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Changing the Way “Things are Done”: Process Review

The Process Frame is the frame that helps us consider the way things get done within a local congregation. From the page about the process frame, “by examining the processes of a local congregation, you can examine the ways in which a congregation makes decisions, discusses and solves its problems, and plans for the future.” But what happens when that process begins to break down? Consider this quote from Studying Congregations: A New Handbook:

At times congregations feel the need to change but are not sure how to do it. In the every day decisions of congregational life, process dynamics may look like this: After the council meeting when a few members gather at a favorite restaurant, they may talk about their troubled feelings about tension they are experiencing. The tone of the conversation is complaining, with a focus on bad feelings. Sides are formed and members try to influence others to join their side long before there is any action to call the congregation or its leaders to make a clear decision. Even clergy may be caught up in the situation and seek advice from individual members and professional colleagues. At some meetings there will be the appearance of progress, but no one is exactly sure what progress means — unless it is the absence of acrimony. (p. 106)

What are the signs that it might be time to change the “way things are done” within your congregation? Consider these signs (from Studying Congregations, p. 106):

  • It is very difficult to find a chairperson
  • Attendance at meetings is spotty
  • When assigned tasks, members forget to do them
  • Meetings are boring or definitely unpleasant
  • The committee does not meet
  • The work of the committee does not get done
  • Members complain not only about the groups but about many issues not related to the work of the group

If these issues are plaguing your committees, it might be time to do interviews or focus groups of those involved in the committees. Ask open-ended questions about issues of individual fatigue, organization, meeting frequency, and the strengths and weaknesses of the patterns of work developed within your faith community. Ask for suggestions. Engage the community, and empower them to change the way things get done.

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org