What section of the book (pages and/or chapter) impacted you the most and why?
Much like The Interventionist, this book was filled with incredibly helpful tools as I work at becoming a change agent and church consultant. The classification of the congregational life-cycle as well as the classification of congregational size will serve me well as I develop as a pastor. However the section that impacted me the most was Chapter 7: The Dying Church. I believe this is in part because of my recent situation and being the closing pastor of a dying congregation.
All of the issues of a dying church were present in my congregation. Upkeep of the facilities was a critical problem. We had more space than we needed. As a young pastor in my first pastorate, I tried hard to bring about change. We reached a point when it was not financially feasible to keep the doors open.
One thing McIntosh said that I find baffling is, “Often in a dying church, change is perceived as a threat to the church’s existence, and people seem unwilling to try anything new” (p. 76). I agree very much with the statement, but it does not make sense. A dying congregation has no threats to their existence; they are going to die anyway. Why not attempt anything in order to turn around the status quo? This was a big issue for me in the beginning of my pastorate, and at least a quarter of the congregation left within my second year due to changes that were being made.
What were the two most helpful tools, insights or practices that you gained and why?
- The concept of feedback loops was insightful as I lead the next congregation God calls me to. McIntosh says there are three important clues in the feedback loop, that if I pay attention to, I will thwart off congregational closure. First, the feedback system alerts a congregation to the positive and negative aspects of the congregation’s ministry. Second, ministry capital (spiritual, directional, relational, structural, and physical) activates the type of feedback the system is reporting. Third, the feedback system helps my congregation stay within the “green zone” of growth opportunity.
- In order for continuous renewal, the pastor must either adjust his leadership style to fit the congregation’s stage in the life-cycle, or new leadership must be retained. Most leaders are not able to bounce back and forth. I extrapolated from this discussion that the senior pastor does not have to leave, but a leader with the skills necessary to move the congregation forward at the “choice point” must be hired.
What will you change about yourself and your tactics as a result of this reading?
In chapter 17, McIntosh says, “While planning for the future, we must be improving the present” (p. 201). As a strategic leader, I tend to always look ahead. This causes me to easily ignore what is currently happening. I do not do this purposely, but I just let it fall on someone else to deal with the present. One thing I am going to do is work to stay in the moment, rather than always think about what is next.