Welcome to NEXT University! During the month of August, we are highlighting our most popular posts and videos on the NEXT blog from the past few years, with suggestions for how to use this content with church sessions, committees, staff and other leaders.
Today we look at four resources that discuss relational organizing within the congregation. Use these resources individually, or take them together for a deeper study with your leaders. Or make it a four-session series!
Change Rooted in Relationships by Ashley Goff provides an introduction to relational work within the congregation and how it can transform old, “stuck” ministries. This article provides a thorough description of the 1-on-1 meeting, one of the backbones of relational organizing.
Questions for Conversation:
- Ashley writes, I try to do relational meetings at least twice a month. I can feel it when my calendar runs low on these meetings. I feel more rooted in myself and my work when I am consistent with this discipline of organizing. When I do a 1-on-1 with someone new at Pilgrims the congregation feels even more alive. When I do a 1-on-1 with someone who has been at Pilgrims for 30 years, I cherish their story and commitment to this place with more fervor. What is your response? Even if you do not do relational meetings, have you experienced this “rootedness” when you spend more time with people in your community?
- Ashley talks about what these meetings are not: an overly-intellectual “head trip,” a “hot seat,” a thinly-veiled excuse to shoehorn someone into an existing ministry. Do an honest self-assessment of your congregation’s culture. Where is the room for growth in building a relational spirit?
- What would it look like for the session (or staff, or ministry team) to incorporate more 1-on-1 gatherings into its work? What kinds of attitudes or activities would need to shift or be set aside? Challenge yourselves to spend a season focusing on this to see what happens.
Building in Relationality by Karen Sapio fleshes out the potential for relational work in the congregation and shares her congregation’s experience in beginning this work.
- Karen writes, For the first few years [I was here] I assumed that I was the newcomer and that everyone else in the congregation knew each other. The longer I was there, however, the more I learned that this was not the case. There were some in the church that had long-standing friendships, but those were the exception. Many felt that they had a strong connection to only a few other members of the church, or only to one of the pastors. When we held a listening campaign during Lent 2013, the biggest thing we heard was “We really don’t know each other very well.” How does this assessment connect with you. Where are your places of relational strength? Where are the challenges?
- Karen lists several suggestions for incorporating relational elements into the congregation’s life. Have you tried these or similar approaches? What has been the fruit of these practices? If you have not, why not start now? (And share your experience and learning with NEXT!)
Congregational Power Analysis by Rebecca Messman is a meditation in the word “power” and how we understand it in the church. Rebecca then describes the practice of “power analysis” within the congregation to identify strengths, resources and energy. (This article is part 3 of today’s course because you cannot do an effective power analysis without laying the relational groundwork first.)
Questions for Conversation:
- What positive and negative associations do you have with the word power? Does the term seem positive, neutral, negative or a combination?
- Becca writes, Power is defined in community organizing simply as the ability to act on one’s values, from the Latin word poder, which means “to be able.” Power in organizing is not coercive power but relational power, the engine of relationships that are at work inside and outside of a congregation. What’s your response to this definition? How do you understand your congregation as an organization that wields power? (Or doesn’t.)
- Becca writes, It is easy to talk about justice, making an impact, loving our neighbor, speaking truth to power, and feeding the multitudes, but a power analysis forces the questions, “How?” “Who would do that?” “What impact are we hoping to make?” Power analysis helps a congregation get from the theoretical to the practical. Many congregations get stuck in “should” thinking yet feel unable to move forward in practice. How might an analysis of your leadership, its gifts, and its sense of power move your congregation forward? How might you implement such an analysis?
Bonus Resource: In this video, Patrick Daymond talks about the power of relational (one-to-one) meetings as the building block of community and community change. Watch the video with your leaders and consider: what resonates with your experience? Which ideas intrigue you to lean in further to the practice of relational work? Which ideas sit less comfortably? Explore these sources of energy and tension with your group.