Congregations today face the challenge–and opportunity–of negotiating a host of boundaries. How can leaders help congregations negotiate racial, cultural, generational, class, gender-related, and other boundaries?

Alban recently sponsored gatherings of a conversation group on negotiating cultural boundaries. The members of that group identified a set of characteristics that “leaders on the border” need:

  1. The ability to bring critical analysis, faith tradition, and learned articulation to bear on the situations we see.
  2. Humility.
  3. The willingness to be wrong.
  4. The courage to speak the truth and to know when to be quiet and listen.
  5. The courage to deal with conflict, including the cognitive dissonance between what we think God and humanity should be and reality.
  6. To communicate when there is conflict and to create community in the midst of it.
  7. To know where the border is. Borders shift contextually, and leaders have to discern where those borders are.
  8. To be self-reflexive, to be open, and to take in information.
  9. To have bold, visionary, prophetic spiritual willingness to act when action is not popular, knowing that deliverance is coming.
  10. To be able to live on the border in the midst of tension and death.
  11. Allies.


Overcoming Barriers

Does your congregation face barriers that seem to keep it from growing numerically? Alice Mann, an Alban senior consultant, encourages congregations to examine “passive barriers”–unacknowledged hindrances to growth and welcome–that may be blocking their growth.

In her work with congregations that seem to be stuck in the “pastoral-to-program plateau zone,” Mann observes congregations’ facing barriers such as:

  1. We are unclear whether we have a vocation to make room for more of our neighbors in order to serve a growing community.
  2. We are unclear about size plateau concepts or realities.
  3. Our space is effectively “filled up.”
  4. We are not staffed for growth.
  5. Our concept of an “adequate” budget does not permit growth.
  6. Our ministry infrastructure is inadequate for movement to the next size.

If you are interested in reading more about congregational size categories and the type of leadership that best benefits each size, click here.


Featured Resources

AL243_SMRaising the Roof: The Pastoral-to-Program Size Transition  by Alice Mann

Pastoral-to-program size change is frequently described as the most challenging of growth transitions for congregations. Now Alban senior consultant Alice Mann, author of The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations, addresses the difficulties of that transition in this resource designed specifically for a congregational learning team.

A House of Prayer for All Peoples: Congregations Building Multiracial Community by Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook

Contrary to the oft-repeated truism, there are churches in America where Sunday is not the “most segregated day of the week,” as Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook convincingly demonstrates in her compelling exploration of congregations tackling racial justice issues. Yet the truism continues to haunt many congregations, and Kujawa-Holbrook reveals, through story and thoughtful analysis, what it means to create and live out multiracial community.

AL267_SM One Bread, One Body: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Worship by C. Michael Hawn

As a troubadour for global music and an instigator of cross-cultural worship for more than 15 years in a variety of denominational settings, including congregational, national, and international venues, Michael Hawn has observed many faithful people who find that a taste of Pentecost in worship is refreshing and invigorating. In One Bread, One Body: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Worship, Hawn seeks to help bridge the gap between the human tendency to prefer ethnic and cultural homogeneity in worship and the church’s mandate to offer a more diverse and inclusive experience.