Minister’s Moment, February 2020
Just like any other type of organization, churches can come and go. People form them all the time and many open up with enthusiasm only to close their doors after a few years. Even the more well-established, historic churches are struggling to stay open these days. If current trends continue, more and more churches will be closing their doors in the years to come.
But not us. We are resilient. We have survived for 150 years now in Cedar Rapids and we have every intention of sticking around for at least another 150 years. So how will we stay vibrant and strong? How will we stay resilient?
Most people assume the process of organizational resilience is simple numerical growth. I frequently hear people asking, “How big is the church? Are we growing? How are our numbers?” But these are the wrong questions! Numerical growth is not the secret to resilience. Numerical growth is not even a sign of overall health.
According to my colleague, Rev. Tandi Rogers, “Here’s what I’ve learned from the Breakthrough Congregations….None of those thriving religious communities lead with numerical growth as a goal. They lead with doing church well.”
Rogers further suggests there are 4 things churches can focus on if they want to survive and thrive: Organizational Maturity, Spiritual Vitality, Faith in Action, and Associational Connections.
- Organizational Maturity involves getting really clear on what our purposes is, how our governance and organizational structures can help us fulfill our purpose, and how we can regularly invite new people into leadership and service.
- Spiritual Vitality involves living into our identity as a religious community and developing spiritual maturity within individuals and the congregation.
- Faith in Action involves living our faith out in the world and creating love, justice, and beauty in our community.
- Associational Connection is all about relationships with other organizations. It involves showing up for other UU congregations and communities of faith, as well as generally being in relationship with the wider community.
Rogers concludes that congregations which focus on these four things tend to grow in health and wellness and, incidentally, usually experience numerical growth as an outcome of these efforts.
Beloveds, we are already doing so much of this work! Every day we are growing in Organizational Maturity and Spiritual Vitality, and every day we are doing more and more Faith
in Action out in the world, partnering with other organizations for good.
All of this indicates resilience and health. All of this fortifies our congregation for the long haul. All of this suggests that numerical growth will follow.
So, will we survive? Absolutely. For we are doing church well.