I went to look for “Main’s Folly” the other day. It’s at the back of the church property, down the old road to the back and left at the Chinaberry grove where I used to preach every Easter. Go past the rock altar and head toward the ring of stones where we cooked hot dogs back in the old days.
When award-winning documentary filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond set out to make The Congregation, they may have imagined they were taking a respite from the hot topics of their previous films—wartime Bosnia, New York police, and homosexuality in America.
As I travel around the country visiting and consulting with congregations and clergy, I find that many are caught in vicious cycles. The vicious cycles seem more common than the virtuous ones. They are easily recognized by a chilly climate of anxiety, which these days seems to be more common than the common cold.
Small congregations rank highest in congregational participation
Apr 06, 2004
Certain assumptions have long been made about what makes for the strongest congregational life—for example, that megachurches provide the best worship experience or that the best churches generally make children’s ministries a priority.
References to Robert Putnam have turned up in many sermons in recent years, including my own, because of a timely observation he made, one that immediately resonated with pastors as both true and important. America, he said, was experiencing a sharp decline in “social capital,” by which he meant the tangible and intangible benefits of community involvement.
What is a healthy congregation? For some clergy and laity, health is simply the absence of conflict. But we may be confusing a healthy congregation with a placid one. While conflict is seldom fun, its absence may be less an indication of health than of an insufficient sense of urgency or challenge about being the church.