How I Plan to Navigate an Established Church Through Change

Change  in a church or any organization is scary–and not just for those of the older persuasion.  I mean, that’s the stereotype: the senior adults of a church usually take umbrage with change.  Not so!  Change is scary for many in the church.  The unknown is all that’s known during the process.  The younger generations wonder if the change will really help the cause of Christ, and become anxiety-filled in wondering if this process will really move things forward or find resistance to such a degree that it’s not worth it. 

Our church called me as Lead Pastor (I know, the title is ‘senior’ pastor, but, hey, I’m 42–I’m not a ‘senior’ anything yet) and for the first 18 months, I kept my word and didn’t change much.  I spent time loving and getting to know our people as best as possible (not perfectly, but that was my ambition), and preached the unvarnished Word of God being led by His Spirit in using this earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Yet, all churches and church members need to grow (we can’t stay put, can we?) and all churches need to God (Christ said so, didn’t He?), and so we continually evaluate what we could do better, what we must begin doing, and what is an obstacle to what needs doing.  How do we navigate through change in a church?  Let’s use the acronym CHANGE to help understand this process.

Here’s my plan:

Christ and community:  Do the changes help us better connect with Christ  and connect with the community around us? 

Head and heart:  Do the changes connect with us personally in our head (yes, we need these changes) and our heart (are we emotionally and spiritually ready to make these changes, or do our spirits resist these? If so, why?  What challenges arise?  What threat do they pose?  Is the end result in our hearts worth the process of losing some of what we have now?)

Approachable and applicable:  Are the changes achievable (to use another ‘a’)?  Are they something that we can do?  Are there short-term, easier changes we can make now to gain momentum for changes in the future?  Are these changes for changes’ sake, or do they apply to a true obstacle or issue the church is facing? 

Navigable:  Are we as church leaders ready to communicate where we shall navigate?  Are we as church leaders ready to help you navigate through the calm and/or stormy waters in this sea of change–or are we as leaders wanting to stay docked in a safe harbor?  When we do (notice the word ‘when’) pull out of the safety of the harbor, will we as church leaders recognize the needed pace by which to navigate?  And will we all be willing to be led by the Spirit and have ears to hear what he is saying to the church (Revelation 2-3)?

Gradual with gravity:  Pace.  That’s the word.  Will we recognize the necessary pace, finding the tension between being gradual (not glacial) and conveying the gravity of needed change? 

Edifying and engaging:  Are we willing to grow on the inside (edify–which means to build up) to go on the outside (engaging)?  We’ve come full circle to Christ (growing in Him) and culture (going for Him, in His name). 

Whatever change takes place, may we do so by

(1)  Engaging His Word
(2)  Engaging Him in prayer
(3)  Engaging His people.
(4)  Engaging the lost. 

What think ye?  How does change in your church affect you? 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “How I Plan to Navigate an Established Church Through Change

  1. There are different types of change. Some are easy to roll with like a service time or a staff member change. Those types of things are not huge issues.

    But there are changes that are more like a heart transplant, and those are big deals. When a church changes its focus from equipping and training the Christians in the congregation, to making their services more appealing to non-Christians who may never come and who may never choose to follow Christ, change can be a big, big problem! I have seen it time and time again.

    Usually the changes involve our services, and everything important to the Christians who attend the church is put on the operating table. Some churches do this very, very poorly, and end up hurting the believer’s who are under their watch and care. I have talked with leaders going through this process who didn’t seem to care about those precious souls under their watch as much as they did those who might never be a part of their ministry. If one is an evangelist, he should go be one. But God created the church for believers and calls his pastors to shepherd His people. That is an important distinction and if a congregation is contemplating making a change like this, they should look hard at the scriptures and church history to see if becoming a “seeker” type church is even biblical or historical. (Hint: it’s neither)

    If the Sunday morning gathering becomes a gathering for the “seeker”, the believers eventually begin to wither on the vine, starving for real spiritual nutrition. It is only a matter of time before they leave to go find a congregation of believers.

    As long as the new changes fill empty seats, some pastors are more than willing to sacrifice their sheep to do it. THAT kind of change is too hard to swallow for most.

  2. Phyllis

    Great article coming from a pastor who has vision and insight of his congregation that loves him and will follow his leadership. They trust him and know he will lead them as God is leading him. This reply is coming from an older persuasion…

  3. Pingback: Top Ten Posts from 2014 | Dr. Matthew R. Perry, Pastor

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