Helpful Terms

Terms Helpful in Understanding Congregations in Transition

Predecessor Organizations
What groups, if any, contributed to the start of this church? What groups still influence it?

Style of Incorporation
How have new members become integrated into the life of the congregation? Has it always been easy for new members to join? What are the obstacles to full participation? How do new members become aware of the culture, history, mission and opportunities for involvement in the congregation?

Style of grieving / recovering from loss of members
How has/does this parish process loss of staff or members? What rituals are followed? Are exit interviews utilized?

What are the strengths of this congregation in various time periods? What clear patterns of health and vitality have been a part of this congregation?

Mission Focus
How clear has the mission focus been? How has mission changed?

Financial History
When were the stable times? The challenging times? Has any group or individual attempted to hold the congregation hostage financially? What values does the use of money reveal? What tends to be under funded in this parish? How openly are financial matters discussed?

Major Conflicts
What major conflicts have this congregation wrestled with? Which have been resolved successfully? Which still remain active? What has the congregation’s style of conflict management (avoidant, polarization, win/loose, etc.)? What “battle wounds” are still seeking revenge?

What is the history of suffering in this congregation? How do members express their pain? How does healing and reconciliation happen?

Decision Making
What model of decision making has prevailed? (leader/follower; collaborative; divide and conquer; etc.). What is the pattern for gaining input into decisions? How consistently are decisions tied to the larger mission?

Information Exchange
What are the vehicles for communication? How clear are members about what is going on? Was there a time when communication seemed to be better?

Overfunctioning / Underfunctioning
What are the patterns of over and under functioning on the part of those responsible for doing the work of the congregation?

Functional Power Structure
How are changes made? What major changes, if any, have occurred over time? Why and how were these changes made? How has pastoral authority been expressed/related to? Does contributing more money automatically translate into having more influence in the congregation? Does belonging to a particular group, family or era afford someone more functional power? Who are unintentionally disenfranchised in the congregation?

Expressing Nurture
How has this church provided nurture for its members? Do some subgroups feel more nurtured than others? How are volunteers supported? How is the leadership equipped to do its job?

Having fun together
How has/how does this church experience shared recreation? What forms of play are encouraged?

The Good Old Days
When were they and what made them such?

Traumatic Events
Clergy misconduct, embezzlement, loss of property, tragic deaths, when did they occur? How were they responded to? What influence(s) do they still have on the life of a parish?

Patterns of Unhealth
Secrets, triangles, blaming, diagnosing, scapegoating, etc. What is the history of this congregation’s bad habits?