6 Guiding Principles to Lead Your Church through Change
Written by Ralph Hodge
Here are six transferable principles you need to understand before leading a church through change.
Prayer is not something the church is to turn to in a time of need. It is to be a state in which people live. Prayer must be the beginning point of everything that we do in transition. Church leadership needs to affirm a belief that God speaks through prayer and that God answers prayer. Prayer is our acknowledgement that we desperately need God and are totally dependent upon Him.
2. Pastoral Leadership
A pastor's natural way of showing strong leadership while maintaining a loving, caring touch is critical when in a time of transition. A mutual trust between the pastor and the members of the church is evident when a church successfully navigates through the winds of change. This trust is developed over time. It is not a given. It must be cultivated and nurtured.
When there is mutual love, trust and respect between the pastor and the people the ingredients for a church that will be used mightily to expand the Kingdom have come together.
3. Every Member Has a Ministry
God gives spiritual gifts to every believer. He assigns church members to specific ministry tasks in the Body. God calls some to venture out into the world to do ministry and missions, using their unique gifts and skills for His purposes. The pastor must stir up and fan into a blazing flame the gift of God within each person in the church.
A strong connection between worship and evangelism is noticeable in churches that remain healthy while in transition. Everything the church does will have a built-in reminder that people coming to know Jesus is the purpose of the church. There is an atmosphere of joy and expectancy for God’s presence that characterize the church in worship. The desire should be to create an atmosphere for people to know the presence of Jesus. Our worship is really all about Him.
5. The Past as a Steppingstone to the Future
Leadership will find creative ways to help the congregation embrace its past as it looks to the future. The pastor will communicate the value of creating an atmosphere of gain through loss. Anything lost by changing, moving, building, or growing is viewed as worth it because of what was gained. The things left behind are steppingstones to help the church move toward the future. We honor the past, but at the same time we point to the future.
6. The Church’s Proposition
A church that accepts change with joy and excitement has an understanding of what I call the church’s proposition. The skills of leadership are not enough to bring a church through massive change. The leader must understand that churches have unwritten rules and agreements that are held firm in the hearts of people. The proposition of a church is made of the unwritten — often unspoken — rules, expectations, and agreements that lie underneath the radar screen of many of the younger members of a church.
These unwritten rules and agreements are part of both the newest and oldest churches. The newer church’s proposition may seem so relevant to the needs and culture of today that they don’t seem to be propositions that may one day be a hindrance. The future will reveal how deeply many of these unwritten agreements are parts of a proposition chiseled in stone on hearts. Times will change. Some parts of the proposition will need to be negotiated.
Ralph Hodge is director of Regional Opperations at LifeWay Church Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. Adapted from a previously published article. Used by permission.