This book was a fun one to read. Being SMART about Congregational Change by Diane Zemke was incredibly applicable to my immediate ministry context and my dissertation research. For anyone working in a parish setting I would highly recommend this succinct, well researched, and fascinating text.
Zemke, a Gonzaga trained expert in Leadership Studies lays out incredibly useful skills that can be used in an array of ministry settings to wisely analyze your congregation, wisely analyze the way a congregation goes about intentional change, and wisely care for yourself as a congregational leader throughout the ups and downs of the process. At the end of each chapter Zemke provides two sections, one labeled ‘The Take Away’ which includes a “short review” of each chapter, as well as a second section labeled ‘Taking it Further’ which includes “exercises” designed to help the reader “become smart about enacting change in your congregation, no matter what your congregation is doing and no matter what kind of change you’re pursuing.”
A refreshing voice, Zemke writes about change from a female perspective. Her anecdotes about less than ideal encounters with male figures in the church are apt for reflection and further discussion, and they stand on their own whether they be a part of the greater text on congregational change or not. Her section on tempered radicals was riveting, (clearly I found the entire book to be riveting and kept applying her research to my immediate congregation over and over as I read) and their passion, patience, voice and long view I find inspiring. I also gleaned much wisdom from her chapter on “Wisdom for Women.” While I was aware of the many challenges women face in leadership, Zemke clearly describes the cultural and historical background of congregational life and the way gender expectations have been wrongly crafted into their framework.
In particular, I appreciate how Zemke reminds us that the work of congregational change is in fact holy and faithful. Even though it can be challenging, and hard to see where God is active during the change process, Zemke reminds us that, “God is building the church . . . it’s good to remember that before the new can spring forth, the old must die. God is active in the living and the dying, and the rebuilding of the Church.” Zemke often writes as if she is using coach speak, encouraging her readers to keep up the good fight, faithfully cultivating the people of God to deeper, and healthier, congregational change.
My guess is many of our cohort are interested in some sort of congregational change, whether it be in their own congregation, a congregation they have already left, or as an element of their own research. Zemke writes one of the easiest and most fun to read books on the topic I have seen. This has been one of my favorite books of the entire course and I am grateful for its inclusion in our reading list.
 Diane Zemke, Being SMART about Congregational Change, (Create Space Independent Publishing 2014), 3.
 Zemke, Being SMART, 111.
 Zemke, Being SMART, 117.
 Zemke, Being SMART, 126.