What is the Mission of “Missions”?

Most congregations engage in some form of social ministry—or believe they should. Some call it missions, others outreach, social action, or benevolence. From relatively modest actions like collecting canned goods for the local food bank to major projects like building a house in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the collective contribution of churches, mosques, and … Read more

Ask Alban: Choosing Your Next Clergy Leader

The most frequent mistake clergy search committees make is to focus too much on the perceived weaknesses of the previous clergyperson. If the predecessor was personable but poorly educated, the search committee scours the world for a Ph.D. and takes social skills for granted–after all, doesn’t every minister have them? If the last minister was … Read more

Relocating the Clergy Ego

When I speak at seminaries about leadership and management in congregations, professors usually need to be somewhere else, and students tend to doze. To wake them up, I mention a favorite topic, “ministerial authority.” Seminarians love to talk about the potent symbolism of the clergy role, and to picture people looking up at them projecting … Read more

Green Eyeshades and Rose-Colored Glasses

Congregational budget-makers frequently divide into two camps that approach the task in different ways. The first camp is likely to include children of the Great Depression, experts in finance, elementary school teachers, and persons anxious about their own money situation. Their first priority is to make sure that the budget balances and that the congregation … Read more

The Post-Construction Blues

Few projects excite and galvanize a congregation more than a new building or a major renovation. People complain about construction delays, capital campaigns, and the general din and dust, but their blood pumps, their wallets loosen, and their enthusiasm rises. Lyle Schaller went so far as to generalize that congregations that build capital are happier … Read more

Planning for Social Ministry

Most congregations engage in social ministry to some degree, and most feel that their efforts could be better. But planning for ministries that seek to serve or influence the world beyond the sanctuary can be challenging. Because the world’s needs are so large and complicated, outreach efforts are especially vulnerable to criticism. How, then, to … Read more

Ask Alban: Is it Wise to Hire Members?

Q: I am on the personnel committee of my church.We expect to fill two staff positions soon, and wonder what our policy should be about accepting applications from members of the congregation. A: When hiring staff, congregation leaders often ask this question. Hiring members has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that members are … Read more

Ask Alban: The Spiritual Challenge of Clergy Transition

Q: I’m the spiritual formation intern at a medium-sized Episcopal church whose rector is about to retire. Do you have recommendations for what I can do to support the congregation as the rector prepares to leave? Most of the resources I know about seem to focus more on the practical and business aspects of this … Read more

Snapshot of Church Finance

Some time ago, I created a financial self-evaluation tool for churches. I’ve been testing it informally ever since, and welcome further feedback and suggestions. If you use it, I hope you will post a comment here that will help me to improve the Snapshot. Some questions you might address include: How well do the “benchmarks” … Read more

Salary Anxiety

Some years ago, advice columnist Ann Landers published a letter from a college student who was pondering his career choices. “My classmates are all in a race for the biggest salaries. I want security, a stable salary, and peace of mind. What jobs should I consider?” Ann reassured the young man that his desires were … Read more