Topbar search
default-logo

The resources frame is all about understanding what’s available to a congregation in its efforts to carry out its religious and social functions. Turns out it takes a lot!

(A) People.

The most important resource of any congregation is its people. No people, no congregation! Yet, many congregations struggle to mobilize participants. People volunteering, their gifts/talents, relationships and shared experiences, members and non-members are all resources for the congregation.

(B) Commitment.

When they are mobilized, people are committed. Commitment though comes in many forms: worship attendance, volunteering, giving of financial resources, participating in small groups, community outreach, political organizing, etc. All these are ways people in congregations express their commitment.

(C) Financial.

The most obvious resources are likely financial ones. Participants in religious congregations donate a staggering about of money each year. And it’s a good thing because its takes a significant amount of money to keep a congregation going. Financial resources include offerings, endowments, legacy gifts, and other investments. Research shows that most congregations have a very hard time talking openly about money. This makes the task of resourcing a congregation quite challenging.

(D) Building.

If finances are the most obvious resource of a congregation, often the most under utilized one is a congregation’s building or physical space. Many congregations use their buildings only a few times a week. This has led many congregations to explore new ways of gathering in non-traditional spaces (e.g. coffee shops and pubs), online gatherings and shared spaces within the community.

Frame in Action

Seeing and Staying – Rural Congregations and Rural Communities

Many students of congregational life focus their attention on religious gatherings in the city. It’s where the action is! Where there are exciting challenges and new opportunities. Where your innovations will get noticed and rewarded. But what about the thousands of gatherings in tiny places that we imagine are doomed to nothing but decline? Pastor Brad Roth* has been thinking about those places and what it means to turn aside from the career ladder to stay — to abide — in such a place. He and other pastors he has met have made a commitment to their rural parishes, even when the usual markers of “success” are unlikely to be present. They may have to serve multiple congregations or have...
Read More →

Great Data for Curious Leaders

If you are a congregational leader or lay worker in a local church, you’ve likely looked around and noticed your community is changing. Perhaps you wonder if your congregation needs to change, too. Is there a site with the tools and resources that can help you find reliable answers to your questions? Indeed, there is. The Association of Religion Data Archives (the ARDA) has an amazing range of relevant data and easy-to-use tools that will help you imagine the right questions to ask and find trustworthy data that will allow you to answer your questions easily and accurately. You can even produce powerful visual aids to share. Here are three examples – available free from the ARDA. 1. The...
Read More →

The Practicalities of Change: Racial Integration in a South African Church

In South Africa churches may be among the last bastions of apartheid, but some churchgoers are crossing racial lines, for the sake of survival. Philippolis is a small farm town far away from everything. Far from the city and the government, far from justice and equality. The population is still divided and named — “Colored,” “White,” and “Black” — referring to the racial categories of South Africa’s apartheid regime (1948-1994). White farmers own the land and a big Reformed church in the town center. Colored landworkers live in the township and worship in a small Reformed church next to the cemetery. A huge cemetery. The HIV epidemic caused a catastrophe here. During the...
Read More →

The Bittersweet Reality of Multiracial Churches

Multiracial congregations are all the rage, it seems, at least among Protestants. Conferences are being held across the country encouraging pastors and other religious leaders to be multiethnic, and groups like Mosaix and Kainos have been established to support the effort. People that attend these conferences are provided a theology for why more churches ought to work toward diversity as well as practical tools for moving their congregations toward that goal. After many years of research, my colleagues and I will be sharing what we’ve learned about these efforts. We will host a conference on pastoring multiracial churches, June 20-21, in Columbus, Ohio. It will be a chance to share...
Read More →

What to do about the building

A recent article in The Atlantic proclaimed ”an epidemic of empty churches.” And the very same week the Washington Post asked, ”Does a religious community need its own building to flourish?” Both authors pointed to the reality that buildings are often a problem, and finding the right solution will require congregations and their leaders to do a careful assessment of their resources — but also of their place in the community and their own culture and theology. Some congregations are wondering if rented space or ”pop up” space or a corner table at the pub might not better suit today’s needs. In their infancy, congregations have long sought out spaces that are otherwise empty on...
Read More →

Who is Your Neighbor? Who Decides?

Immigration has become one of the most difficult issues facing people throughout Europe and North America. And congregations are on the front lines in many ways. Whether offering services to immigrants and refugees once they arrive or protecting those facing deportation, being involved with these neighbors also brings congregations into conversation with a larger public and with legal authorities. Governmental agencies are a part of the community ecology that is invisible most of the time to most religious leaders – but they shouldn’t be. There are, of course, building inspections and financial regulations. And when congregations choose to become part of the social safety net, they...
Read More →

Finding Resources in Unexpected Places

Mike Mather has spent most of his adult life pastoring churches in neighborhoods most people would call ”deprived.”  Not Mike.  When he greets someone at the food pantry or on the street, he’s more apt to see their gifts than their ”needs.” And he sees those things in part because he asks the right questions. I’ve gotten to know Mike over the last couple of years, and I’ve constantly been amazed at his ability to make me think hard about what I assume about the resources in a community or a congregation.  Now he has a new book that shares that wisdom. It’s aptly titled Having Nothing, Possessing Everything. Anyone who is seriously thinking about the resources available for doing...
Read More →

Creative Callings at Boston University (and Beyond)

A new collaborative project at BU School of Theology is bringing together teams of innovative leaders who are seeking new ways to live faithfully in their own unique contexts. Participants in ’Creative Callings’ are designing creative hub learning events, assembling resources, and mentoring each other. StudyingCongregations.org is proud to be a core resource for this project.  Groups that do this creative work need to have a clear vision of what vocation and calling look like in their context so that they can design programs that are deeply grounded in the particular commitments, realities, and capacities. They will need to be serious about the theological foundations on which they can...
Read More →

Theologians in the Field

Over the last couple of decades, the field of practical theology has increasingly drawn on methods from the social sciences.  Most especially, people seeking to understand the theological wisdom of a community have practiced ethnographic methods for gathering information and analyzing what they find – much as we describe in this website on ”studying congregations.”  By interviewing people and directly observing what they do together, practical theologians seek to understand and critique the implicit theologies that may or may not reveal the picture of God that official creeds or academic theologies do. But it’s not just academic theologians who have been doing this work.  It is also...
Read More →
12

Related Tools

Asking Questions

Even though it's hard to talk honestly about money and resources, sitting down and asking questions is a good place to start.
Read More

Survey Says!

When it comes to identifying the resources of a congregation, especially beyond just money, a survey of the participants can be very helpful.
Read More

Who's Out There?

When the community changes, it's likely to have an impact on a congregation and it's resources. After all, resources are all about people.
Read More