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Steps for Initiating Change

The first step in initiating change to explore the true urgency. The desire to change flows from urgency–the need for a result different from the one we’re getting. Some churches engage change with a survival urgency. They face change because they will cease to exist if they don’t. Many declining churches are approaching the edge of extinction unless something changes. So they grudgingly accept change (often radical change) because there is no other way forward.

Survival urgency can help people accept change, but it’s usually short-lived. Once the crisis is passed, survival urgency diminishes and people return to what they have always been.

A better form of urgency is missional urgency. Missional urgency says, “We’re not fulfilling our mission. Something must change.” This kind of urgency is far more powerful than survival urgency because it can carry us to whatever change is necessary to get us back on track with our mission. As a leader, you want to create missional urgency. You want people to care deeply about the mission and become dissatisfied when its challenge isn’t being met.

Team members must rally around a shared passion for the local church and a desire to fulfill the church’s true mission.

The leader’s passion for the mission is the single biggest reason the team will accept change. Leaders who are driven by agendas other than the Great Commission and Great Commandment will prevent the team from functioning effectively and finding the needed new direction.

Leading change in a healthy way demands a team and the time necessary for the pastor to establish strong influence within the church.

The next step is to build the right team.

Pastor, as you select your team, consider those who care about the future of the church, who believe that a new day is possible, who can dream about the future of the congregation, and who will think critically and share openly. 

As you think through who to invite onto the team, keep in mind that some who might be right for the team might currently lack the necessary leadership skills to contribute. However, don’t let this stop you from considering those who aren’t on staff or who don’t hold an elected position in the church.

Notice that the list in your notes does not include a requirement that team members have previous leadership experience to be a part of the team. In fact, some understandings of leadership are limited to what people know from their day jobs: For many, leadership might mean “being in charge” or “making the rules.” Thus, building the right team requires not only choosing the right people, but also training those individuals in the work of leadership, understanding that Jesus’ model of leadership differs significantly from worldly leadership patterns.

The third step for successfully initiating change is to ask the right questions. These include, “What is our vision?” Where are we going as a church?

Then, to fulfill our vision, “What will our priorities be?” This question gets at our church’s values.

We must also think strategically and ask, “What steps will we take to fulfill our vision?”

When we come to Retreat 3 and consider potential strategy steps, we should ask, 

  • “What should we continue doing?” What are we currently doing that will push us in the direction God has called us to go as a church?
  •  “What should we do differently?” There might be some things we’re currently doing that we could adjust to better align with the direction in which we feel like God is calling is to go.
  • “What should we stop doing?” Establishing a clear sense of vision might help us to identify some behaviors or ministry activities that aren’t pushing us toward becoming the church of our vision.
  • “When will we start?” Many times, when churches want to see a new day, their first impulse is to start something new. But this question should come last. Once you’ve evaluated what you’re already doing well, what you might need to stop, or what you might need to do differently, you can draw congregational energy from existing strengths and point them toward fulfilling the vision before starting new things.

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