Congregations and loss



Alban Institute discusses the effects of loss on congregations:

Many congregations find themselves in crisis. Their crises may be related to significant changes in the surrounding community or culture, or within their own walls and structures. The heart of the crisis centers on years of accumulated losses that have resulted in unbearable pain, fluctuating levels of self-confidence, and insecurity about the future.

Some of possible losses:

Loss of Members

Loss of Congregation’s Centrality for Members

Loss of Pastors and Staff Members

Loss of Traditions

Loss of Structural Supports

Loss of Status in the Community

Loss of Stability

All these can result in a Loss of Confidence, Loss of Energy and Loss of Identity:

Enduring multiple losses and changes, many congregations have found their confidence eroding in significant dimensions of the faith community. Such a loss of confidence is seen when:

Members lament that the congregation is not attracting the best and brightest leaders;

leaders mourn that members are not as committed to their faith as members were in a previous era;

members and leaders grieve the divisions that agitate many denominations as partisan groups quarrel over theological and social issues; and

congregations lament the increasing gap between their identity and ministries and the communities and culture in which they live.

Mourning loss and discerning a future are key to survival.

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3 Responses to "Congregations and loss"
  1. The word "loss" in this is something of a euphemism, because some of what is talked about here isn't in the nature of loss, but of destruction. A new rector comes, and decrees that things will be different; there is a conflict in a parish, and some people are driven away. One of the virtues of having an institution is a certain resilience: individuals may come and go, but the institutional structures help buffer this and allow the community to weather adversity to an extent.

    That's one thing which is backward about the AI ponderings: loss of stability is often enough a case as well as a consequence. When members don't know what's going to happen from week to week, when they don't know who is going to be there from week to week, when they are always in anticipation of the next crisis: it wears them down.

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