Friday, November 16, 2007

Growth Consultation III-redevelopment

As we told our stories we noticed a stark pattern. With the exception of the brand new church, all of our stories were stories of redevelopment. Several churches, like mine, had been on a plateau for a generation. A couple had declined from previous highs. In one church the leaders had said to each other, "If this doesn't work, we need to think about closing."

A second set of stories, which I particularly resonated with, was told about trust, in particular, trusting the minister's leadership. This is not something that comes naturally to UU's, even less so when there has been difficulty between congregation and ministers.

I digress to tell a personal story. Before I accepted the call to Albuquerque, the retiring District Exec sat me down and told me about the difficulties my predecessors had had and had caused and said (to the 35 year old across the table from him), “You do know what this means, don’t you?” “Yes,” I said, in my most serious and grown up voice, “It means that it will be a long time before they trust me or follow me.” He looked surprised, and then relieved. “Well, he said, “As long as you know that, if you love them, you should go.” “I know it.” I said, and I went.

Now I look back fondly on my long dead colleague (he died within a month of that conversation). I wonder what he meant by “a long time”. I know what I meant. I’m embarrassed to report that I meant two years.

It was fifteen years.

Not that I didn’t do a good deal of leading in my first 15 years, but the lack of trust did make everything twice as hard and the toll on me twice as heavy. But about year 15, some of the invisible plasma that had impeded our life together fell away, and it has been so much easier since.

There is nothing like desperation to get an old guarde to grudgingly trust a new minister, and while desperation to grow can't show to the congregation at large, a little quiet desperation in the leadership is probably a necessary thing. It may be that a minister coming to a church that know itself to be in trouble is more likely to be allowed to help that church grow than a minister coming to a church that thinks it's doing a pretty good job already.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Thanks, Christine, for keeping us(virtually) connected. Here's what I shared on that first day, reflecting the saving message of my congregation, WellSprings:

"Spiritual wisdom is a naturally abundant resource, as alive and accessible in our age as in any other. Tap in, and grow!"