The summary for a recent post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog reads as follows: “The sector needs to shift the definition of success from organizations that survive to organizations that actually achieve their missions.” The actual post was less interesting than this summary because it narrowly addressed specific challenges faced by social entrepreneurs. I want to rewrite it to apply to congregations….
Congregations need to shift the definition of success from being institutions that survive, to becoming living organizations that actually achieve their missions.
At the founding of a congregation, you can feel the excitement among the founding members. They are thinking, saying, and feeling: This congregation is going to be where we bring into being our dream of a warm community that holds us accountable to our highest shared ideals while supporting us through the difficulties we have in our individual lives. These people are willing to try something new and untried, and it’s exciting.
Sixty years later, in many congregations you can feel the anxiety among all the members: We have to raise money to keep the congregation going, so we need enough new members who will supply that money, but not so many that they will use too much of our existing programs, programs which exist solely to draw in new people who will give us more money.
But the truly successful congregation will feel little anxiety, and a lot of excitement. Sixty years after their founding, the truly successful congregation doesn’t care much about raising money, but does care a great deal about bringing into being our dream of a warm community that holds us accountable to our highest shared ideals while supporting us through the difficulties we have in our individual lives. We are the people who are willing to try new and untried things, and it’s exciting.