I've spent part of today reading Transforming Congregational Culture by Anthony B. Robinson. I have to admit...I was not excited about picking up this book. I registered to attend our denomination's regional congregational transformation retreat next month, and this book was the "recommended reading" for it. So of course I approached it with the anticipation that it was just another fix-it model procured by some denominational figurehead with no real application to my particular ministry setting.
But 2 chapters in I am, thusfar, pleasantly surprised. I have been promised no models, no solutions, and Robinson does not, as of yet, appear headed in that direction. Rather, I am finding this to be a rather intruiguing list of questions.
not what I'm even particularly seeking right now
though I know they'll serve me better than "answers"
Particularly interesting today was Robinson's reliance upon Ronald Heifetz book Leadership Without Easy Answers, another decent work in my library. From Heifetz, Robinson borrows the concept of the Pastor's need, or the congregational leadership's need, to allow for the pinch of reality at times.
I know that I am prone, as are many pastors, to be those who try and comfort their congregants in times of crisis or difficulty. It's natural. It goes with the territory. But not always a good thing. For example, when a congregation begins to realize their children are not returning...some are leaving the denomination...others are leaving the faith altogether... When this realization is made, is comfort really the best help? I'm intrigued by Robinson's argument for another step here. Perhaps addressing this situation in a manner that allows them to feel the pinch of reality is really a more engaging approach:
"Leaders in the midst of adaptive change may offer a thoughtful critique of different options, whether they be mega-church or New Age spirituality, but they will do something else as well: they will allow their congregations to feel what Heifetz terms 'the pinch of reality.' 'You may have noticed, friends, that many of your children have been attracted to alternative spiritual paths, while your grandchildren are going to conservative mega-churches. I wonder how you feel about that. I wonder what it might be saying to us.' In this way the leader may let the group feel the pinch of reality rather than protecting the congregation from it by ignoring such new realities or simply judging them. Without some pressure, some pinch of reality, adaptive work is unlikely to happen. If people, to put it another way, are too comfortable, nothing will change."