Take a chance card

Scenario: A minister needs to take 5 months off, due to a family emergency. The Church Council meets to plan how they will handle the situation.

Chairperson: “We’ve called this special meeting of the church council to work out how we will handle the next five months. There are going to be a few gaps we need to fill and I was hoping we could spend some time thinking about creative options for how we are going to manage while the Rev is off. It might be that we need to simplify things a bit for a while. I’m concerned that we have a good conversation tonight, to make sure all the bases are covered and the congregation doesn’t have to be affected by this change.”

Council Member #1: “Well maybe they should be affected.”

Council Member #2: “What do you mean? Surely we need to do some planning to try and take care of things?”

Council Member #1: “Yes, I agree we need to do some planning. But perhaps if we share with the congregation, some of the needs, or gaps we’ll be experiencing, there might be people willing to step up? This might be better than us covering the bases as a team, when we are already fairly committed.”

The church chose to involve more people in the activity of the church and 6 months later, a congregation member reflected on the time. “One of the best things for us has been not having a minister.”

What no one anticipated, was that the church would not be the same as it was, when 5 months finished. At the end of that time, the minister expected to return to how things had always been, but he didn’t understand quite what he returned to, as he hadn’t shared the 5 month journey with the congregation. He too had been affected by his time away and his priorities and concerns had shifted. No one anticipated that the changes may not be able to simply be undone, and that a process of reconnecting and revisioning would be needed.


  • What is your natural, or automatic reaction when a change arises unexpectedly?
  • In your context, how does space open up for new people to do new things?
  • What might be the downside of protecting a congregation, or parts of a congregation from times of struggle or need?
  • How is oversight exercised in your community?
  • What sort of expectations are placed on the minister in your setting? Are these helpful to that person? Are they helpful to the rest of the congregation? Where do those expectations come from?

Wisdom from the pews

“During transition periods where people who are normally taking responsibility are no longer able to do so, there is an opportunity for less active participants to step up. ”

“Solving problems too quickly, before the neutral space is felt by everyone may shutdown new possibilities from emerging. ”

“It's great to work n teams or pairs, with a non-judgemental culture that makes it safe for beginners to have a go, including mistakes to happen and learning from them together.”

Going deeper