Diane 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.” 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 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. 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.
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.” Zemke also pays special attention for how hard it is for women who also identify as a tempered radical to enact change. 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. 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.
 Diane Zemke, Being Smart about Congregational Change, Kindle Edition, Loc. 52
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 Ibid., Loc. 1286
 Ibid., Loc. 1724
 Ibid., Loc. 1875
 Ibid., Loc. 1894