Congregations in Transition: A Guide for Analyzing, Assessing, and Adapting in Changing Communities

Dudley, Carl S., and Nancy T. Ammerman. Congregations in Transition: A Guide for Analyzing, Assessing, and Adapting in Changing Communities. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

As the subtitle to this volume suggests, Carl Dudley and Nancy Ammerman’s workbook Congregations in Transition offers practical advice and step-by-step guidance to the local congregation seeking to respond creatively and positively to change in its surrounding community. The authors explain that all types of American communities are undergoing continuous and, in many cases, momentous and rapid change, whether they be urban, suburban or “exurban.” Congregations too often are not fully aware of these changes thus failing to adapt successfully to the challenges changing communities present. The workbook is designed to help congregations adjust to its environment by cultivating seven habits: curiosity, honest self-assessment, playful experimentation, entrepreneurship, using drama and symbol, practicing hospitality, and embracing conflict. <p> Using the biblical account of the Exodus as an overall framework, the book’s chapters guide congregations to get the lay of the land, size up their tabernacle, look for pillars of fire, and cross the Jordan to settle in the “promised land.” To accomplish this, the chapters contain a number of concrete exercises a congregational committee or task group can work though to learn these habits and put the learning to use. Each exercise begins with appropriate background and rationale for doing the exercise, followed by specific steps in carrying it out, counsel in sharing the findings with those inside and outside the congregation, and encouragement to reflect on what was learned and how to proceed. The final chapter addresses how the committee can pass their leadership on to those in the congregation who have caught the vision and are committed to carrying the process forward. Each chapter concludes with a suggested reading list to broaden the congregation’s study.