Remember to seek balance

Nurturing a healthy congregation comes requires balance, not putting all of your energy and resources into a single program or objective.

A high-octane strategy for welcoming visitors, for example, won’t lead anywhere unless you also have strategies for retaining them, transforming their lives, and leading them deeply into the full dimensions of faith. You’ll have a “revolving door,” not a growing body.

Similarly, if your efforts on teaching spiritual disciplines aren’t balanced with reaching out to others and embracing new constituencies, you risk becoming effete and self-referential.

Maintaining a building justifies expense only if you have a vibrant community of faith using it. A dynamite communications strategy requires that you have something to say.

Few congregations are large and resource-rich enough to tackle everything at once. In the Church Wellness Project, we urge you to “start where you start,” and then to keep moving. Someone needs to keep reminding leaders, “We aren’t done yet.”

Attaining balance isn’t a budget exercise. Best practices generally aren’t costly. (It’s poor practices that tend to deplete resources.) What balance does require is engaging many minds (ideas), hearts (passions and needs), and souls (beliefs) in the process of seeking health.

In many congregations, dynamic engagement will be radically new behavior. Valuing all voices, not just leaders’ voices, requires humility. Considering all ideas and passions requires patience. Considering conflicting beliefs requires open-mindedness.

The rewards of seeking balance, however, more than justify the emotional and intellectual cost. Remember: people tend to support what they helped to create. Hearing many voices not only yields a richer tapestry of ideas and dreams, but also builds support for the work that inevitably comes next.


Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus,” and the founder of the Church Wellness Project.