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Creativity and Resilience in Making Healthy Congregations

The willingness to take risks and try things out is a characteristic of healthy congregations. It just has to be! Imagine the opposite. Imagine a congregation that can’t take risks and doesn’t have the resources for creative thinking. Imagine a congregation who, when their path leads into a valley, cannot look around them and see various ways to get out.

Creativity in congregational life involves much more than “the creative arts”: it is the imaginative horizon of the congregation. It is that power by which we say: no matter what we face, we have options and possibilities for going forward. It is integrally linked to resilience, to the ability to adapt to whatever challenges we might face.

For instance: imagine that a particular stewardship approach has worked well for the congregation for the past 10 years. Recently we’ve noticed that this approach has lost its power. Creativity is the spark by which we say, there are many different reasons this may have happened. Let’s get curious! Let’s ask some key questions! Let’s look for a variety of possible approaches to this situation, and let’s pilot some possible next-steps.

However, creativity is much more than simply an asset in our organizational life. Creativity is a core attitude of a vibrant Christian faith.

Down through the Biblical story, people faced challenges that seemed insurmountable: escaping slavery in Egypt; becoming at home in the already-populated promised land; keeping their faith in God alive as slaves in Babylon; living out the call to social justice under the oppressive rule of the Greeks, and then the Romans.

Time and time again, the people of God have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges and God has triumphed anyway. And when the Romans crucified Jesus to shut him down, even death could not stop the plan and the dream and the mission that God was pushing forward: the plan of redeeming the whole world. Jesus’ resurrection is the supreme act of God’s resilience and resourcefulness. Nothing will deter God; nothing will derail God’s mission. God is always ready with a new creative response, a new way to move things ahead, a different approach to take, in order to save this world which God so loves.

All of us face challenges in our lives; and our congregations face challenges, too. The demographic shift in our country suggests that the challenges now faced by mainline Protestant churches will be coming soon to an Evangelical church near you. Yet God is not dismayed by these challenges. God is the ultimate creative thinker - pun intended.

Congregations that are struggling to find creative solutions to overwhelming challenges need good quality pastoral care. But they need great preaching too. They need to be reminded that God is resilient and invites us into resilience. They need to be reminded that God is not dismayed by these challenges and hardships: though the challenges are mighty, God is mightier still.

As we just celebrated this season of Easter - as we walk with disciples in their awe and wonder at the creativity and determination of God, who raised Jesus from the dead - may we help our congregations to believe it, too, and to see it even in their own midst: the creativity of God working in us, so that when we find ourselves in a valley, we look up, and find our way to the mountain top. By God’s grace.

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