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Lecture Syllabus - DH-01 - Recreating The Church: Leadership For The Post-Modern Age

by Dick Hamm

This five-session course helps us make sense of the new context in which we of the church find ourselves, provides practical models by which to understand how our congregations need to change, describes a visioning process by which we can discover what God is calling the church to be and do now, and provides practical advice and counsel to those who provide leadership for change. The course is based on the book by Richard L. Hamm entitled, "Recreating The Church: Leadership For The Postmodern Age", TCP Leadership Series, Chalice Press, 2007, supplemented by up to date findings from recent consultations.

Session 1: The Shift from Modern to Postmodern

According to the best current culture critics, 1968 was a pivotal year of the 20th century. The technological and cultural changes during, immediately before and immediately after 1968 brought profound changes through the disintegration of modern cultural assumptions and the advent of mass communications via satellite. This change has continued at a rapid clip with the further development of digital technologies, the advent of personal computers, cell phones, and so much more. Today the world is a mix of the modern, postmodern, and even the pre-modern. Some of us respond, some of us react and most of us do some of both. Religion and human spirituality have been and continue to be profoundly impacted.

Session 2: Generational Differences and Similarities

This is the first time in history that individual generations, living at the same time, have differed so much from each other in world view and basic approach to life. The differences between these generations are not simply a matter of where they are in the human life-cycle, (though we know people do tend to see things differently at different ages). The cohorts of each generation today are also profoundly different from those of other generations because of life-shaping experiences held in common. Understanding these differences between generational perspectives and preferences are absolutely essential if we are going to be church together and if we are going to be effective in mission and witness to a world of difference. Unlike the past, at least five very different generations are now in the church together.

Session 3: The Life Cycle of Congregations

Using a model developed by George Bullard, Dick Hamm helps us understand where our own congregations or other church institutions are in the life cycle, how they got there, and how we must respond in order to keep them effective and moving forward in positive ways. Some 80% of mainline Protestant congregations in the United States are in the last half of the life cycle. Fully 60% are in the last quadrant of the life cycle, which means their days are numbered unless something or someone intervenes. Understanding the dynamics of church life at each stage of the life cycle is essential to effective leadership. This workshop will help you determine where your congregation is on the life cycle.

Session 4: A Visioning Process for Congregations

There are many visioning processes available for use today. Some are better than others, but all of the good ones have certain commonalities: they take the current context (both cultural and geographic) of the church seriously; they engage the congregation in a process of discernment rather than in mere democracy; they result in the development of both a new vision and a very specific strategic plan that includes measurable benchmarks and timelines. In this session, Dick will share the process he most often uses with churches, the Spiritual Strategic Journey. Some congregations may be able to lead themselves through such a process, some will require an outside leader (a denominational person or a consultant), but negotiating the steps of the process are each important and necessary.

Session 5: Leading Adaptive Change in Churches

Ron Heifetz of Harvard University writes in his books about "adaptive change". Adaptive change refers to change which is undertaken in order to adapt to the changing context and needs of the present time. It does not mean simply "caving into culture" and its often skewed value systems, but it means recognizing that we must address the world where it is rather than insisting that the world meet the church where it is. This session will explore seven important steps in leading adaptive change in the church.