Regional Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association, encourages congregational leaders to constantly evaluate programs by asking, “Are we serving our core purpose (by doing this program)? Is it relevant to people’s lives?”

In her blog post, Ruchotzke, who is Regional Leadership Development Consultant for CERG, writes,

Our congregations can get stuck in . . . patterns with events or traditions but we don’t always notice when a committee or a program has outlasted its relevance . . .  In systems, any change within the system elicits one of two reactions.  The first and strongest reaction is push-back:  the system wants to return to its previous “comfortable” state.  The other reaction is for the system to change and establish a new equilibrium of the parts, and a new homeostasis. It’s the role of the leaders to help the system to respond to change based on the congregation’s core purpose rather than to react based on habit and individual desire for comfort.