5 Ways to Shift the System of a Congregation

By Demi Prentiss, reprinted from Living God’s Mission

Wayne Schwab’s recent post reminds us that the system that we’re working inside of is perfectly designed to give us what we’re getting. So if we want to see a different result, we need to redesign the system. The bad news is that wholesale redesign is difficult, if not impossible. The good news is that the simplest way to change a system is to change our own actions within the system.

Like Wayne and my other EBM colleagues, I long for a church system that focuses less on itself and more on its mission. I believe that the compelling mission of the Church—the Body of Christ—is to empower and embolden each believer with the result that they

act as an agent of the Living God,

working in partnership with The Ground of All Being

in each aspect of daily living

to make our world more loving and more just.

When we say we want the church to do that, then the system-shifting question is How will I, inside my faith community, do that?

How will I communicate, by word and example, how I understand myself to be sent, on mission in each part of my daily life?

What aspect of my faith community’s life can I re-focus toward ministry in daily life?

How will I discover, cultivate, and join with partners in discerning the shifts in congregational life that might re-shape the understanding of faith-filled living?

As a certified coach, I know better than to offer a one-size-fits-all prescription for any person who wants to grow and change in order to live more fruitfully.  That said, here’s a “starter packet” of five possible ways you might choose to engage those system-changing questions:

  1. Have a “one-on-one” conversation with a person you have an inkling might feel a similar stirring toward change.
  2. Create a “five by five”–a group of five people willing to gather for five meetings to focus on a particular issue.
  3. Engage with a book that might offer food for thought about systemic change, like Radical Sending, or Where the Members are the Missionaries, or Every Job a Parable.
  4. Examine one area of your own life—home, work, leisure, community, wider world, congregation, spiritual life—where you see God acting, and commit to how you will join God in working to make the situation more loving and more just.
  5. Cultivate a practice of daily “examen,” asking three questions:
    • “Where did I cooperate with God today?”
    • “Where did I not cooperate with God today?”
    • “What do I want to do tomorrow to be more ready to cooperate with God?”

Demi-headshot-FUMCDenton-croppedDemi Prentiss is a development professional offering coaching to congregations and their leaders. Her strengths are building leadership depth, organizational agility, and resource engagement. She has served on Episcopal Church Center staff and in the Dioceses of Fort Worth, Dallas, San Joaquin, Nebraska, West Texas, Rio Grande, Northern California, and Texas.

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