Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

Rediscovering Community

Scott Kronlund

Scott Kronlund

I don’t know about your church, but the current economic storm hit my congregation pretty hard.  It began last December with a blast of cold and snowy weather; quite unusual for the Pacific Northwest.  Attendance was way down and so was giving.  Our usual end-of-the-year boost never materialized.  Things didn’t improve in January as we began to experience rising deficits, having exhausted most of our sources of cash; something had to change.  After much prayer and hand-wringing, we concluded that we had to take some potentially devastating steps to correct the situation.  With the full support of the lay leadership, our professional ministry staff went into “retreat mode”, arriving a few days later with recommendations for an 18% reduction in our operating plan.

We all took a big “gulp” knowing that this would involve staff reductions.  Nonetheless, we moved ahead, painful as it was.  The best we could offer those affected was a heartfelt “thank you” and some severance assistance.  We held a congregational celebration on behalf of our entire staff (and particularly those displaced), followed by a period of mourning and just plain catching our breath.  As congregational officers, our job was to share a message of hope:  God hadn’t brought us this far just to abandon us.  We all just needed to return to Him, seek His face, and step-up in personal ministry in order to keep the church going and fulfill our mission. 

You see, in many ways, we had fallen into a trap that ministry was something “done” by staff, something we “purchased” through our weekly offerings.  I don’t think that this was intentional; it just happened.  For example, when a particular volunteer ministry would get “too big” for volunteers to handle in a neat-and-tidy way, our natural tendency was to create a paid position to take responsibility for the ministry.  While this seemed reasonable, especially when resources were plentiful, there was a potential down-side we hadn’t considered. Thinking back on this, what I had observed over the years was a tendency for volunteers to gradually pull back, somehow believing that the staff was now “in charge” of the ministry.  As this pattern of staff growth continued, our people began to slip out of the role of “ministry partners” to becoming “members” (to quote Michael Foss) who simply consumed what the church had to offer while continuing to give financially.  Now, add in the current economic crisis and we had all of the ingredients of the “perfect storm.” 

Enough self-reflection….  What’s happened since?  Well, I’ve got good news to share.  Our people have responded in ways I never dreamed possible: I see families vacuuming the building on Wednesday afternoons; a group meeting every Saturday morning to pray and mow the lawn; a potluck dinner being planned “just because”; a group of men repainting the lines on the parking lot; but, most importantly, groups of pray-ers rising up all over the place.  We are slowing rediscovering true Christian community.  What we, as leaders, used to “sell” in terms of mission, we’re all discovering through our actions.  What might be possible here? What does God have in store for us? Do we really find our true fulfillment through a life of passionate discipleship?  These are now open questions here.  Praise God!

As we head into the summer months, we have just sent our Senior Pastor off into retirement.  But, somehow, it’s OK.  Our elders have planned a 7-week series of messages on becoming passionate disciples of Christ.  Our call committee is up and running.  Our staff and governing boards are providing great leadership.  Finances are still nip-and-tuck, but we’re not afraid:  God is with us and teaching us many great lessons.  Acts 2 should be our aim: to meet “together and share everything in common….praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people….”  May God add to our numbers daily those who are being saved!

I certainly wouldn’t claim to have this all figured out, so I’d love to start a dialogue that might add some clarity as we all, as leaders, seek to adjust to our current economic times.  Please feel free to jump in and share your experiences.  Blessings, Scott


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