Conflicts of Interest

“Conflict of interest” is an ugly phrase, but it’s time to say it, lay it on the table, and deal with it as a normal part of life. Everybody who is not a hermit manages conflicting interests all the time. Congregations’ awkwardness and silence on the subject only makes us vulnerable. Many congregations accept practices … Read more

Pretending to be equal: Facing inequality can help raise money and promote justice

Reporting on a ravaged Mississippi town on the Gulf coast, the Associated Press said that “Katrina clobbered the rich and poor alike.” A cliché repeated often enough slips past the brain into the heart. We like the idea that in times of disaster all stand equally in awe before the powers that beset us. The … Read more

Posts with legs: My all-time most-read articles

Once in a while an article seems to strike a nerve, and continues to be read and requested for years. Here are some of mine that have made the biggest splash: The Stewardship of Risk Taking risks is just as much a part of stewardship as thrift. What is the Mission of “Missions”? Most congregations … Read more

Folder sort order in Outlook and Windows

Microsoft Outlook is notoriously lacking in project-management and client-relationship features. As part of my system for managing my consulting and other work, I file all correspondence (incoming and outgoing) into Outlook folders by client. I also "mirror" my Outlook folder structure, as much as possible, in the Windows file system. Each mail folder in my … Read more

Bibliography on congregational governance

Here’s a list of some of the books and other resources I have found most helpful and provocative as I have thought about how congregations can best organize their boards, clergy, staff, and volunteers to envision and carry out powerful ministries: BoardSource. Many resources available at www.boardsource.org. Carver, John, and Miriam Mayhew Carver, Reinventing Your … Read more

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned at Work

Around the board table, each leader brings a point of view rooted in subcultures he or she belongs to. Subcultures of sex, race, age, and nationality are often recognized. The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator can help a group to acknowledge and “normalize” such differences. We have barely yet begun to see how powerful our occupational subcultures … Read more

Ask Alban: Re-inventing Boards that Bore

Q: Our board spends too much time reviewing and approving work that should be done by staff and committees. We know we shouldn’t micromanage, but we can’t seem to help it. How can we change? A: You have a lot of company. Most boards criticize themselves for “micromanaging” and rightly so. This happens because tiny … Read more

A Discerner’s Guide to Congregational Governance

The envelope please! Runner-up for Most Influential Book as rated by American clergy is… “Ladies and gentlemen, will it be a book on spiritual practices? Biblical studies? The ever-popular ‘How to Blame Lay Leaders’? No, the topic of the second most important book this year is [drum roll] congregational administration!” Who’d have thought it? For … Read more

The Stewardship of Risk

Years ago a bright Yale student asked me how I would describe the difference between a church and any other charitable group. I gave the sort of answer most of us might give: I emphasized the church’s unique life-transforming mission and its special responsibility to treasure and transmit precious traditions across generations.It was a good … Read more

Why We Do What We Do

To succeed, a congregation needs a lot of people to show up regularly, give generously, and work hard. Why do they do it? It’s a pressing question for religious leaders, especially in communities where religious participation is no longer a strong norm, or where paid work levies an increasing tax on every household’s time. Leaders … Read more