My colleague Dave Odom recently wrote that, to begin the process of rehabilitating from the past year, congregations and other organizations need a plan that attends to integrity, mission and morale.
In this Weekly, we explore those three focal points of leadership, drawing on the extensive resources of the Alban archive and the incredible collection at Faith & Leadership. We’ll finish with a book recommendation from the Alban library that echoes these themes.
Welcome to the Weekly!
How to rehabilitate in the midst of pandemics
“After more than a year of intense trauma, all of us are in need of rehabilitation,” writes Dave Odom in the article that inspired this edition of the Weekly. As he says, that rehabilitation will require focusing on integrity, mission and morale.
A focus on integrity
Both Alban and Faith & Leadership have explored the signficance of integrity in leadership throughout the years — but often in indirect ways.
We’ve looked at what happens when there has been misconduct of some kind on the part of leadership (Daniel Schultz’s article about forced clergy transitions comes to mind, as does Kurt Dirks’s reflection on building and restoring trust). Trevor Sutton reminded us how hard it is to build effective teams but how easy it is to ruin team ministry. Dov Seidman helped us see how we can move from having formal authority to having moral authority within our organizations, in our communities and beyond.
Recently, we have featured more about institutional integrity. William H. Lamar IV challenged white organizations and congregations that sentiments are not enough to combat racial oppression. Alaina Kleinbeck sounded a similar note about gun violence in America, saying that thoughts, prayers and condolences are woefully insufficient.
Attending to the nuanced questions of our individual and organizational integrity is a vital practice as part of our rehabilitation.
Defining and refining congregational mission
For years, Alban has published articles saying clarity about mission and identity is vital for a healthy congregation. Translating that missional identity into a meaningful vision has also been a regular subject of Alban publications.
Now, in the midst of multiple pandemics, many congregations are finding themselves redefining their sense of mission and identity. Greg Jones offers wisdom about the way the way that the practice of “traditioned innovation” might help a congregation narrate who they are and where they should be Meanwhile, Holly Burkhalter reminds us that everyone in our congregations should be able to find themselves in our mission, vision and values.
Retired Episcopal Bishop Scott Benhase offers a final word about congregational mission — the mission belongs to God, not us.
In congregations, both staff and members look to their leaders for encouragement, hope and support. In this way, leaders have the opportunity and challenge of sustaining congregational morale. Anecdotal reports suggest that this has been one of the greatest leadership tasks of the pandemic. So what do we do now as we move into this next season?
The Reformed Church in America offers us an example of investing in the development of their staff members — an investment that unintentionally led to better morale. Our staff also need help seeing how their work fits into the larger mission of the congregation, but when they see that, it leads to deeper meaning and fulfillment, commitment and morale.
Some congregations have faced difficult economic challenges during the pandemic, challenges that have resulted in layoffs. David Noer offers advice for leaders who are seeking to rebuild morale after staff cutbacks.
Supporting our staff and members during a time when many are exhausted from the pressures and challenges of life during the pandemic can help boost morale on the other side.
From the Alban Library
Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations
by Gil Rendle and Alice Mann
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 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…
Integrity, mission and morale. Leaders know how hard it is to attend to each of these carefully, strategically and faithfully. While this Weekly has highlighted some of the resources available through Alban and Faith & Leadership to do that work, I’d encourage you to spend more time on both websites. There’s good, thought-provoking, leadership-shaping material for you a click away!
As ever, if you have questions, comments or suggestions, don’t hesitate to write.
Until next week, peace to you!
Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity