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Moving Forward

Updated: Apr 25

stains on stucco, vine growing on house, gutter and downspout not connected

What to take with us, what to leave behind. How do we decide?

You may remember that my husband and I are at the beginning of a move that we didn’t plan to make. Initially, we thought we were tiptoeing toward something new, a nice slow pace. We were thinking about it, but not doing anything. Yet as soon as we started inquiring about finding a new place to live, we found something, and our pace picked up. If you want to know more about that phase – click for “Tiptoeing Toward Change.”

We’re moving into the future but not everything we’ve accumulated over the years is going to make the trip. We’re downsizing,and also—value-sizing (if that’s a word). It takes imagination. We know the dimensions of the new space – so some of the decisions are about fit. Others are about feel and temporal orientation. We could cram a lot of stuff into our small space, a cozy clutter, full of memories. Or we could take only what we truly treasure and leave room for what we find in the future.  We are trying to choose the future, but to do so we must decide what to leave behind.

Marie Kondo says to keep something if it sparks joy. My Living the Resurrection partner, Pastor Mike Girlinghouse says to keep something if it was formative for you. Some things we keep because they make us smile, and some because they are part of our history, part of who we are. A lot of things are neither.

It’s easy to feel joy holding a photo of someone we love, or to recognize that an author’s words helped shape our beliefs. But I didn’t think “joy” or “formation” would be part assessing furniture, until now. Our dining room set is from my husband’s grandparents, he remembers it in their home when he was a kid. It looks great and still does what we need it to do – so it’s going with us. Our couch is twenty-two years old. It outlived its attacker – Spikey the cat --- but the scars remain. Nothing shows if it stands against the wall, but in the new space the couch will have to float, so the decision is: recover or replace. I still smile at its clean lines, and when I sit on its cushions my feet can touch the floor--which is something those of us of shorter stature appreciate, so – it gets reupholstered. I’ve decided that this isn’t “new wine in an old wineskin” but old wine in a new wineskin. Same foundation, new presentation.

Change always comes with obstacles to be worked through. For us, it’s the inspection reports. First the termite inspector came looking for dry rot, fungus, and termites. What you look for, you tend to find, so yes, we have all three. Next the general inspector scoured the house looking for anything unsafe. He found what he was looking for too. The photos at the top of the page show just a few of the things we must fix to move forward. The only good news came from the dirtiest place. The sewer inspector says we’re all clear (not clean, just clear). Obstacles are annoying, they slow us down and can even make us change course a bit. But the future is better when we’ve worked through the problems of the past.

Parallels to congregational life are obvious – right? Change is change, the process is the same whether it’s something my husband and I are doing, or a congregation. You may have noticed that I snuck the four stages in the appreciative inquiry change process into this story: Initiate, Inquire, Imagine, and Innovate.

Something initiates the change – a new idea, pressure from a situation. For us it was our friend’s idea of “tiptoeing toward retirement.”

Considering change means asking questions; inquiring about how, what, when, and why. When we started working with those questions, we realized we had a check-list of things we valued that this move needed to include. In the same way decisions that will impact the future of a congregation need to align with its current values and sense of identity.

Imagining what a feasible future could be for us means holding on to our values while staying within our budget. It means deciding what to take with us, what to leave behind. Our congregations need to make those same decisions.

And, of course, all along the way there will be obstacles. Every change has its version of termites and dry rot that must be addressed. Concerns need to be worked through, or moving forward will be tough.

The last stage of the process is my favorite: Innovation. It’s not enough to imagine a new future – we need to take steps to make it real! We aren’t quite there yet, but we’ll be looking to build relationships with our new neighbors. I’ll tackle that in another blog – probably after we move.

If you want to know more about how all of this can apply to your congregation click on the buttons

Grab a couple of free resources to help you take this further. I recommend 1) Leading Change, and 2) Motivating Change

Or, if you want a little help applying this, register for an Inspiring Change workshop. Two free opportunities to participate are coming up in May of 2024. You can register on the homepage:

If you want to know more about this workshop click the button below.


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