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Embracing Spiritual Pilgrims Can Promote Church Viability

Museums have a problem. By 2012, the prolonged economic downturn had cut typical museum endowment earnings by 30 percent, forced schools to dramatically reduce their class field trips, and dried up support from individuals and foundations. In addition, over the prior decade, the general public had become increasingly disinclined to value the institutional authority of museums; hence, museums were also beginning to become irrelevant.

With viability on the line, several Boston area museums decided to take big risks. One step was to hire professionals who could bring best practices to the operation of small, localized museums. Another was to recognize that institutions must be driven by what drives the public's imagination, which has to include creating the means to interactively share historical information in a way that allows visitors to build their own interpretations of history and events. At the heart of the Boston museums' economic strategy has been the decision to avoid cutting budgets and services, and to redeploy assets more strategically while holding overall operational expenses constant. It is a strategy that has been working; many Boston area museums are seeing new support and revenue streams.

Such a strategy can help local congregations, too. Rethinking your church mission to embrace spiritual pilgrims who are eager to engage in deep dialog with theological traditions in order to build up an understanding of how to be good and Godly people is one transferable lesson. How else can your congregation take account of what is driving the public imagination, and leverage your "brand" to build new and stronger constituencies? For help on re-imagining your congregation, start with some perspective on how to keep young adults. Also see our resource, "Filling the Pews and Reviving a Stagnant Church." To get some perspective on needed clergy skills, see our feature article, "Ten Essential Skills the Next Generation of Religious Leaders Will Need." Also explore widely among our main and subheadings for insights on congregations and communities, leadership skills and perspectives, and research on congregations, best practices for their revitalization, and ideas for how to interact well with the people surrounding your church building.

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