Congregational typologies have been around for many decades, if not centuries. Each has a foundational organizing principle. In keeping with the theme of a Spiritual Strategic Journey, I offer the following five categories as a typology that looks at the engagement intensity of congregations in a spiritual and strategic journey.
Remember that typologies always state where something—congregations in this case—generally find themselves. It is not the same as typing congregations. Congregations can move from one category to another with some regularity. For example, Perfecting congregations will not always be Perfecting. The same is true of the other four categories.
First, are Perfecting Congregations. These congregations are living in the “red zone.” They are leading edge congregations who appear to be soaring with faith in the direction of their full Kingdom potential. They are experiencing exceptional, sustainable ministry characterized by an effective spiritual and strategic journey. Their time focus is on the future toward which God is pulling them. They clearly captured by God’s empowering vision. Between 10 and 20 percent of all congregations are playing in the “red zone” at any given time.
Second, are Pursuing Congregations. These congregations want to play in the “red zone.” They have either never been there before, or were once there but their vitality and vibrancy waned or they have a disruption or transition that negatively impacted them.
They are now pursuing a spiritual and strategic journey. In the meantime, they have good ministry, but are striving for great ministry. They are seeking rise beyond a present focus to be captured by a new empowering vision from God that will focus on their future ministry. Another 10 to 20 percent of all congregations are Pursuing a spiritual and strategic journey at any given time.
Third, are Preparing Congregations. These congregations are solid with acceptable ministry, but have made an intentional decision to move toward exceptional ministry. They may be engaging in spiritual preparation and other activities preparing them for a spiritual and strategic journey. They desire to pursue vital and vibrant ministry, and hope within a few years to be playing in the “red zone.”
Like Pursuing Congregations, 10 to 20 percent of all congregations fit this category at any given time. Between the first three categories of Perfecting, Pursing, and Preparing are 40 percent or so of congregations.
Fourth, are Providing Congregations. These congregations are engaging in maintenance—yet faithful—ministry that satisfies the current desires of their heart. They are not intentionally seeking a more meaningful or effective ministry. They are comfortable with the patterns of ministry that are part of their heritage. Thus, their focus is on the past.
Because they are satisfied with their current journey, they are not seeking to be empowered by God’s vision for them. Yet, if impacted by a movement of God they would gladly respond. I suggest if they are struck by God’s Triple “D” they will respond enthusiastically. God’s Triple “D” is the direct, dramatic, divine intervention of God.
Until then they may be known for one or more outstanding programs, ministries, or activities, but these are not producing forward movement for the congregation. Examples would be an excellent music program, or a high-quality weekday child care or preschool ministry. The percentage of congregation who fit this category is 25 to 35 percent of all congregations.
Fifth, are Presiding Congregations. These congregations are surviving without a journey that is either spiritual or strategic in nature. They engage in cultural congregational practices characteristic of casual Christian ministry, and are unwilling to consider ministry that is more meaningful or effective.
If they are struck by God’s Tripe “D” their response is “What was that? Did you feel something? Maybe it will go away.” In other words, they do not recognize even the dramatic movement of God in their midst.
They are preaching stations, chaplaincy outposts, cultural enclaves, or faithful family fellowships. Unfortunately, my observation is that as many as 25 to 35 percent of all congregations fall into this category. Between Presiding and Providing congregations are upwards to 60 percent of all congregations.
In the research framework of “My View of the World Says,” I believe that six out of every ten congregations who are at least one generation old are in the Presiding or Providing category. They are not typically interested in engaging in a spiritual and strategic journey. If I suspect I am talking with a congregation in one of these two categories, I would insist they engage in readiness activities discussed in chapter three.
Providing congregations may be open to a transition and change process that could result in transformation if they are struck by God’s Triple D—the direct, dramatic, divine intervention of God. Presiding congregations are not necessarily open to a transition and change process even when struck by God’s Triple D. They have become deeply ingrained into a cultural enclave pattern that does not allow them to even recognize the movement of God in their midst.
Four out of ten congregations are Preparing, Pursuing, or Perfecting congregations. Each of these congregations are aware of their need to be on a spiritual and strategic journey. For about half of these congregations that means a journey of short-term fixes that primarily transitions and changes surface or shallow things about their congregation.
For the other half of these congregations that means taking significant and deep actions of transition and change that may lead to transformation. For one out of two of these congregations that will result in a transformational difference for their congregation.
If you have calculated correctly, what I am saying is that all congregations at least one generation old, one out of ten will transform. That is discouraging, but so true for congregations where there is not a proactive system for congregational transformation in their denominational family or network.