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Strategy For Congregational Renewal
Thomas F. Fischer
- Number 341
- By far the most effective strategy for congregational renewal has to be
- Dorothy is seventy-eight year old widow. Shes been a Christian all her life and
very loyal to her denomination. A leader in the denominational youth organizations in the
1940s, Dorothy loves her Lord, her church and the Lords ministry.
- Dorothy is no "ordinary" seasoned citizen. Though retired, shes far from
slowing down, kicking up the feet, and enjoying the sunset of life by watching all the
younger generations do the ministry.
- No, Dorothy is a lean, mean grace-dominated ministry machine. Once that Gospel light
starts sparking everyone around knows theyll be feeling some "G" forces
- Dorothy: A Profile Of Leadership
- When Dorothy first visited my church she appeared nice, traditional and proper. This
impression, though correct, was quickly augmented at my first visit in her home that same
- In our first meeting, Dorothy was direct, forthright, opinionated and obviously very
smart. To say that she "loves" the Lords Church is an understatement. She
is unashamedly as passionate for the ministry of Jesus Christ as anyone I have ever seen
in my ministry.
- Dorothy: First Impressions
- Admittedly, first impressions can sometimes leave a sense of fear and uncertainly about
certain individuals. I wasnt used to feeling "G"s on initial visitor
follow-up visits. All the while I was wondering, "Who is this person?" "Is
she for real?" "Is she just going to be a fly-by-night
flash-in-the-pan?" "Is the just all talk and no work?" Worst
yet I thought, "What if shes an antagonist?"
- In spite of my fears I recognized that the church needed renewal. As part of this
renewal I had made a commitment to encourage all visitors for service. I pledged to allow,
permit and encourage everyone to "make a positive difference in the church as the
Lord had gifted."
- After having received several very good new member leaders, Dorothy was my biggest test.
Will I back down from this commitment? Or will I take the chance and follow-through on my
commitment to God, the congregation, and the new members.
- This vacilation was aggravated by Dorothys resistance to a six-week new member
orientation required for all new members. "Ive been in this denomination for
all my life and youre telling me I have to go through anorientation?" she
protested. "Yes," I replied as I explained how it would help her to get to know
the people, the ministry and help ease her transition into the congregation.
- Dorothy: Three Years Later
- Dorothy did finally agree to go through new member orientation. She became a
membera very, very valuable one. Since she joined this congregation nearly three
years ago, this aspiring octagenarian has simply been the single-most gifted and
energizing factor to bring renewal, lift and enthusiasm to this congregation.
- Dorothy: A Profile In Leadership
- The remarkable blessings she has brought by Gods grace to this congregation center
around her finely-tuned gift of leadership. Specifically, she brings to this congregation
so many of those qualities of leadership required for congregational renewal. These
- * Passion For Jesus Christ: She doesnt wear Jesus "on her sleeve"
in some sort of "religious" manner. Like so many faithful in the church, her
faith is more than skin deep. It goes right to the core of her very heart, mind and soul.
Like so many faithful in the church, this depth of faith engenders a positive, passionate
response. This is evident in a way suited for her gifts, her interests, her demeanor, and
- * Passionate Love For People: Several times in the three years since she joined
she has someone into her homeor going to the hometo assist someone who is
dying. Whether it takes days, months or longer makes no difference. Dorothy will be there.
- * Self-Starting: Dorothy is at the forefront of finding needs and filling them.
No one needs to tell Dorothy the needs. She has the remarkable insight few laityand
few clergyhave. She takes the initiative to find the needs.
- * Delegating: Dorothy never, I repeat, NEVER works alone. Even if she has to hunt
you down to help her, Dorothy will get yousooner or later. Interestingly enough,
even the most initially resistant learn to love to help.
- * Refuses "No": Too many churches follow a "dont ask,
dont tell" way of doing things. Dorothy has changed all that. Her recruitment.
method is "Dont ask, just tell them and theyll do it."
- * Visionary: Dorothy sees the church from a perspective few ever can even
imagine. She has a preferred vision for the church, knows the preferred vision, preaches
the preferred vision repeatedly, and takes the forefront to ensure that that vision
maintains prominence in the ministry.
- * Perseverance: Whatever Dorothy starts, Dorothy finishes
and finishes well.
She has faced opposition. Dorothy doesnt whine. She gets things done.
- * Non-Anxious In Conflict: Due to her strong faith, her maturity, her giftedness
and her keen sense of her unique role in the congregation, she handles the opposition in a
very tactful, caringbut very direct manner. Even when opinionated and passionate,
people understand that she has no fear of whether they agree with her or not. In that
- In spite of this directnessor because of itthere is something very
irresistibly likeable about her. She can tell you to go to eternal destruction and make
you happy for having done so.
- * Loyal: When Dorothy makes a commitment, the world starts to shake. She commits
herself to any worthy cause
and multiple causes in and outside the church.
- * Supportive Of Pastor: Dorothy is supportive of the pastor and leaders. That
does not mean that she wont express some rather direct opinions regarding various
activityor perceived inactivityor her feelings as to how things should be.
Whatever is said, however, can be trusted. She hides nothing, Shes not a
back-stabbing passive aggressive. Shes on your sideso hang on.
- * Cosmopolite: Dorothys has a passionate interest in Gods people in
and out of the church. Having a wide variety of churched friends, she is very aware of
what is going on locally, regionally and nationally in most mainline denominations. Since
she often has questions or comments in these areas she frequently shares them with her
- * Sense of Urgency: Whatever is done should be done quickly. Though borne partly
from impatiences, the sense of urgency comes from her passionate conviction that the
sooner one does what is needed in the present, the sooner and more effectively the
challenges which God has for us in the future can be addressed, met and fulfilled.
- * A Doer: Dorothy is not a theoretician, consultant or academician. Shes a
doer. If asked how shes so effective as a leader, she will humbly say shes
really not. All she wants is to get what needs to be done in this church done. It is this
pragmatic bent which is the outgrowth of her simple, direct, passionate desire to build
the Lords Church.
- * Reaches Out To Opposition Forces: Dorothy doesnt know what the word
"Antagonist" means. Neither does she want to know. Such labels only work against
her, the ministry and the cause of Jesus Christ. No, she doesnt turn a blind eye to
their negativism. Not at all. But she always seems to find a little "niche" of
opportunity for everyoneeven the most rancid, abrasive and anti-church
peopleto come on board.
- * Extraverted: Theres one thing Dorothy is not: shy. She can speak well in
public, in private and handle many different kinds of situation with easenever
letting up one iota on her characteristic passionate, direct manner.
- * Contemplative: Few would probably know it but Dorothy does think deeply. She
takes time to meditate, to spend time with God. Shes an avid reader and draws great
strength from her private contemplative time.
- * Witness: I dont believe shes every been formally trained for
but she always is. Whether relatives, friends, neighbors or members,
Dorothy is concerned first, that they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin
and, second, that they remain strong in that faith.
- * Personal: Dorothy directs her time to visiting the sick, taking tapes, flowers,
and congregational publications to those who are shut-in, hospitalized, or just in need of
- * Team Player: Staff members, including myself, are not threatened by Dorothy.
Though we know what she is doing, we dont know everything she does. Nor do we need
to. She can be trustedand is trustedimplicitly. Whenever theres
something which would entail change, restructuring or innovation Dorothy always comes
forward to share itup frontno holds barred.
- Charisma: A Inside Look
- There are many other special things about Dorothy. Dorothy is not some sort passive
seasoned citizen. Her congregational nicknames, based on her first and last initials, are
"Dust Buster," "Daring Believer," and just plain "DB." These
names indicate the love, the respect and admiration that pastor, leaders and
congregational members have for her.
- Of all the other things which could be listed about Dorothy, perhaps the most remarkable
is her charisma. Her charisma has piqued my interest frankly, because Im quite
covetous. I want to know what seems to make it work so well in an otherwise passive and
historically schismatic congregation. I think I found it.
- The nature of charisma is that is has, as John Maxwell said, "Confidence that
convinces." In any people endeavor, the greatest challenge is to give people
convincing confidence over their fear.
- Charisma is one of the most effective means by which leaders convince others that fear
is not a problem. Fear cannot, in any organization, be totally eliminated. Charisma
provides a specific means of fear management via projection.
- Fear incites various forms of denial. Projection is one of the best defense mechanisms
fearful people use. It is often seen in the church in the form of scapegoating, blaming,
or otherwise displacing all the responsibility for failure on othersespecially the
- Since people are so accustomed to jettisoning their fears through projection, the
simplest, least anxious and most effective way to deal with those fears is to project them
onto someone else. In organizations, this "someone else" is, by definition and
default, the organization's leader. From this perspective, then, the leaders key task is to "catch" this
fearful anxiety and channel it into constructive energies.
- What Charismatic Leaders Do
- What charismatic leaders do is convince anxious individuals that they can handle the
fear. When trusted a special level of intimacy develops by which individual and group
fears become displaced and projected on a leader. Charismatic leaders non-anxiously seek
out and absorb that fear. Often what sets the charismatic leader from other leaders is
that charismatic leaders thrive and convert this projected anxiety to fuel a greater sense
- The bigger the challenge, the more impossible the task, the greater the anxiety, the
more "fuel" the charismatic leader has to lead the challenge or task to
successful completion. Of course, it could also be argued that if these fears are
projected onto the charismatic leader, that these fears will be combined to the leaders
existing fears in such a way as to seek resolution of the leaders and followers
fears via success.
- When Charisma Is Absent
- Those who lack charisma may have the opposite experience. Though fear is projected on
themas on any leaderthe projected fear precipitates anxiety, uncertainty and
uncontrolled, unconstructive levels of reactivity. Unable to deal with the anxiety, the
anxious leader re-projects the fear back on to the followers.
- When there is no charisma present, the fears just keep permeating and continually
paralyzing an organization. As this anxiety "ping-pong"'s through the system, the
anxiousness increases hurting both leaders and followers alike.
- Dorothean Charisma
The most significant thing that Dorothys apparent charisma demonstrates is how
charisma really is one of the most important keys to congregational renewal
passive, conflicted plateaued, and traumatized congregations.
- Consultants of various kinds often suggest specific strategies for congregational
renewal. Vision statements, organizational plans and objectives, staffing, congregational
and community evaluation are some of the things which are often suggested.
- Industrial/Organizational Psychologists and other so-called organizational
"shrinks"secular and religiousalso give their view relative to
leadership styles. In "The Paranoid Corporation," authors Cohen and Cohen define
and delineate five types of organizational dysfunction. These are applied to the church in
Ministry Health article #315 "Intervention In Dysfunctional
- What is most interesting, however, is that each of these leadership interventions
require a commonality of leadership style--Dorothean leadership style.
- Is Dorothy In Your Church?
- Perhaps the most important application is this. "Can you be a 'Dorothy'"?
Certainly, "Dorothy's" are far and few between. That is, after all, what makes
them so valuable. Yet "Dorothy's" do not have a monopoly on
"charisma." In fact, many of the behaviors and attitudes which
"Dorothy's" evince can be modeled and implemented by virtually anyone in the
- Can you be a "Dorothy"? If not, can you begin implementing elements of
"Dorothean Charisma" in your leadership? And, perhaps most challenging, if God
has given you a "Dorothy," do you have the courage to let the
"Dorothy's" among you lead as God has called them?
- Viva la Dorothy!
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:58 PM