March 18, 2022

Transformation Tools – What IS possible?

In my previous blog, we discussed the absolute importance of eliminating gossip as the first step to transforming ourselves, and in so doing, our parish communities. I mentioned at the close of the blog that engaging the work of eliminating gossip was itself transformative.

If you’ve taken on the challenge of improving parish-wide communication, congratulations. This is a truly significant accomplishment that will yield extraordinarily positive results. As I reflected on the next logical step to help us advance, it occurred to me that perhaps we’ve not fully understood how limiting the past two years have been, and in some ways, continue to be.

We’ve been in the conversation of what’s NOT possible – certainly for sound scientific reasons – but in my own experience it has nonetheless taken a toll.

We’ve not been allowed to come closer than six feet to each other, to see each other’s faces, to go out to a restaurant, to visit our friends and families, to come to church in person, to hug, and much more. While many regulations are being relaxed, depending on where you live, the impact has in many ways been traumatic.

In fact, the past two years have themselves been transformative, for better and for worse, and not by our own choice. Now, as we are emerging from what we hope is the end of the pandemic, how do we continue the moving forward? Here are some suggestions:

1. Take an inventory of all that has transpired at your parish.
a. Did you initiate online worship and Christian education?
b. How did attendance fluctuate during the ups and downs of the pandemic?
c. What changes did you notice in who did and did not attend in person?

2. Objectively assess how you met the moment that was thrust upon us.
a. How did you come together as a leadership body to guide the parish?
b. How did you engage the congregation when they weren’t physically present?
c. How did you mark significant events in the lives of your congregation?

3. Celebrate what you did well by filling in at least three items.

4. Learn from what you could have done better by filling in at least three items.

5. Shift the conversation to what IS possible.
a. Growing the online component of your outreach.
b. Creating listening groups for parishioners to decompress with one another.
c. Assessing and addressing the mental, physical, and spiritual needs of your congregation now, and in the longer-term.
d. Helping congregants to identify their gifts and then use them meaningfully.

As you navigate forward, first identify where you are now. Consider measurable items like:

1. Budget and finances.

2. Attendance.
a. Who is in the pews?
b. Who is missing?

3. Number of services.

4. Outreach.

5. Engagement.

Then define where you want to be at the end of the year. Remember to be as specific as possible. Finally, work backwards from your desired end results and identify monthly milestones. You cannot achieve your goals if you don’t specifically define them. And you cannot effectively track them if you can’t measure them.

Most importantly, who do you want to be as a parish community? What would have to transpire in who you are BEING for people to declare that real transformation is taking place?

Realize that transformation is not something that is “one and done.” It is a life-long process, marked by stages, all of which should draw your faith community closer to Jesus, and in so doing, closer to one another and to those whom you serve.