How to bring about change in your church (without getting fired)
Bring about change in your church through careful, patient, and intentional leadership.
Initiating change within a local church represents one of the most difficult tasks, if not the most difficult task, pastors face. Whether one desires to instill an evangelism DNA into a plateaued congregation or initiate new ministries or programs, change usually proves difficult.
This four-step course of action — “The Change Matrix” — takes time to initiate and implement, with all four steps working concurrently as well as consecutively. And they must be repeated consistently. The matrix also offers flexibility for each church to experience God’s will and unique vision.
The pastor must set biblical priorities for the church. Various authors offer suggestions for the priorities of the church, but this matrix utilizes five priorities based upon Acts 2:41-47.
The five priorities include: worship (Eph 5:18-20); evangelism (2 Cor 5:18-19); discipleship (Eph 4:11-15); fellowship (1 John 1:6-7) and ministry (1 Pet 4:7-11).
In order to communicate these priorities, it is essential that the pastor preach a series of sermons on this topic, along with teaching and repeating these ideas. He should also teach and discuss these standards within the leadership of the church, and should lay the foundation for the entire process. The congregation must buy into these priorities or the matrix will not work. Therefore, discussion and discipleship are necessary.
Many church members find themselves uncomfortable with change because of the fear of pragmatism. The solution is to insure that all change will fall within certain biblical parameters. These five parameters include: holiness (Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 1:13-21), excellence (Phil 1:9-11); anticipation (Acts 1:4-5, 14); relevance (1 Cor 9:19-23) and teamwork (Phil 4:1-3).
Out of the priorities and biblical parameters develop a church mission statement and purpose statement.
At my church, we developed this mission statement: “Our mission is to worship God, to globally lead people to faith in Christ, and to grow together to be like Him.” Each Sunday, we remind the church of our mission, and welcome and invite newcomers to join our fellowship based on this statement. The words “worship,” “lead,” and “grow,” serve as the foundation for every ministry, function and program of the church. Coupled with this mission statement is a simple purpose statement that communicates the attitude under which our church operates.
In order to understand the effectiveness and extent of the change, communication and evaluation must take place in five specific areas: the five “players” include pastoral staff, lay leadership, membership, calendar and budget.
Communicating necessary change must begin with the other pastors or elders of the church. Then those in the broader church leadership, including church committees, deacons and Sunday school teachers need to embrace change. Finally, the need for change must come before the congregation, using whatever form of church polity is presently in place. Except for very rare occasions, even if the church follows a pastor-led or elder-led model, the members must understand the process that is being undertaken.
Calendar and budget provide important evaluative measures because the changes are not really implemented until they reflect what the church does and what it funds.
Finally, a particular process will help lead the church to understand the need for change and how these changes will be implemented.
1. Biblical focus. Be consistent in teaching the church about the centrality of biblical revelation, and make the preaching of the Word primary. Insist that everything that the church does follows a biblical precedent.
2. Inward focus. The church must discover a “holy dissatisfaction” with its current status or accomplishments. Complacency kills Christians, so they must go through that valley experience whereby they recognize that God has much bigger plans for them.
3. Upward focus. A key element to finding this “holy dissatisfaction” arises out of a commitment to prayer. As the church leader, lead your church to pray. This prayer focus will move the church to be broken about personal sin and will help in leading the church to then re-dream the dream.
4. Church focus. Once these new priorities have been set, lead your church to implement the dream. Celebrate with them the victories that the church has and make sure to listen to your people. They will provide a good barometer on the success of the changes made.
5. Outward focus. In order for believers to see the need for change, they must recognize more fully their role in the Great Commission. As the church leader, help your church to get involved personally in doing missions and ministry outside of the walls of the church.