January 4, 2012

Small Changes, Big Impacts

With the start of 2012, many people - including myself - are considering ways to improve their health and well-being. Resolutions will be made and, if research on New Year’s resolutions is any indication, nearly 80 percent will be broken by Valentine’s Day. 

Change is hard. And not just for the Church.

Having made (and broken) many New Year’s resolutions year after year, I am now focusing on those few small changes which have an outsized impact. The above video, a popular piece on the health benefits of walking 30 minutes a day, illustrates this idea beautifully.

In the same vein, I believe that there are small changes we church folks can do which will make a significant impact on the tone and vitality of our congregations. As someone who chairs a few committees in Episcopal organizations, here are the changes/projects I’m resolving to do in 2012:

Begin with Prayer
Do your vestry and committee meetings begin with prayer or some form of Bible Study? To be perfectly honest, most of the committee meetings I’ve led have not, mostly because the agenda feels over-packed. Yet time and time again I’ve encountered lay and clergy leaders who say that the simple act of beginning in prayer and/or Bible Study was a major turning point in the health & vitality of their congregations. Dick Schmidt writes about the role of prayer in vestry meetings in particular here.

No More Parking Lot Conversations
As the 2010 Faith Communities Today survey noted, many Episcopal congregations are experiencing significant conflicts over leadership and finances. I believe that there is such a thing as sacred conflict - moments filled with light and heat as a congregation discerns God’s will - but this requires learning how to be in conflict faithfully. In 2011, Mary MacGregor wrote and chatted extensively on how we can conflict faithfully, and her wisdom regarding parking lot conversations can be found in this article, blog post, and VP Talk.

A Mission-Driven Budget
This is less a resolution as it is a project for 2012. Having worked on various fundraising projects in the past few months, I’m convinced that successful campaigns are grounded in well communicated, mission-driven budgets. Stated negatively, no one gives to organizations that don’t inspire us, and we certainly won’t give to organizations that we don’t trust. ECF Vital Practices has a wide variety of resources on creating budgets that inspire trust, but here are two favorite items which I’ll be using this year: Dick Kurth’s Authentic Tough Talk and L.E.A.D.E.R.-The Mission-Driven Budget.

This is my list of small changes that deliver big impact. What else do you think should be on this list? What’s on yours?