Since 2002 David Raymond from ChurchFuture has served over 100 congregations as a coach and consultant. ChurchFuture clients include ELCA, UMC, UCC, and United Presbyterian churches. In a number of cases ChurchFuture has served in partnership with other consultants or denominational staff members. Through this experience ChurchFuture has learned how to help congregations uncover their shared vision and discover a pathway to a brighter future, even in a difficult religious environment. ChurchFuture focuses in three areas of expertise:
Church Mergers and Other Collaborations
Each year 2% of US Protestant churches merge and another 5% talk about merger, according to a Leadership Network study. Many other churches are collaborating in one way or another—sharing staff and programs or serving the community in a joint effort. This is not surprising because there are compelling missional, ecological and economic reasons for churches to work together. Warren Bird’s book, Better Together Making Church Mergers Work, refers to David Raymond as a “merger specialist”. Raymond has served as a consultant to 15 groups involving 37 churches as they’ve explored merger or some other form of collaboration, and he’s led workshops on church collaboration for the United Church of Canada in Toronto and Vancouver.
There are thousands of books and articles and seminars on church growth and renewal, but the vast majority of protestant churches are stuck or in decline. Why? It’s not because churches don’t try—many churches try to follow the steps—they adopt a new strategic plan, create new outreach efforts, tinker with worship, change their children’s program, etc. etc., but find that the steps don’t do much. Churches remain stuck because congregational renewal is tough. But it’s not impossible. Congregational renewal needs a holistic approach that starts with a new understanding of the congregation and the community around it and then measures to bridge to gap between them. It requires a new commitment and a change in the congregation’s culture, along with a clear sense of purpose, identity, and focus. ChurchFuture doesn’t have a magic formula for renewal, but after many years of working with churches we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Effective leadership is critical for effective change, so leadership coaching is a key element in all of ChurchFuture’s work. There is no point in planning for a bright future unless leaders have the confidence and skill to bring their members into that future.
Everything David Raymond has taught about congregational leadership over the years was put to test recently. In January 2017 Raymond was elected president of his own congregation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities. In June 2017, Bethlehem’s senior pastor died of cancer, and during that year one associate pastor retired and one left for another call. In spite of these stresses Bethlehem moved forward. In September 2017 the congregation voted (602 to 14) to call two co-senior pastors. Two new associate pastors joined the staff. By almost all measures Bethlehem is continuing the momentum left by the former senior pastor.