So far in this series we have talked about change as if it will happen only if you recognize a need for it and commit to its implementation. On occasion, however, change is virtually inevitable. In those situations, a leader’s best bet is to recognize that change is coming and to provide direction for that process.
“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.'” — Acts 6:2-4
One of the most difficult tasks for many churches is to grow to a size that enables them to foster continued numerical growth. Some students of church growth call these junctures “growth barriers.” For example, they point to the “200 barrier.” When a congregation exceeds roughly 200 people, tremendous changes happen in the church. The geometry and psychology of the group are remarkable. The pace of change multiplies and the church requires a leader who is guiding the continued expansion of the ministry.
For example, your church could be located where major demographic, social or economic changes are taking place. Those changes in the composition of your community mandate that your church respond in an intelligent, sensitive and strategic way. If your town lost hundreds, or even thousands of jobs suddenly, it could change your community and your church immensely. In a situation like that, the churches that were responsive to the radical community change and that had leaders serving as change agents would survive the upheaval and remain viable churches. Those churches that were either uncomfortable with the necessity of change, or that lacked change agents to spearhead the transformational activity, might not survive.
Change may be necessary for long-term stability and growth, but that does not make the act of changing any easier. New opportunities for influential ministry always seem to cause substantial, often unforeseen change when those opportunities are exploited.
Churches must decide whether they want to devote resources to being intentional about change or not, in which case they will likely become a victim of the inevitable change going on around them. Effective change is never accidental, and assuming that the same old system will be adequate for God’s new work in your church is a mistake.
Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” — Mark 2:22
When the old ways no longer work—whether it is the way in which we communicate God’s truth, methods of organizing people to express dissatisfaction, means of raising funds for good works—new solutions must be sought. When these new solutions are applied, change occurs in profound and sometimes unexpected ways.
“When the Lord talks about a new agreement, he means that the first one is out of date. And anything that is old and useless will soon disappear.” — Hebrews 8:13 (CEV)
It is important to communicate change in a positive way. Pastors who succeed at bringing about significant change in their churches usually express change in terms of progress because in the final analysis all effective change is progress! Be creative as you vision cast the benefits of change. For example, C.H.A.N.G.E. could stand for:
C =Chances To Grow
H =Hopeful Beginnings
A =Adventures To Take
N =New Paths To Follow
G =Great Opportunities
E =Exciting New Directions
This week’s article is submitted by Russ Olmon, President, Ministry Advantage and Rodney Cox, President of Ministry Insights. For more on this and other helpful subjects, go to www.ministryadvantage.org.
For over ten years Ministry Advantage has been one of the premier church resources that provides coaching and training for pastors and church leaders helping them turn their vision into reality.