Transitioning a Traditional Church

One of the most trying times as a parent is trying to get your child to take antibiotics when they’re sick. You know this is going to help them get better, but that doesn’t change the fact that they hate the taste and are going to fight you every step of the way. The traditional church tends to act the same way towards change.

Transition

Several years ago my pastor had the unusual job of transitioning a traditional church that he planted just a year or two before. I don’t think he meant for it to be traditional originally, but it was really all we knew. This was before blogs and podcasts had become popular, so our view of what a church could be was limited to say the least.

This changed when he read the book The Creative Leader by Ed Young Jr. All of a sudden the church he had intended to create became a vision he could now see. The only problem was not everyone was ready to see that vision.

What ensued was a lengthy battle to put glasses on a group that didn’t think anything was wrong with their vision. In the end, a few families left, but the pastor’s vision became a reality.

I learned a great deal during that time, and if we had to do it again this would be our plan.

  1. Overcommunicate the Vision – As a pastor and leader, you can’t communicate the vision enough. It’s only when you get sick of talking about the vision that people are finally starting to get it. So, every chance you get, talk about the vision God has given you for the church.
  1. Build Trust – Transitioning a church is impossible if the key influencers in the church don’t trust you. Take your time building relationships with each one of these people before making any major changes. You need to show genuine interest in them and their well being before they are going to have any interest in your vision.
  1. Tread Soft & Slow – The biggest mistake a pastor can make when beginning at a new church or transitioning an older church is trying to change too much too fast. This is a quick way to lose trust and possibly lose your job. Take the time to get to know the church’s history and culture before you start making changes.
  1. Focus on what you can Change – In every church there’s things you’ll be able to change, and then there’s things that you may never be able to change. If you spend all your time worrying about the things you can’t change, you’ll miss your opportunity to change the things you can.
  1. Gain Momentum through Small Wins – By focusing on the things you can change, you’ll start to have some small wins. Tie enough small wins together, and you’ll start to build momentum. Momentum is everything during a transition, because momentum opens the door to change things you never thought possible.

Keep in mind this isn’t a foolproof plan. I know several pastors who did everything right, and yet the church still refused to change.

My prayer is that yours will because if the church refuses to change, we miss out on the opportunity to reach those far from God.

So, I hope you’ll put all these plans and lessons in place, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to transition a traditional church.

Have you ever tried to transition a church? What were the lessons you learned?

Your Next Hire

Guest Post - Brian Dodridge

Most churches in North America have only one staff member—the pastor. Some of those pastors have quarter or part time staff to assist them, and many simply rely on committed volunteers to help do the ministry of the church. But as the solo-pastor led churches grow in size or even ministry complexity, it will usually require an additional staff member.

NextHire

If so, how does a church determine what position is the most important positon to hire next?

I’ve witnessed four common (but flawed) approaches for determining which staff positions to create next:

  1. Replicating what other churches are hiring

There is not a one size fits all staffing model for churches. Yet, church leaders ask their peers from other churches what positions they’ve hired. But often these peers and their churches do not have much in common with their own church. It’s not apples to apples. Many times the church you’re asking has a different church culture, church size, and community.

  1. A historical approach: “What’s always been done?”

Throughout church history (and even modern church history) there’s been value placed on certain church staff positions and rightfully so. But times change, and what made sense for a church’s second staff position in 1970 or 1990 doesn’t make as much sense in present times.

  1. Basing position selection with a particular person in mind

A church will focus on a person they know well even if they’re not ideal for the position the church needs. With some exceptions, beginning with a person in mind doesn’t allow you a comprehensive process for determining the best position. The conversation happens this way:

I like Bob. He’s energetic. I’d like to work with Bob. What is Bob qualified to do? Okay, then let’s hire that position and fill it with Bob.

Instead, think position determination before person determination. Switching those around can cause problems.

  1. Hiring the position the church’s “power-broker” says should be hired

We like to think a church doesn’t fall victim to this, but often a founding family or someone with money or influence may give a directive about the next staff positon they think should be hired. But just because they have deep pockets or have been at the church since Noah doesn’t mean their nephew or next door neighbor is the next best person to hire or that the ministry area they love the most deserves a staff position.

While each of those approaches may have some merit, each falls short of the best decision for your church.

If these fall short, what approach can you use to determine what second staff person is needed for your church?

The answer is a position that aligns growth and strategy.

Growth Hires

This is not future growth, but actual growth. The kind of growth that requires a response of more manpower. When this growth happens, you create a new position and fill it with a person because growth demands it. Again, it’s not aspirational growth, but actual growth.

The most recent growth hires we’ve made have come by way of adding new campuses (multi-sites). We started with a skeleton staff at the new campus, and guess what? People came. Many came with babies. We needed to care for children, lots of children, and care for them well. So we hired for a growth position, in our preschool and children’s ministries.

Another example: if your “small town church” builds a new worship center, and you double or triple your church’s square footage, you may need to hire a custodian or facilities manager.

Strategic Hires

When you hire for strategy it may or may not have current growth factored in. Many times strategic hiring is done to allow for growth. To bring forth future growth. When you hire a strategic staff position, you believe the ministry area this position would serve is strategic in nature. It matches the vision to which you believe God has called your church, and it demands putting the resource of personnel to that strategic ministry area.

As an example, your church’s music ministry may have grown by 5-10% over the last two years. And it would make sense to put personnel dollars toward a music positon. But your church’s vision includes ministering to the burgeoning young family demographic in your town. While your church may not reflect a young family demographic yet, you believe this is what God has called you to do. So before any growth has occurred, you decide to make the next staff position a family minister. This is a strategic hire.

Best case scenario: Hire a position that is both growth and strategy

This best case scenario for hiring occurs when growth has begun to happen in an area that your church has determined is really strategic to church’s ministry as you look to the future.

Growth and strategy align. You hire for the growth that is occurring, and you hire for the likely growth that will occur as you add personnel to that strategic area. This alignment makes the decision point for position selection much easier.

An example, we have a multi-year strategy to minister to families who have special needs children. With existing volunteers and part-time personnel, we had seen growth in this ministry area. We saw early on that more growth was possible, but we had a limited capacity with the personnel we had. So we’ve chosen to put more personnel in this ministry area. The part-time position will become full-time and we’ve added dollars to the ministry budget. When a position is both growth and strategy—that’s your position to hire.

Every church has limited resources. Most churches also have the skeptical church member asking, “Why hire another staff person?” With these in mind, your church needs to hire not only the right person, but determine the right position to hire.

There have been many ministers who no longer have a job at a church, not because they were the wrong person, but rather, because the church decided on the wrong position to hire.

Determine new staff positions based on growth and strategy, and I believe your church and community will clearly see the value added when the position is filled.

For more, see a sample staffing model that shows how to capture growth and strategy via a PDF, or read my previous post on creating a church personnel budget at BrianDodridge.com.

Generosity: It’s About More than Money

When I think about being generous, my mind often goes to money, but what I’ve learned is that generosity is about so much more than finances. Generosity is a mindset that should influence every aspect of our lives.

BeGenerous

I met Jesus after twenty years of searching for a Savior in all the wrong places. Like many others I didn’t grow up in church, so I had no Bible knowledge, no Christian friends, and no idea what to do next.

What I did have was a church that was willing to be generous. They were patient with me, loved me despite my past mistakes, and never hesitated to invest in me. They were like Jesus in so many ways.

One of the biggest mistakes I believe churches make is not talking about generosity enough, not just financial generosity, although I believe that is important as well, but becoming generous in every aspect of our lives.

Our generosity is a direct reflection of our relationship with Jesus. With that in mind, here are a few areas I think every Christian should be generous in:

  • Time – I know you’re busy. Aren’t we all? But we should never be too busy to serve someone. That may mean volunteering in the kids’ ministry at your church, serving food at the local homeless shelter, or just taking the time to listen to a friend.
  • Skills – I believe God has given each one of us different gifts, and each gift complements one another. You do the church and yourself a disservice when you don’t use the gifts God has given you.
  • Advice – I’m so thankful for the godly advice I’ve been given along my journey with Christ. I can honestly say, I don’t know how things would’ve turned out without it. If a young Christian asks for your advice, do your best to guide them in the right direction.
  • Encouragement – Perhaps the easiest way to be generous is often the least utilized. That’s unfortunate, because so many people deal with self-doubt and negativity in their lives. You could work to change that just by being an encouragement to those around you.

Generosity has tremendous power to change lives if we would just utilize it. I happen to believe it’s our best weapon to reach a world that is searching for answers.

If you want to see God do something great in your life this year, find ways to be more generous.

In what ways has generosity worked in your life? How can you be more generous this year?