Category Archives: Church Change

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

How to Make Changes in the Church Without Being Asked to Resign

By Barry L. Davis

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to the scenario taking place in the cartoon below:

Cartoon by Dennis Fletcher from ChristiantyToday.com

Almost without fail, when you candidate at a church they will tell you early on that they are specifically looking for someone who will lead them to make the necessary changes for growth. If you’ve been in the ministry for very long, you know that this is a lie 99% of the time. They don’t mean to lie, and most of them have convinced themselves that they really do want change, but once changes start to take place, the complaints begin to pile up, and most of the time, you are the fall guy.

Well guess what? I’ve discovered a solution to this problem. It won’t work in every single case, and probably shouldn’t be used in all of them, but most of the time it works just great. Are you ready for the secret? Here goes – MAKE CHANGES ON A TRIAL BASIS! I am not talking about trickery here, or manipulation, I’m talking about actually making most changes on a trial basis.

Let me give you two examples that worked very well for me:

I was at a church that was stagnant in the growth department, to put it mildly. Our worship service was completely dead and we were not reaching anyone for the Lord. I truly believed that starting a second, more contemporary worship service would help us, but the truth was, I wasn’t sure. (God doesn’t always speak to us audibly concerning these matters, does He?). I knew that if I wasn’t sure, the congregation wouldn’t be either, and as a matter of fact, I KNEW of a few people that wouldn’t like it because they didn’t like any change whatsoever. So here is how I presented it – I went to the board and told them the reasons I thought starting a second service was a good idea and what type of resources we would need to pull it off. I also told them that while I thought it was a great idea, I couldn’t be sure until we tried it, and suggested we do it on a six month trial basis. If at the end of six months we didn’t feel like this was the direction to go, we would scrap it. We presented the same idea to the congregation, and guess what? I didn’t have one single person complain about it! Not one! They knew that there was an out if it flopped.

Way back when video projectors were just being introduced in churches I really believed it would enhance our worship. We spoke to a local vendor who agreed to let us borrow one for three months, with the understanding that if we decided to buy we would purchase from him. We told the congregation about what we were doing and let them know at the end of three months we would make a decision one way or the other and we wanted their input after they had seen it in use for a while. Believe it or not, the most elderly members of our congregation came to us and said that they loved it! They could see the words better than they could in the hymnal, and they could hear the congregation better since everyone’s heads were up and facing forward.

Now lest you think that I believe every decision in the church should be made democratically with input from the whole congregation, I do not. BUT…when it comes to things that are not a matter of doctrine, or urgency, oftentimes it is best to allow changes on a trial basis as I’ve described above. You don’t have to vote on these items, but you can get a consensus on how the congregation feels about the change once it is in place. Many are pleasantly surprised to find out that they love the change they thought they would be opposed to. And the truth is, it’s nice to know if something doesn’t work that we can toss it and move on. I can’t tell you how many pastors I know who hold onto a program just because it was their idea, even though they know it is failing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below:

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1997. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles.

Five Reasons Church Announcements Cause Problems

5 Reasons

If your church has never experienced problems with church announcements, there is no need for you to read the rest of this post.

If your church is like the 95 percent of congregations that do struggle with announcements, please continue reading.

To be clear, I am speaking of verbal announcements made during a worship service. For this post, I am not concerned specifically about the digital announcements that appear on a church website, a screen before or after worship services, or a church newsletter. This issue is all about those times when someone stands up to speak to the entire congregation.

So what’s the big deal about church announcements? How could something so innocuous cause problems? Here are five reasons:

  1. Someone’s announcement is left out. On more than one occasion, announcements are left out either inadvertently or by design. A person feels slighted because his or her area of ministry or activity is particularly important to them.
  2. Someone’s announcement gets more emphasis than others. The reasons are the same as noted above. I actually heard one woman say she timed each individual announcement to prove the pastor showed favoritism. Sigh.
  3. The announcements take too long. More than one congregant has become frustrated due to the length of the announcements, especially if the issue in number four takes place.
  4. The announcements interrupt the flow of worship. Perhaps the worst time to have verbal announcements is after the worship service has begun. While singing, preaching, and the offertory definitely reflect acts of worship, it’s hard to see how the announcements fit in that category. If you have to make announcements, precede the worship service with them.
  5. Most people forget announcements. Try an experiment. Talk to someone you saw in the worship service one or two days later. See if he or she remembers the announcements. Probably not.

Some of these same issues play out in digital venues as well. People get angry or get their feelings hurt because of the placement or perceived priority of announcements on the church’s website or social media accounts.

The churches that seem to be handling the verbal announcements best are actually doing them on a very limited basis. The leaders make sure the announcements are important to the entire congregation, and that they reflect clearly a major issue for the church. Other announcements go to the newsletter or to the web site.

Unless there is an overriding reason, announcements that pertain to a small portion of the membership really should not be considered church announcements in any form. Usually there is no reason why the leader of that group cannot contact every person individually.

It is sad that announcements can be such sources of contention. It is a reflection of a self-centered “me attitude.”

But unfortunately the issue is very real in many churches.

Let me know what you think.

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on April 11, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Why Some Churches Choose to Die

Why-Some-Churches-Choose-to-Die

By Thom Rainer

The conversation surprised me.

I was recently meeting with about a dozen members of a church that was on the precipice of closing. During their perceived “good old days,” the average worship attendance was in the 40s and 50s. Now the church attendance was in the teens. The church was on metaphorical life support.

I shared with them some items of urgency that might give them some glimmer of hope. So I was surprised when one of the members asked me a question that seemed to come from nowhere: “Will we have to sing from screens instead of hymnals?” she asked with a tinge of anger.

I never responded directly to the question. It was too late. The few members were of one mind about an issue so peripheral I had never anticipated it. I left saddened.

The church had chosen to die.

The Need and the Passion

It is my life and ministry passion to help churches, particularly struggling churches, to revitalize. One of the greatest needs of churches today is to choose to live and to thrive.

Unfortunately, many congregations are choosing to die. For certain, they are not calling a business meeting and making a motion to die. Their choices are more subtle and, often, more incremental. But the end result is the same.

Churches are choosing to die.

Five Deadly Choices

So what are churches doing specifically that leads to their demise? Here are five of the more common choices.

  1. They refuse to face reality. I was in a dying church recently. The congregational average attendance was 425 seven years ago. Today it is 185. I could find no one in the church who thought the trends were bad. They were in a state of delusion and denial.
  2. They are more concerned about greater comfort than the Great Commission.Church membership has become self-serving. The church is more like a country club than the body of Christ. People are “paying dues” to get what they want in the church. It’s all about their preferences and desires.
  3. They are unwilling to accept responsibility. It’s the fault of culture. All the new churches in town are to blame. If someone wants to come to our church, they know where we are. People just don’t want to come to church anymore. Excuses and more excuses. I have never been in a community that is nearly fully churched. There are many people to reach. Excuses preclude obedience.
  4. They are too busy fighting and criticizing. If we could take the energy of church critics and antagonists into reaching people with the gospel, our churches would become evangelistic forces. Unfortunately in many churches, members expend most of their energies criticizing leadership and others, and fighting over trivial issues.
  5. They are confusing non-negotiables with negotiables. Almost ten years ago, a couple of men who live near me asked to visit with me in my home. They wanted me to consider visiting their church. One of the men told me their church was one of the few in the area defending the faith. I asked him what he meant by that. He explained that the faith was one particular Bible translation and traditional hymns. I wasn’t sure what happened to the bodily resurrection and substitutionary atonement. The church died within seven years.

Choosing to Live Rather Than Die

Most churches have choices to live or die. We use the word “revitalize” because it means to live again. I hope you will join me in this passion to see unhealthy churches become healthy, to see churches choose to live.

As one way of being a part of this movement of revitalization, I have teamed up with Revitalized Churches in Florida to offer the best resources we can to help in this cause. They are once again offering the resource that has helped hundreds of churches move toward revitalization.

Those churches have chosen to live.

Such is my prayer for your church.

 

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 4, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s

the80s

By Thom Rainer

Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of the community in which they are located.

It’s a long sentence. Read it again carefully. Soak it in. Across America 90 percent of the churches are losing ground in their respective communities. Most of them are declining. Many of them will close.

As I have worked with thousands of churches over the past three decades, I have noticed something fascinating, yet disturbing, about many of these churches. They are still acting like it’s the 1980s. The world has passed them by. They are deemed irrelevant by members of their communities. They are frozen in a time warp.

Why has this tragedy fallen on so many churches? Though I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, I see at least eight reasons for this crisis.

  1. They are trying to shelter themselves from culture. In the 1980s, congregations were typically part of the mainstream culture. They were accepted in most places, and embraced in some. That is not the culture of today. Many church members use their churches as a getaway from the realities they don’t want to face.
  2. Programs were easy answers. The vast majority of churches in the 1980s were program-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would order a resource that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from programs.
  3. Churches largely catered to the needs of church members in the 1980s. We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches.
  4. Change was more incremental. If your church is stuck in the 1980s, it does not have to worry about the rapid pace of change today. Members can pretend like their church does not need to change despite the massive upheavals of change in the world.
  5. Church growth was easier. In the 1980s, a number of people would visit our churches without much effort on the members’ part. One church member told me recently, “If lost people want to come to our church, they know where we are.” Sigh.
  6. Denominations provided solutions. Not all churches in the 1980s belonged to a denomination, but many did. And many members expected the denominational organizations to guide them and resource them. Denominations work best today in partnership with churches, but too many church members want to return to the paradigm of the 1980s.
  7. Others did evangelism for the members in the 1980s. Evangelism was the responsibility of the pastor or the denomination or a few people in a program. Church members paid others to do the work they were supposed to do. Some church members today are more concerned about their worship style preference than lost people who need to hear the gospel.
  8. Some churches would rather die than to get out of the comfort of their 1980’s paradigm. I feel certain they will do just that.

What do you think of these issues of time-warp churches? Let me hear from you.

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on October 5, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.