Is Your Church Ready For Change?
By: Tobin Perry
Never before has the world changed as quickly as it is changing now. A decade ago, phone books, paper maps, and landline phones were still a valuable part of our lives
Futurist Ray Kurzweil writes,"We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate)."
That’s the world your church is attempting to reach. Maybe more than any other time in church history, a church leader has to be more than a preacher, a teacher, a counselor, or an organizational strategist.
Your ability to manage change will have enormous consequences for the success of your ministry.
You’ll make changes constantly in church work. You’ll change worship styles, preaching styles, giving platforms, worship times, strategies, and more in your ministry.
But let’s face it. Not every church that needs change is ready for change. The only thing worse than not changing when it’s time to change is changing when it’s not time to change.
How do you know if your church is ready? Here are six questions you must answer before embarking upon any kind of change:
1. What are we going to change?
This may seem obvious, but it’s at this question where most change stalls. Before you take any other step in the process, you have to clearly settle on what change needs to happen. Be as precise as possible. In Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, the authors note:
“Research reveals that a clear, compelling, and challenging goal causes the blood to pump more rapidly, the brain to fire, and the muscles to engage. However, when goals are vague, no such effects take place.”
2. Is God leading us to make this change?
Once you’re considering a specific change, you must bring it before God. If God isn’t leading you to make the change, it doesn’t need to be made. It may make perfect business sense. All the strategists in the world may recommend it. But Jesus is still the head of the church. He alone sets her agenda. You don’t move forward—not even an inch—until you hear His voice.
3. Does the change align with your stated mission and vision?
Changes never happen in a vacuum. Churches that haphazardly make changes even when they don’t align with their pre-established policies give their members whiplash. If your church’s mission statement suggests you want to reach young families, but you’re considering adding a special polka-themed worship service, you may have a problem.
4. Do you have some key leaders who can become change agents?
You will never make any significant change in your congregation on your own. Never. Maybe you can change a light bulb on your own, but that’s about it. You need change partners: people who will help you lead the way in whatever new endeavor you’re attempting. Take stock of the key influencers in your church. Would they, if it were properly communicated to them, be on board with the change? Are there potential influencers in your church who could advocate for the proposed change? You may start out as a lone ranger as you pursue change, but you can’t stay there long.
5. How much time is there to make this change?
Some changes have time limits. You may need to change the time of your worship service in the next three months because of a scheduling conflict. Many changes don’t have a built-in deadline. But to make a change successful, you need to set at least a soft deadline in your own mind. Deadlines provide you with urgency as you make changes. It’s a delicate balance. An arbitrary deadline that is too soon can self-destruct the entire process, but push it out too far and momentum will be hard to find.
6. Am I personally (and is the church corporately) willing to pay the cost of change?
Change always, always, has a cost. Sometimes that cost is money. Sometime that cost is in people who don’t want to change with the church. Most of the time, that cost is in leadership capital. Herschel York, a veteran pastor and seminary professor, notes that pastors earn “chips” by doing the fundamental things “a pastor ought to do”—such as preaching good sermons, visiting shut-ins, etc. York writes:
“A successful pastoral leader has a keen, even uncanny, ability to know two things: how many chips a particular issue or change will cost him and how many chips he has left in the bag, if any. He knows how to invest his chips in issues that are worth it rather than frivolous and insignificant things, but he always evaluates what it will cost him and he knows when he has reached the limit for the time being and just needs to do the basics well for a while.”
Don’t rush through change. Take the time to do it right. Take a look at each of these questions. Make sure you can answer them before diving in.This excerpt is adapted from the free ebook Culture Clash: How to Make Big Changes without Splitting Your Church. Click the link to read the rest!