Church Leadership Foundations – Church Dynamics, Congregational Research

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Church Dynamics and Characteristics, Congregational Research

Part of the ministry resources on Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal.


Intentional church development and renewal is hard work, for a variety of reasons.

  1. First, faithful church development involves theological reflection, prayerful discernment, and faithfulness to God’s call. This requires a level of rigor that is beyond the comfortable existence of most churches.
  2. Second, churches are more complex than many wish to acknowledge. Intentional development brings this complexity to the surface.
  3. Third, most ministers must lead congregations through a cadre of devoted volunteers, many of whom do not share the ministers’ interest in understanding the congregation deeply, and who may insist on overly-pragmatic adoption of models that have worked in other places.
  4. Fourth, most church leaders are chosen and admired for their skills in pastoral care, which do not always exist alongside gifts of strategic leadership.
  5. Fifth, many congregations, even the appointed leaders, do not take congregational life seriously enough to be intentional about growth in all its dimensions.
  6. Sixth, even if churches are serious, few within the congregation understand how to adapt commonly used planning models for good use.
  7. Seven, members often underestimate the uniqueness of congregations as compared to the organizations where they work, and try unsuccessfully to adapt corporate models to congregational life, often with disappointing results.

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All these factors and more reveal the need for church leaders to be especially diligent in preparing for their planning efforts. This is a kind of pre-work that pays off richly. The following resources help in the preparatory phases as well as in the work of development that follows. I have divided them into five categories:

  • Theological and Philosophical Foundations for Church Renewal
  • Preparation for Planning
  • Understanding Church Dynamics
  • Congregational Research
  • Congregational Culture/Identity (one of the most powerful components of church dynamics. See separate Resource Guide)

While each of the resources below is helpful, I recommend a three-piece prequel to the planning process.

  1. Know why planning is important. Source: Drummond, Holy Clarity
  2. Understand the nature of congregational systems. Source: Galindo, The Hidden Lives of Congregations
  3. Integrate all the pieces of the planning process. Source: Wrenn, Innovative Planning

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See below for resources on the components of the planning process. They are listed in alphabetical order. One may also be interested in the Ministry Resource Guide on Church Leadership Strategies, Overview of Approaches.

Theological and Philosophical Foundations for Church Renewal (see also Ecclesiology)

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Preparation for Planning:

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Understanding Congregational Dynamics:

Congregational Research:

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