March 21, 2022

Intentional Transformation

ECF’s Vital Practices’ recent focus on “transformative tools” got me thinking about what really makes transformation possible within a faith community.

ECF provides wonderful tools that hold transformative power, including the Finance Resource Guide, Racial Justice Resources, the Congregational Vitality Assessment, and the entire Vital Practices website.

As a congregational consultant, I carry a toolkit jampacked with means for exploring mission, vision, values and strategic priorities, for developing stewardship ministry and even for conducting successful capital campaigns.

What unleashes the transformative power of any of these tools? Upon reflection of several experiences, I offer this as a top factor: Commitment to intentionality.

It’s not enough to buy a book or hire a consultant or download templates. The critical factor is how committed you are to intentionally carry out the work each of these may expound.
Jesus made it clear that we need to apply his teaching in very real ways:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. – John 13:14-15 (NIV)

In other words, it is not enough to make a bowl full of water and a towel accessible to anyone who wants to use them. Going through the motions of using any tool won’t yield the best results. Neither will choosing a more comfortable way to employ the tool because “that’s more like the way we’ve always done it.”

Additionally, to quote Steven Covey, it helps to “begin with the end in mind.” You can customize tools to the size and shape of your congregation, but it’s also good to be intentional about first naming what you want to accomplish. Many management gurus offer this direction, but one of my favorite quotes is from Lily Tomlin:

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”

As you move forward, invite others to help. Volunteer recruitment is enhanced by a vision of what you want to accomplish and by demonstrating that leadership is fully committed to using a tool that provides a roadmap. Engaging new and diverse people also brings new ideas and energy to any ministry.