I recently attended a “Healthy Congregations” Seminar at Montreat Conference Center. This seminar is based on Peter Steinke’s book, Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach. The book is about the stewardship of the congregation: how people care for, respond to, and manage their life together. It is about holding in trust the well-being of the congregation.
What are the marks of a healthy congregation?
- Healthy congregations focus on mission, challenge, and strengths.
- They have leaders who are mature and motivated and accept the role of being stewards of the congregation.
- They are well-prepared to manage tension and trauma; while they do not escape conflicts, they do not allow conflict to fester due to indecision.
- They are characterized by a mood and spirit that is uplifting.
- Healthy congregations intentionally practice clarity; roles and expectations are clearly defined and widely understood.
Healthy congregations develop generous people
What Peter found is that health, including physical health, is connected with generosity. To hold on to everything you have is to invite unhappiness, loneliness, and anxiety. Research on stress has shown that gratitude enhances the immune system. Giving thanks is life affirming.
What practices diminish anxiety and promote generosity?
- Healthy congregations are centered in God’s grace. The gift of God’s grace informs and shapes our acts of giving. A thankful heart is expressive. Giving becomes not an obligation but an opportunity, a readiness, or a flow of gratefulness.
- Healthy congregations do not resort to dividing the world into two halves, the material and the spiritual. All is of one piece. The biblical vision encourages us to cherish and be grateful for the goodness of the material world. We are encouraged to serve one another with whatever gifts we have received.
- Healthy congregations are not afraid to talk about giving. Members are encouraged to pledge financially and pledge their time and talents to the ministries of the church. Pledging is a spiritual practice and a response to God.
- Healthy congregations know that generosity is developed. People begin to realize that blessing is a continuous activity of God, and blessings are to be shared. Stewardship means feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick and lonely, and defending the outcast.
- Healthy congregations celebrate whatever gift is given. Your gifts count; you make a difference. When gifts are known to give benefits, generosity is increased. Meaningful gifts spur the spirit of generosity. Healthy congregations are gracious and grateful.
How would you measure the health of your congregation? What are you doing to develop generosity in your congregation?
Deborah Rexrode, Associate for Stewardship
Presbytery of the James