What’s Good about That?

by Dan Hotchkiss It’s good to pay attention to what’s going well. Most congregations—like most people—can accomplish more by building on their strengths than worrying about how to fix everything that could be better. That’s the basic insight of Appreciative Inquiry and other asset-based approaches to strategic planning: Instead of asking “What’s the matter?” ask, … Read more

Left Behind

by Dan Hotchkiss It was an awkward moment. I stood in a glorious stone room with the remnant of a once-large congregation, doing my best to play the neutral as I facilitated their planning conversation. We went round and round, till finally an older gent stood up and nailed me. “Do you think we can … Read more

Making Do with Less

Our parents’ and grandparents’ memories of the Great Depression are not fond ones, but they came with a silver lining: when you’re making do with less, you learn what really matters. Having less is no fun, as many church executives are finding out. Unpaid pledges, unmet campaign goals, plummeting investment funds— the fiscal story over … Read more

Planning to Grow

When churches plan, one of the things they often plan to do is grow. They have their reasons: the Great Commission, for one, and the fact that spreading the gospel is a main point of the congregation’s purpose. But when you get past polite chit-chat, other motives will assert themselves. For clergy, church growth is … 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

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