Yet another book I would like to read with a group of congregational leaders and discuss where they see its wisdom intersecting and/or challenging the life of our faith community. That brings me to three now... (the other two are here and here)
this book for some time now. Most often with good things being said. Some in my denomination seem to consider it a "must read" when it comes to the topic of revitalizing a congregation. So earlier this year I decided I would read it.
I have been hearing about Hillhurst United Church and their somewhat amazing revitalization for even longer. It is one of those success stories that get passed around the denomination as something we should try to emulate or even outright copy. Which brings me to the first thing I most appreciate about the book. John is clear that he is writng a descritpion of what happened in one place in one church. He does not think the exact actions and programs are the answer for everybody. Instead he hopes that there is wisdom and principles that might transfer to other locales.
Some of what is in here is in many other books about growing healthy communities. And so to a degree it repeats (and therefore reminds and amplifies) some wisdom about best practices and foundational tasks. Then there are other things that are not exactly new and innovative, or at least not innovative outside the mainline church--which is rarely a place true innovation is found in my experience, but are put in a new "churchy" context with an accompanying spin.
One o the things I liked about the book, and something I think would make it easier to use with a group of leaders is the use of stories. Narrative tends to make a concept more real and accessible much of the time.
Is this book the saving of a congregation? Of course not. Even if the wisdom in it is to be useful more than one person in a community needs to read (and buy in to) it. But I think there are nuggets here that many congregations I have known would do well to learn. WE are not all going to change teh way Hillhurst did (mainly because we are not Hillhurst and we each have our own context and challenges). We can not simply copy what they did. Nor should we try. But John is not writing a prescription of "do this and that will happen". Which is all too often what books on church growth start to sound like.
I am glad I read this one.