Town Hall #4 “leadership challenge” notes

Hi all, not sure how notifications or access works for you, so here is a post pointing to my notes that come from Town Hall #4 held Sept 8 2019.

At last Sunday’s town hall I was asked a good question:

“What is your success rate?” was the question.

The context of the question was that at the end of the Town Hall I had opened the room up to questions for me about the Transition process or other aspects of my role at CCC.

I fumbled a bit to answer it, because measuring success in work that is really about culture change or “heart change” is not easily done, if it can be done at all. As happens so often form me, I think of the better answer later on. I thought I’d take a page to write a longer answer, and then say what I should have said as part of my response, and will if ever asked that question again.

When I look back on the three full contracts I have completed, first in Iowa, then Southern Alberta, then Edmonton, where I had time to do almost all of the process, I can say the reports from one of those churches is that they are moving ahead in a vigourous and healthy way. The first one however is reported to have moved in an even more conservative/traditional direction than they were before. Both of those took a while to find a pastor that was a fit for them after I was done. The third contract, in Edmonton, just installed their new pastor, one year after I finished. In all three of those I encountered people who really understood and engaged the process (they tended to be council members or Transition Team members) and got quite enthusiastic. In all three I encountered a pocket of people who would or could not understand and were pretty upset that they could not just go ahead and call their next pastor.

In the CRC, approved STM’s work under the supervision of our Pastor Church Resources office. My approval to do this work has not been withdrawn, and, as far as I know, they do some kind of assessment after a contract is done. That says something.

But really, and this is part of the role that I like because it can take a lot of pressure off (if I let it), the success or failure of the Transitional journey is not really mine in the end. It is in the laps of the congregations and the leadership and the Holy Spirit together. My role is to create the opportunity. Theirs is to act on it.

So, if I am ever again asked “What’s your success rate?” I will say something about it beign the success rate of the congregations in embracing “heart change” and running with it. It is not mine to succeed or fail.


A relevant TED talk and article

Consistory, over their past few meetings, has identified a need to move forward with daring and learning to have “difficult conversations” or “dialogue across differences.”

Some groundwork had already been laid for this — mainly through the Ridder process (now called Churches Learning Change or CLC) — but it had not been put into practice much. So at last night’s meeting Pastor Pete and Bill Spaans “tried it out.” It became a beneficial conversation and learning opportunity.

Too often (this is my opinon, not on behalf of consistory) a church that feels like it is not growing becomes overly concerned with “keeping” in a way that tries to keep everyone happy. So instead of leading a process of thinking deeply about concerns people have (a difficult conversation) changes are made to settle them down. Over time the progress of such a church becomes paralyzed.

Other times in churches the membership becomes polarized “for” or “against” a certain thing. This too is very dangerous for the vitality of the body of Christ attempting to live on through the church.

So learning to speak to each other well when we have a difference of opinion is very very important.

This morning the TED talk below came across my screen, and it is a great teacher of how this can work. Also this morning I got a link to a blog post from the Leadership Journey folks (they are behind the CLC teaching). It too is moving and relevant. In both examples HUGE chasms of difference were bridged.

We Refuse To Be Enemies: Being defined and connected in Israel/Palestine

Dialogue across differences is also one of my interests in having started the Jordan Peterson Meetup.

The Transitional Process

It feels like time for a review and update on how I see us doing from an STM perpective. I gave a few explanations of the process before I started. They key framework that outlines the process in a general way is the 4 key questions I plan to take us through. These are:

  1. Who have we been?
  2. Who are we now?
  3. (Given that information) Who do we hear God calling us to become?
  4. (once that is clear) What kind of Pastor do we need to help us accomplish that?

That is the simplest outline. Currently, we are well into Question 2.

The part that is hard to explain is that even 4 questions like that seem to be outlining a technical process. That is misleading. Transition from what we are to what we think God is calling us to become is not a technical process, just as Moses leading Israel out of slavery toward the land of God’s promises wasn’t. Search the words “grumbled against” in Exodus and or read Chapter 17:1-7 or Numbers 14:2-4 and you will see a restlessness in the people and a challenge to Moses’ leadership in the Transition process. Moses lays out the Transition in broad strokes when the people want specifics. How many would not have gone if Moses had said from the outset “It will take over 40 years to get there, none of you will live to see it, just your children, you will often be thirsty and hungry, we will be raided by enemies, you will miss the good old days in Egypt?” I have encountered this kind of restlessness in a minority of people in every congregation I have served as an STM. It usually forms in the question “When do we get to have our own pastor?” It is similar to “Are we there yet.” Those who understand the value of a time of seeming turmoil and aimlessness in the wilderness so that the future can become clear need to have some resolve in the face of those questions.

So, the way I view and do the transition process is Adaptive. This means I (with the help of the leadership) need to be always discerning and open to exploring other questions on the way. The scary example I use is if it suddenly surfaces that some serious abuses took place in the history of the congregation, then the 4 Questions process has to stop so we can deal with any residual trauma from those events.

It is because I view the transition journey from who we were to who we discern we are called to be as an Adaptive one that I remain flexible in where it goes. That is why I preach “Heart Change” and “Holy Zeal” and not “12 ways to rearrange the seats to have a successful church.” I trust God is in the process, and I trust that the Holy Spirit is leading myself and the leadership and congregation somewhere that I cannot yet see. That is the nature of a faith walk. It requires maturity and trust, and faith in something that cannot be seen.

The Leader’s Journey

The original book “The Leader’s Journey; Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation” co-authored by Jim Herrington, Robert Creech and Trisha Taylor (well known names among RCA leadership) had a huge informative and formative impact on me when I first read it in 2007 or 8 after a “rough patch” in ministry. That book has become a sort of educational and personal growth movement for church leaders. I look forward to a new edition of the book is coming out next spring.

Part of the movement is a podcast series Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor do, along with offering personal coaching. I have been following the podcasts with great interest and benefit. The latest one is a conversation between Jim and the latest addition to their team — Marijke Strong — a name well known to Canadian RCA leadership. I believe she has preached at CCC before.

Here is a link to that particular podcast:


Started a new page related to U-Turn

At the top of the blog’s main page you should see a new option that has “U-Turn church” in it. That is the starting page for material related to the Book Study we are doing as a congregation. The page will be built week by week, so click on that heading at the top anytime you want to get caught up. It should work something like the Sermon page.

Here is a direct link: