Once a thriving and growing church in rural Oregon, Hucrest Community Church was now experiencing decline. For over a decade the down turn was a major topic of conversation. Many families had left with frustrations, hurts and offenses. This left those still attending dazed and struggling with disappointment.
The two leadership teams and the pastor were continually at odds. You could describe their relationship as an adversarial relationship with zero trust. Most of the leaders were operating out of hurts, suspicion and defensiveness. This left the whole church paralyzed, choosing sides and unable to move forward.
Our church was in crisis and our leadership team was in chaos. Unhealthy patterns of conflict resolution, poor accountability and most importantly a breakdown in trust had occurred. Poor solutions were the only answers being generated internally. It was past time to look beyond ourselves and invite someone with expertise in conflict resolution, and strategic coaching to assist both the team and myself in getting unstuck.
My first impression as I drove onto the property was about the facilities. They had a very nice building, modern playground and plenty of paved parking. Yet, I knew they were in trouble and desperately needed outside help to navigate the situation.
During the exploratory meeting, I found tension permeating the room, personal agendas set and minds already made up. We spent the evening exploring what it might look like to work together.
Some felt it was not necessary to bring in outside help. Their answer was the pastor should leave. Others felt he should stay and as a group find their way back to being a healthy church. One thing I knew, any decision was going to alienate someone, and it did.
The majority accepted a year-long plan with three weekend intensives, one month apart. Along with this I would have regular coaching calls with the pastor. Immediately several board members resigned and left the church.
Thankful Dr. Graybill does not have a canned/one-size-fits-all program; he carefully assessed what was happening, who we were and where we wanted to go. He did this by listening to us as a team, as individuals and as a complete community. He took time to discuss his assessment in full and to help us understand and identify where we were as a team as well as help us identify our desired goals.
Over the next three months, I met with the leadership team. This team consisted of both teams, staff and pastor all combined into one team.
Through individual meetings to unpack history, perceptions and hurts, and team meetings to explore new ways to operate, we began to change the culture of the team. People began to see others as people instead of obstacles, who were in the way and keeping them from getting what they wanted.
Using assessments and other tools the team was able to see their present reality and design what a healthy team would look like. They discussed what would it take to restore broken relationships and rebuild trust. What actions needed to be taken individually and as a team? The leadership team concluded they needed to apologize to the congregation for their behavior and lack of action. Click here to listen to their apology.
When Bill first came, we were a mess. As Bill worked with us, we began to deal with issues such as trust, and unforgiveness. We also committed to making our team a safe place to exchange ideas without those ideas being attacked. We are learning how to engage in healthy conflict where ideas could be discussed. This attitude is now filtering into the other teams in the church.
Having begun to redeem broken relationships and adjust their culture, it was time to move forward with the rebuilding stage. The team examined their leadership structure, roles of individuals and team roles. Sunday introduced the monthly family meeting, a way of building trust by being transparent and open communication with the congregation.
Where Are We Today?
The leadership team is embracing the work necessary to become a healthy team able to lead a healthy congregation. The first two stages of team transformation, Redeem and Readjust, are in the beginning stages and progressing. Rebuilding has been added to the process and they are moving forward with renewed hope and anticipation of creating a healthy culture where relational healing can become a reality.
There is not illusion about what lies ahead. The future will require hard work, changing mindsets and giving grace. We anticipate bumps, missteps and hurt feelings, knowing that as each team member treats the others as a person, not an obstacle, progress will be made.
Hucrest will become a healthy community of believers making a difference in their city.
Their journey has just begun and their hope is growing. They also know that Peace Mentors is committed to providing the ongoing support and necessary input to ensure their success.