Transforming Relationships and Congregations

Transforming Relationships and Congregations

A group exercise at the College of Congregational Development

Sitting between Linda Jackson and Everett Charters provides plenty of opportunity for listening and laughter. While both have been members of St. Bede’s, Forest Grove for a few years, their experience attending the College for Congregational Development (CCD) together transformed them from friendly acquaintances to a team that knows how to work together – up to the point of finishing each other’s sentences.

As its name implies, the CCD aims to train people in skills that promote congregational vitality, a task that is best carried out by a group of people. CCD’s interactive and experiential training style includes several activities that target team efforts and consensus building, and provide opportunity for immediate parish impact.

“At the CCD, you see change happening in real and explicit ways,” Linda says, and recounts the story of a group from a church in Yakima, Washington, who completed an exercise during class time but then realized that it would not work for their parish. They then decided to spend their free time redoing the exercise in order to create a new project that they could take back and implement. “Not only were they able to assess and rework their first idea, which was a new skillset, they then moved on to a new project. They were not at the college to just go through the motions.”

One of the main communal benefits Everett notices is building the understanding of how group processes play out through creating common concepts and vocabulary. “It helps to have a critical mass of leaders working together at the CCD. Then you really see the team getting a deeper understanding of themselves and their congregation, which promotes developing vitality,” notes Everett. “If a parish can afford to send at least two people, it will be amazing. Doing this type of work is always easier with a partner, and makes it more effective and less tiring.”

The cost of sending even one participant may seem prohibitive for smaller, struggling congregations, but Linda considers the CCD almost a necessary expense that provides maximum return value for the investment. “I would be very surprised if there weren’t immediate rewards,” she says, sharing how the CCD training prepared her and Everett to facilitate a Bishop’s Advisory Committee (BAC) retreat exploring St. Bede’s mission in the Forest Grove community and creating conversation on how the congregation can transform their gift of hospitality to strengthen other areas of ministry.

“The fact that a parish wants to send people highlights an awareness of their needs and that they can see beyond where they are now to what they could become,” Everett adds. St. Bede’s BAC believes so strongly in the value of the CCD that they sponsored a portion of the tuition costs, with additional assistance from several individuals in the parish and from Bishop Michael Hanley.

Because the CCD trainings are cyclical and regularly updated, even congregations who have sent people in the past should consider ongoing participation. As Everett muses, “We’re always going to be called to carry the Gospel into the world,” and the CCD is a way of preparing for that mission.

Information for the 2018 sessions is available on the CCD website.