Mann, Raising the Roof

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Alice Mann, Raising the Roof: The Pastoral-to-Program Size Transition. Alban Institute, 2001.

Referenced in: Church Leadership – Size Dynamics and Transitions

LifeandLeadership Summary

This is one of Alban Institute’s contributions to the issue of congregational size transitions. Other volumes include the anthology edited by Beth Ann Gaede, Size Transitions in Congregations, and Mann’s The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions. Alban’s materials are more useful for smaller or mid-size churches that are experiencing transition.

Raising the Roof is designed for congregations where the average year-round Sunday attendance has hit a plateau somewhere between 150-250. This marks the transition between pastoral and program size according to Arlin Rothauge’s classic categories of family (up to 50), pastoral (51-150), program (151-350), and corporate (351+). Mann consulted with 12 congregations experiencing this plateau, and this book grows out of her experience. Each of these congregations was located in a context favorable to numerical growth, regularly attracted first-time visitors, had leaders who were ready for the congregation to “step-up” to the next size, were blessed with leaders who had the skills and motivation to lead the church through a very intentional learning experience, and enjoyed strong trust between minister, lay leaders, and congregation. Congregations without these dynamics may still benefit, but it is important to understand the unique circumstances behind the book.

The opening chapters present the basic concepts on size transitions, the barriers to growth specific to congregations in the pastoral-to-program plateau, and the preparatory tasks necessary for such a church to move to the next level. The remaining chapters describe the “communal learning process” through which she lead each congregation. This process consisted of five stages:

  1. Establish a covenant of learning
  2. Explore the unique character of this congregation
  3. Explore the unique character of our community context today
  4. Articulate our congregation’s particular vocation within this context
  5. Adopt a plan for further learning and action

The purpose of this process is to “help the congregation face its situation honestly and to discern a shared direction.” (56) It requires strong leader/administrative capacity within the congregation and perhaps even the external support of a consultant. For churches that are ready for this degree on intentionality, Raising the Roof is perhaps the most thorough church-wide, collaborative congregational renewal process for churches that find themselves in this transition.

Mann covers the same issues as others of this genre, but her strength is the opening chapters which discuss small church dynamics. Also, if one has the unusual degree of congregational readiness and cooperation characteristic of the churches in her case presentation, her process is unparalleled. Churches with this level of readiness are rare, however. For this reason, Kevin Martin is my top suggestion because of his more extensive discussion of the best practices of transformational leaders, especially as they deal with resistance to change. Understanding the overall dynamics (Mann) and designating the specific choice points (Sullivan) are important, but navigating the unique struggles of leading churches through these (Martin) is the key.

From the Publisher

Pastoral-to-program size change is frequently described as the most challenging of growth transitions for congregations. Now Alban senior consultant Alice Mann, author of The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations, addresses the difficulties of that transition in this resource designed specifically for a congregational learning team.

Conceptualized and developed by Mann for an Alban on-line seminar program test event conducted with 12 congregations in transition, her newest book features a five-step process enabling the learning team to engage a wider circle of congregational leaders and members in study, discernment, and planning. Never-before published resources include discussion of a major new concept passive barriers to growth plus Mann’s “System Change Index” tool to help congregations measure their progress from pastoral-size to program-size ways of operating.

From preparing the congregation’s board and members, selecting the person to guide the learning process, and recruiting the learning team, to creating and celebrating a plan for congregational learning and action, Mann provides all the resources a congregation needs to address this significant size transition period.

About the Author

Before joining the staff of the Alban Institute, Alice Mann served for two decades in the dual roles of local pastor and nationally recognized consultant-trainer in the field of parish development, with emphasis on incorporating new members; redeveloping struggling congregations; defining judicatory roles in growth and revitalization; breaking through size plateaus; and deepening parish spirituality. She frequently assists churches with self-assessment, long-range planning, and the development of context-sensitive strategies for growth. In training workshops and planning retreats, Alice engages large and small groups in practical learning and candid conversation about the choices church leaders face today.

***For additional information on this resource, including reviews, click the bookstore links. Check the reference at page top or the links below for resource guides on related topics.***

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