Monday, October 19, 2015

Viewing Vitality in Smaller Congregations

I spend my working days as a pastor trying to name reality for my congregation as we wind a precarious way between the heights of aspiration and the depths of self-criticism. We know that we are supposed to be the tree planted by streams of living water that brings forth fruit in due season (Psalms 1:3), but some days feel more like the tree given one last chance (Luke 13:8). We would sing the songs of hope but keep hitting sour notes like the loss of a critical mass of young adults or another expensive repair to our big old building.

We are not going to turn it around overnight. And we are not going to have to close in the morning. So where are we? And what are we going to do here?  I have found it helpful to describe a dynamic equilibrium for this congregation and other small to mid-sized congregations I have served, and then to hold that condition before them as a measure of vitality. Dynamic equilibrium suggests that the congregation is a complex organism with staying power, but an organism with certain key indicators of health or decline.

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