How to Make Changes in the Church Without Being Asked to Resign
By Barry L. Davis
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.