The American religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Many faith communities are faced with shrinking membership, aging facilities, and diminishing resources. Clergy and laity are often overwhelmed by daunting leadership challenges, resulting in anxiety, burnout and a loss of hope. Questions abound as we navigate the wilderness in search of the path that will lead to renewal and hope so that we might faithfully serve in God’s kingdom.
Through interactive workshops, educational programs and group coaching sessions, Communities of Hope works with faith communities to move them from places of tension and conflict to vibrant communities of authentic and healthy relationships that are better equipped to address change and transformation; from places of self-directed leadership to communities of discernment and discovery that are open to God’s direction for being and serving; and, from congregations focused on self-preservation to collaborative communities of faith working together to more effectively and positively serve their neighbors and overall community.
Healthy Communication, Authentic Relationships, and Conflict Transformation
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and, in all things, charity.
At Communities of Hope, we believe that the foundation of any vibrant organization is healthy communication and authentic relationships, but these characteristics are of vital importance to faith communities during these times of significant transformation. Anxiety, power struggles, ineffective listening, and conflict can emerge during times of change, leading to dissension and congregational division.
Key goals include:
- Developing enhanced communication and listening skills
- Understanding the difference between conflict resolution and conflict transformation
- Formulating communication processes for dealing with difficult and challenging times
- Learning how to create a covenant to set boundaries and provide guidance for healthy communication, engagement, and relationships
- Building an environment of intentional interpersonal and organizational communication
- Promoting a culture of shared ministry between clergy and laity
Cultivating and Training Spiritual Lay Leadership
Journeying from our will to God’s will.
Faith communities are immersed in a culture filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that is producing challenges that have no clear-cut solutions. This time of transition has led a multitude of lay leaders to feel as though they are journeying through an unknown wilderness. To deal with these challenges, many lay leadership councils have turned to secular leadership practices as they focus their energy on institutional maintenance, management, and survival. At Communities of Hope, we believe a different type of leadership skill is needed – one of spiritual leadership – if faith communities are to successfully navigate these challenging times and fulfill God’s call for the Church. At the heart of spiritual leadership is discernment—the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God both personally and in community. Discernment requires leaders to move beyond a reliance on their own capabilities and intellect to a place of deep listening and openness to God’s direction.
Key goals include:
- Developing the tools for healthy, authentic relationships among lay leaders
- Understanding the role and call of a spiritual leader
- Moving from being a community of self-directed leaders to leadership communities of discernment and discovery that are open to God’s direction for being and serving
- Restructuring leadership board meetings to gatherings filled with vitality, vision, and hope
- Creating ongoing opportunities for development and growth of spiritual leadership
Developing Vision, Mission, Values, Goals, and Plans
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.
Having a sense of where and why a faith community is journeying and an understanding of the steps to take along the way are critical to meaningfully participating in God’s work in the world. Communities of Hope will lead faith communities in a process that will help them to address the questions of:
- Where and who are we now?
- Where is God calling us?
- How do we get there?
Key goals include:
- Understanding the importance of developing a congregational vision and mission
- Carrying out the thoughtful, faithful steps necessary to develop a plan that will allow a congregation to live out its mission and give hope to the realization of its vision
- Developing the tools necessary to adapt to inevitable unforeseen risk and change
- Understanding the criticality of accountability and ongoing evaluation
Ecumenical Collaborations for Engaging in Community Outreach
Do all the good you can; by all the means you can; in all the ways you can; in all the places you can; at all the times you can; to all the people you can; as long as ever you can.
Many congregations today are faced with a severe reduction in capability to carry out meaningful community outreach due to significant losses of both human and financial resources. As a result, one of two scenarios typically arise – (1) congregations attempt to sustain the same level of community outreach as before, only to find their efforts falling short of the goal, creating burnout and stress in the process, or (2) congregations reduce their outreach programs, resulting in diminished benefits for the larger community. Communities of Hope believes that there is another way forward for congregations to bring about the delivery of vital and effective outreach and support to their community.
Key benefits of ecumenical collaborations include:
- Synergy of resources – The pooling and sharing of the collaborative partnership’s gifts and talents would bring about the potential for greater community impact than could be achieved by each congregation working in isolation.
- Improved decision making and a diversity of ideas – Ecumenical collaborations seeking understanding around complex concerns and ideas will promote enhanced information sharing and outcomes through innovative and diverse thought and discussion.
- Healthy community relationships – The formation of these ecumenical collaborations will lead to increased cooperation and healthier relationships among the differing denominations and provide greater visibility of God working through the Church in lifting up the community.
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