In congregational strategic planning processes, eventually a version of this question gets asked — “What do you need to stop doing in order to live out your mission as faithfully as possible?” In some congregations, this “stop doing” list is easily generated from programs that have run their courses or once-vibrant ministries that have now stagnated. 

But what if the thing that your congregation should stop is closer to the heart of who you are — or at least, who you have been? What if the thing you should stop doing is something like youth Sunday School? 

This is the question that Victoria White’s church in Raleigh, NC, found themselves asking. She describes that wrestling and what followed in a reflection at Faith & Leadership. 

In her congregation, we see a model of what is coming for many of our congregations as we continue to move into the new realities of hybrid congregational life. How do we structure our ministries for missional impact? How do we right-size our digital and in-person offerings with an eye toward engagement? What do we stop doing for the sake of our staff, volunteers and members? What happens when the “stop doing” means letting staff go?

With these questions in mind, we’ll also hear this week from Dan Hotchkiss on returning to basics and Susan Beaumont on letting staff go with integrity

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Sometimes the best way forward is to stop

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to stop

When someone asked “What if we stopped?” in a leadership team meeting in Victoria White’s church, it broke open a possibility of a new way forward for the congregation as it thought about youth formation.

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

Lap number two

In this essay from January 2021, Dan Hotchkiss invites us to see this year as the second lap in COVID-time — when adrenaline leaves us and perseverance is tested. His conclusion? It’s time to return to basics that help congregations thrive in good and bad times.

Letting staff go with integrity

Letting staff go with integrity

Post-pandemic realities have congregations reassessing staff structures. In her frank and wise way, former Alban Senior Consultant Susan Beaumont says that, in the next year, it is likely that your congregation will have to fire someone. How do you do that well?

From the Alban Library

Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations

by Gil Rendle and Alice Mann

Holy Converstaions: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations

Planning can be challenging in the contemporary congregation, where people share a common faith and values but may have very different preferences and needs. Much of the literature on congregational planning presents it as a technical process: the leader serves as the chief problem solver, and the goal is finding “the solution to the problem.”

Popular former Alban consultants and authors Gil Rendle and Alice Mann cast planning as a “holy conversation,” a congregational discernment process about three critical questions:
Who are we? What has God called us to do or be? Who is our neighbor?

Rendle and Mann equip congregational leaders with a broad and creative range of ideas, pathways, processes, and tools for planning. By choosing the resources that best suit their needs and context, congregations will shape their own strengthening, transforming, holy conversation. They will find a path that is faithful to their identity and their relationship with God.

Before you go…

Our last word this week is inspired by the singer Adele. In her song “All I Ask,” she reminds and cautions that “it matters how this ends.” While she was singing about the end of a romantic relationship, she’s helpful here, too.

Regardless of what’s at the top of your congregation’s “stop doing” list, it’s worth keeping in mind that how something ends matters. Staff and volunteers have poured hours of time into this thing. The congregation may have funded it generously. People may have been shaped by it or served by it. And all of that deserves to be celebrated with gratitude. As human beings, we need rituals to mark these kinds of moments, to let go of what has been and to look forward to what might yet be. 

It matters how this ends.

Next week, more on being and becoming a hybrid congregation. In the meantime, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity