Most likely your denomination or association has restructured itself several times within its lifetime. The promise of restructuring is that a new way of doing (God’s) business will result in fresh approaches, new energy, and new identities. If you haven’t restructured in awhile, your congregation might also benefit from that kind of hopeful work.
I’m suggesting something a bit different, though: that you restructure with simple living as the core of your identity, activities, and mission.
It’s possible that much of your congregation’s mission is not easily understood by most congregation members. It may also be possible that, after years of structuring your congregation toward classic ministry outcomes, you’re still not gathering the attention, interest, or emotions of most congregation members. Only you know whether you’ve come to a point of utter weariness about the seeming futility of these efforts.
On the other hand, simple living is a recognizable and satisfying ideal, already in the hearts and minds of congregation members. Many people are yearning for the kind of good news from God that enables them to live purposefully. Simplicity offers that possibility. Within its many folds, simple living supports a multitude of other congregational priorities and programs—for example, hunger and justice, life-as-mission, forgiveness, redemption, God’s creation. Simple living is part of the prophets’ yearnings, directly referenced and exemplified in Jesus’ life and words, and evident in the early church’s practices.
So what might happen if you decided to re-arrange your congregation’s assets so that they addressed the yearnings of congregation members and visitors regarding their daily lives? What could happen if you portrayed yourselves as the place where a godly life gets simpler? If your community saw you as “those people who get down to brass tacks”? What emotions would that stir, what service would that bring to all members of your community, what relief and release from unsustainable and unmanageable living?
You can work out the details of how your present teams, task forces, or committees might pick up various pieces of this new purpose, how you would align your structures toward this identity and mission. You might even be able to reduce the number of supposed work groups that may not be functioning all that well right now. Certainly you’d want to start by getting to know people’s hopes for their lives, by marshaling your collected assets, by thinking and praying together about the world’s present condition as well as its future.
So what do you think? Willing to give this a try, even for a short while? If not your whole congregational apparatus, how about a small team of folks who could start working on the larger question? This can work. I know it in my bones. This is church at its radical roots, and so promising (and dangerous) that it could excite you just because of its edginess.
My prayers will be with you.
“Simple Congregations: Restructuring into Simplicity” is excerpted and adapted from Simple Enough: A Companion Along the Way by Bob Sitze, now available for your e-reader. Copyright ©2013 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
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A “field guide” is a small, pocketable book that accompanies you on an adventure or journey. It’s Not Too Late is a field guide to hope—sized so that you can carry it along with you on your daily journey of faith. The entries in this book will help you find hope, whether it’s right in front of you or it remains elusive despite your searchings.
In today’s complex and busy world, people yearn for simpler lives. Bob Sitze believes conversations change us as individuals and that most important social changes take place through conversation, so in Starting Simple he invites us into heart-to-heart conversations about simple living.
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Emerging discoveries in brain science are sparking new areas of research as cutting-edge educators and psychologists are asking, “What can we learn from brain science about how we function in the world?” Bob Sitze joins the conversation with a new question: What does the human brain have to do with the beliefs, practices, and structures of congregations? Weaving together clear, accessible explanations about the workings of the human brain, Sitze shows how a congregation’s identity and behaviors are shaped by the work of individual members’ brains as well as by the “collected brains” of the congregation.
Clergy Wellbeing: Balancing Ministry and Life
Leader: Larry Peers, Alban Senior Consultant and author
January 22-24, 2013, Simpsonwood Conference and Retreat Center, (near) Atlanta, GA
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