DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Needed in times of Change

Written by: on May 9, 2019

Image result for being smart about congregational changeDiane Zemke is a wealth of knowledge.  Zemke earned a PhD in Leadership studies from Gonzaga University, and has been working for many years in the academy. She has also been an active consultant for faith communities to process through change and transition to come out healthier on the other side.


In her book, Being Smart About Congregational Change, Zemke gives congregations a hope for how to do congregational change well. She says, “Congregational change is about starting well, creating a healthy and faith-filled culture, bringing on staff, discerning direction, managing disagreement, enduring grief, and welcoming different perspectives.”[1] She uses the remaining chapters of the book to break down each of those topics, including a helpful section at the end of each for congregations to put into practice her suggestions.


I found two sections of her book to be particularly helpful in this time. The first was on loss and grief. My last few weeks have been peppered with grief. In our church congregation, we’ve lost one member to cancer as well as the parents to two different members. One was a college student and it was her father’s sudden death. My grandfather is near death and our family will be traveling this month to visit him. I’ve also been really mourning the loss of Rachel Held Evans in the last week. While I understand Zemke was originally speaking of congregational loss and change[2] as a whole, I found her processes of grief to be palliative. She advocates for congregations to acknowledge grief and make space for it, which as she notes, we aren’t good at in America.[3] As our church has been processing these deep changes, I do believe that we’ve done a good job at making space for our grief in the present. I feel like we’re recognizing it and doing what we can to move through it. I am nervous though that we will forget that that this process takes time, and have unrealistic expectations on how to move on.[4]


I also found her chapters on tempered radicals and unique challenges for women to be refreshing. I find in a lot of the research on people who are thriving in their vocation could be identified as a tempered radical. In fact, Zemke says, “Tempered radicals also tend to be deeply oriented toward ministry arising out of calling and gifting rather than requirements of position, education, and gender.”[5] Zemke also pays special attention for how hard it is for women who also identify as a tempered radical to enact change.[6] A lot of the women I come into contact with in this field would empathize with these sentiments, including myself. In both sections, she stresses the need to find link-minded individuals that you can build deep relationships with.[7] Relationships are what center us and bring us back to the reminder of who we are in our best selves, which isn’t a unique need to tempered radicals or women, but it is a deep need that these two groups need to pay special attention to.


Overall, I really appreciated this book and found it to be a good, short, read that had very practical takeaways.


[1] Diane Zemke, Being Smart about Congregational Change, Kindle Edition, Loc. 52

[2] Ibid., Loc. 1226

[3] Ibid., Loc. 1226

[4] Ibid., Loc. 1286

[5] Ibid., Loc. 1724

[6] Ibid., Loc. 1875

[7] Ibid., Loc. 1894

About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

7 responses to “Needed in times of Change”

  1. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I am sorry for the losses your congregation is experiencing and the pending transition of your grandfather. You remark that your congregation is doing a good job of making space for the collective grief in the present. What does that look like? What should it continue to look like to continue to give space over time? Thanks again for your thoughts and perspectives.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Good questions Harry, and thanks for the condolences. Our church is doing a good job, first by acknowledging the pain we’re all in. We’re making space. We’re allowing the time it takes. We’re sitting in the grief with one another. But like Andrea’s post mentioned, I’m wondering when people will be expected to get “up and at ’em” again. When will people “forget” those who passed in the church? When will we fail to acknowledge their legacy in our seats?

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Grief is hard and not always done well in our culture so thanks for the reminder that it can be done well. In finding like minded people do you that this includes men or just women? Would it even be helpful to include men? Thanks.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Mario – it’s always helpful to include men! We need men otherwise we wouldn’t have a complete picture of the story! I think our gender doesn’t preclude us from finding like-minded friends. In fact, I think it actually aids us. It’s refreshing to find men like those in our cohort, who so openly and honestly praise us ladies!

  3. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    It is refreshing to hear of a congregation grieving well with this much loss. I am sorry you are experiencing it and grateful you have a community to walk with.

    I agree with you that relationship is the key to being a woman leader and a tempered radical. Otherwise, mind games can get the best of you. Like minded leaders are critical for the journey and there are more out there than we sometimes remember which is important for all of us to be reminded of! You are in a strong company of supporters and encouragers.

  4. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Karen! Thank you for sharing what is happening and church and with your grandfather. Will keep praying.

    I was smiling reading this because it seems we appreciated this book in similar ways. Both the grief and the idea of tempered radical sections were a gift to me. And her tone when sharing on the challenges of women change agents was refreshing- honest, encouraging, realistic, etc.

    Appreciate you!

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