Generate desires to see churches renewed and strengthened. Through the Generate Renewal Grant, churches can work with experienced consultants to help fuel the health of their church ministries. The following article from one of Generate’s partnering consultants has tips that can help strengthen every church.
By Howard Bixby
While change is all around and confronts us every day, it seems to be a major opportunity for tension and strife in churches. Yet change is necessary. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of evangelical churches are said to be experiencing attendance declines. Something needs to change if we are to see 80 percent of churches revitalized and growing again. One of the major tasks of a church leader today is to lead people through changes.
Why do people dislike change? There are many reasons, but for brevity, here are four:
Pride. If we need to change something, it can mean we were wrong previously. Admitting failure or that the problem may be with us kindles our pride.
Fear. Trying new methods can be scary or make us feel uncomfortable. Change often forces us to operate in new and challenging territory. As a result, people may dislike those who call for change.
Inadequacy. Change can reveal inadequacy, because we don’t know how to do this new thing correctly. We may fail. It’s so much easier to do what we’re familiar with.
Security. Most people feel more secure when they are doing something they have done many times before. Doing what we frequently do can help us feel comfortable and more confident. Taking risks with change may make people feel insecure.
How Can You Help a Church Change?
1. Start with the church’s purpose, mission, and vision. When a church has clear and compelling purpose, mission, and vision statements, the church can evaluate changes against those statements to see if the changes will better help the church achieve each statement.
2. Have something better to try. In casting a vision for change, it is always helpful to show the benefits the change will bring.
3. Be sensitive to whom the change may affect most and how it will affect them. A few minutes of preventive communication with those folks can enable them to be positive and work to help the change succeed.
4. Consider timing and readiness. Some times of the year and seasons of life are better for successful change than others. There are ways to get ready to successfully do the new thing. Is the church “prayed up,” and does it have its ducks in a row to succeed?
5. Provide training for participants and leaders. Taking time for training meetings, so people can become familiar with materials and practice methods, brings more confidence to help the change succeed.
6. Be open to helpful modifications in the change. In the process of implementing a change, participants may have ideas that could make it even more effective. Participants will appreciate you more as a leader if you consider their ideas.
7. Create a team. People who feel like they are on a valuable team as they approach a change may perform more enthusiastically and effectively. Effective leaders spend quality time building team spirit as they head through change.
What Does Your Church Need to Change?
What do we need to change? The answers to this question could, depending on a church’s needs, fill a typical book. There are two essential dashboards to consult.
First are the purposes of the church as identified in Scripture. If a ministry or method is not helping the church strengthen the achievement of these purposes and the church vision, that ministry or method should be changed.
Second are the results. Examine the numerical and quantitative results being achieved in the existing programs and methods. Churches need to exercise wise stewardship of the time, money, facilities, and human resources God has entrusted to them. What results are you seeing?
- Most plateaued or declining churches have discernable weaknesses in evangelism. This is an area of church life that often must be changed. Perhaps now is the time to take an objective look at your outreach success.
- Reliable information and data is helpful when a pastor is deciding to lead his church through change. Gather and evaluate the relevant results from your church.
Howard Bixby has five decades of ministry experience. Now retired, he most recently served as president of ChristWay Ministries, where he assisted churches and pastors with strategic planning, led teacher training seminars, and helped churches develop a passion for Biblical outreach and growth.