experiments, instruments & measurement book

Second-Tier Leadership

Second-Tier Leadership


By Anna Marx

This post is 3rd in a series on Accomplishments and Lessons Learned, a cumulative report demonstrating 5 years of evaluation and research about the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. The report is available online and for download at innovatingcongregations.org/all.

Moses’ father-in-law said to him,

The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

Exodus 18:17

We often think of change coming about with one charismatic leader. But the truth is, one person cannot do it alone; the task is too heavy. In the last five years, Coalition congregations have changed the way leadership works. They have added second tiers of leadership. They have empowered teacher-leaders to bring innovative learning to our families and brought collaborative teams of professional and lay leaders to create bold visions.

By collecting what we call “tracking data,” we have been able to learn that congregations have expanded their leadership teams over time (read the full report innovatingcongregations.org/resources/second-tier-leadership/). On average, these teams have doubled in size. Our educators know that the task is too heavy. They are not doing it alone anymore.



Diverse Voices in Problem Solving

Posted by Ben Alpert in Relationships and Content


By Elaine Kleinmann

Are we open enough to bring diverse voices to our educational work and our problem solving?   Have you seen new possibilities emerge when new people are invited to work on a team? This article discusses the value of empowering a diverse group of people in a team approach to problem solving.

Managing the team to realize maximum potential requires a blend of openness and discipline as well as a shared vision of why we are here. When we invite new voices to participate in our innovation work, do we look for diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and passions? Do we coalesce around a shared vision? It can be challenging to invite people with diverse backgrounds to share in our work, yet it is key to addressing the changing environment in which we live.

Power in Numbers


By Tamara Gropper

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear about the work of Dr. Niobe Way, author of Deep Secrets: Boy’s Friendships and the Crisis of Connection (Harvard University Press, 2011). She has spent the better part of her career studying boys’ relationships with other boys in particular on the edge of, in the heart of and towards the end of adolescence.  What she shared both challenged my assumptions about boys and confirmed what I know to be true – that boys experience deep and rich connections to their closest male friends, connections that intensify during adolescence only to wane as they are expected to mature and go out into the world on their own.

As Dr. Way read aloud the words of adolescent boys, words which rang with love and trust and commitment, she also cited numerous studies that link healthy relationships to health and long life.  One in particular stayed with me.  It involved the perceived difficulty of a task.  Apparently, in multiple studies a person’s perception of a task shifts depending on who else is literally standing close by.  If asked to climb a steep hill with your best friend next to you, the hill hardly seems steep at all. If asked to climb a steep hill with a total stranger or even a new friend, the hill appears much more daunting if not impossible to ascend.  This got me thinking about the emphasis we’ve placed on learning grounded in caring and purposeful relationships.  Not only does the learning reach deeper when experiencing it with people whose stories you know, with people who you know to care about you, but also you are likely to take on more challenging explorations because they won’t feel as challenging.   It also helps explain why some congregations see opportunities to innovate as just that – opportunities, not challenges that can’t possibly be met.  No one person can make the kind of far-reaching, sustainable change the Coalition of Innovating Congregations strives to create. But, bring along a few good friends, colleagues who know you’ve got their back just as they’ve got yours and just watch the wheels of innovation turn – slowly at first and then picking up steam as the status quo gives way to innovation after innovation after innovation.

Dr. Niobe Way reminded me that when we make room in our congregations for deep relationships to flourish – learner to learner, educator to educator, parent to parent, and on and on – we tap into our most powerful resource, the deep and abiding strength of community.

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