Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wisdom from Parish Consultant Lyle Schaller

Browsing the texts in my seminary bookstore this past spring, I noticed a new book written and edited by Warren Bird: Wisdom from Lyle E. Schaller, the Elder Statesman of Church Leadership (Abingdon, 2012). Over the years I’ve studied several of Schaller’s books and found Bird's text a very helpful compendium of the well-known parish consultant's ideas and instruction.

Lyle Schaller’s numerous books on church ministry and leadership cover a very wide range of issues in the parish. In books like Parish Planning, The Change Agent, Creative Church Administration, Survival Tactics iin the Prish, Effective Church Planning, The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, Getting Things Done, 44 Ways to Increase Church Attendance, The Seven-Day-A-Week Church, The Come Back Congregation, The Interventionist, and many others, Schaller has addressed numerous challenges and offered solutions based on his long-time work as a church consultant.

Schaller was born in 1923 in Wisconsin. He worked in several roles, including a city fiscal officer and author of articles about urban affairs, history teacher, and parish pastor. He didn’t publish his first book until he was 42, and then he wrote 55 books and edited over 40 more, for Abingdon Press. He wrote his last book in 2006 and has retired.

Warren Bird interviews several church leaders and authors in order to provide a sketch of Schaller, his personality, and his influence. He also provides an outline of Schaller’s life and a bibliography of his works.

The longest section brings together Schaller’s ideas among his books concerning pressing issues faced by many pastors. The chapters are:

How should I approach my first year in the pastorate?
How do I follow a long term pastor?
What are the most important staffing mistakes to avoid?
What’s the best way to introduce change at my church?
What’s the most important thing a church planter can do?
How do I build on the strengths of a small-attendance church?
How do I build on the strengths of a medium-sized church?
How do I build on the strengths of a large church?
How do I build on the strengths of a very large church?
How do I best expand the teaching ministry of my church?
How do I develop new funding sources for mission?
What are the land mines to avoid in a merger?
How can a church learn to see itself more accurately?

Why is innovation important at church?
What are the most important strategies for change?

Why is it so hard to turn a church that’s plateaued in attendance?

How can leaders create dissatisfaction with the status quo?

Why is it so important to develop allies and how?

How can a church’s leaders improve their decision-making process?
What’s the biggest issue when a church thinks about relocating?
Should our church become multisite?
What leadership style is best for this congregation?

Why are small groups so vital for church health?
What needs to change for more people to volunteer?
When do I know it’s time to resign?

This book would be helpful to someone who has studied some of Schaller’s books but by no means all, and who doesn’t necessarily have the time to search among his writings to find solutions to particular challenges. This book would also be helpful to a newbie in ministry who’d like to avoid the kinds of well-intentioned but naive efforts in the parish that lead to mistakes and even failure and melt-down!

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