The truth is, I like the idea of change but not the actual execution. Let me give you an example. There’s something that really intrigues me about moving to a new place where I don’t know anyone. That’s really exciting to me, but the truth is I would never do it. I’ve lived in the same five-mile radius for all of my 37 years, and it looks like I’ll be here, God willing, for 37 more. Change sounds fun, but in reality it produces stress and anxiety, which are not fun. Which is why I, along with the majority of your church, don’t like change.
Our brains are wired for certainty. Uncertainty causes us to feel threatened, which makes us want to run away, or lash out, or complain, or resist.
It does to me. I’ve been there, done that, and got the scars to show for it. If you’ve been in ministry very long, you have too.
Many pastors have quit the ministry altogether because they felt like the fight wasn’t worth it. Others have chosen to surrender the fight and have buried their hearts instead, serving in churches that have no interest in ever changing and will slowly die.
Then there are the brave few who choose to fight on knowing that countless lives are on the line. This post is for you.
If you’re brave enough to try to implement change in your church, you’re going to need some tactics and strategies to make sure you come out alive.
Here are a few that I’ve learned the hard way.
- Cast a compelling vision. The people who have been in your church for years have stayed because they like it the way it is. Believe me, they’re not interested in changing a thing. So, you better get a really compelling vision from God on what He wants to do through your church, or you won’t have a chance.
- Get buy in from the influencers. Who are the people in your church, if they left your church today, others would leave with them? Those are your influencers. They may be on the board, they may teach Sunday school, or they may never lift a finger to serve anyone, but their opinion holds significant weight. These are the people you have to convince first. And it may take some time, so…
- Don’t rush in. I know when you get a vision for what God wants to do, it’s easy to get excited and go too fast. Don’t make that mistake. Many pastors have failed because they didn’t have the patience to wait for the right time. Take your time building genuine relationships and getting people to buy into the new vision God has given you. If your church has done things the same way for the past fifty years, don’t expect them to change a whole lot in the next five. Sometimes winning the battle means living longer than those who oppose you.
- Celebrate the victories along the way. Even the seemingly small insignificant ones. New visitors, new volunteers, new babies born. Find a way to tie them all back to the vision God gave you. People want to be on a winning team, so the more wins you can find, the quicker people will get on board with what you’re trying to accomplish.
Have you even been part of transitioning a church? What would your advice be? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe the blog and pick up my new ebook, The Basics: 13 Steps to Turn Around Your Small Town Church.
I always feel a bit awkward giving preachers advice on preaching since I’m an Executive Pastor who only preaches a few times of year, but just hear me out. I’m actually probably more qualified than most people because while you are preaching the messages, I’m in the audience listening to them. And over the years I’ve listened to hundreds of messages, some from great preachers and some from not so great. Thanks, Facebook Live! Over the years I’ve noticed what I believe are some huge mistakes many pastors are making.
Here are the ten I believe you should avoid.
- The preacher voice. If you don’t know what this is, then you’ve never been to a small town church in the south. For whatever reason, it’s like some pastors have a totally different tone and dialect when they’re preaching than when they’re not. They add extra syllables to words and forget to breathe. It’s really a sight to behold, and the crazy thing is people who’ve grown up in church in the south determine how good a preacher is based on his preaching voice. The big problem with this is anyone who hasn’t grown up in church is totally weirded out when this happens. A lot of un-churched people already believe the church is weird. Stop proving them right. Use your normal voice.
- Preaching from a Bible version people can’t understand. I probably lost 50% of my audience with that first one, so let’s go ahead and tick off the rest. I know some of you absolutely love the New King James Version of the Bible. I know it was the Bible that Jesus taught from, but it’s hard for an un-churched person to understand at times. It’s like me trying to watch Downtown Abbey. If we have the greatest message in the world, why would we complicate it by speaking a language no one has spoken in hundreds of years? Use a Bible version everyone not just church people can understand.
- Preaching on un-relatable topics. If you’re still reading, this I’m really proud of you. It takes guts to get through those first two. Another mistake pastors often make is teaching on topics that have no bearing on a person’s normal life. The goal of preaching is not to make everyone think you’re really smart. The goal should be helping people deal with the issues they’re facing and encouraging them to become more like Jesus. In my church right now, I have people contemplating divorce, people dealing with substance abuse, people with all kinds of sexual sins, and the list goes on and on. These are the issues they’re facing. Teach them what the Bible has to say about what they’re dealing with.
- Having too many points. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but the majority of people in your congregation will forget what you preached on within 48 hours. The few of them who will remember will only remember a very small portion; so the simpler you can keep your message the better. One main point is perfect. Anything over three and you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.
- Preaching too long. Which brings us to this: there is a very small percentage of pastors who can preach over 40 minutes and still keep their audiences attention. The majority of us should be within the 25-35 minute range. If you can’t keep it shorter than 40 minutes, you have too many points, or you’re…
- Not being prepared. When you don’t prepare, you tend to ramble and go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the message. If you’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to give you your message on Saturday night or Sunday morning, you’ve waited too late. The Holy Spirit is a lot better prepared than that. Chances are you’re procrastinating or just plain lazy. Your congregation deserves better than that. Sermon prep looks different for everyone, but for me I type out my entire sermon and then preach it to an empty room at least three times before I ever get in front of an audience.
- Not being real. No one wants to listen to someone they can’t relate to. If you are trying to portray this perfect lifestyle with a perfect marriage and perfect kids, good luck getting anyone to listen to you. People value transparency.
- Not explaining the why. Sometimes we preach messages and never explain why what we’re saying should matter to those who are listening. You shouldn’t have sex before marriage. Why? You shouldn’t gossip about people. Why? You shouldn’t ask people to share a photo of Jesus on Facebook. Why? Because it’s probably Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Not sharing personal stories. Personal stories are powerful. I would almost say that personal stories are becoming more powerful than Bible stories, but I’ve already lost enough subscribers in this post. But just think about it, the story of God telling Jonah to go warn Nineveh is a really cool story. But the story of someone in your Sunday school class or small group inviting his friend to church who then got saved, that’s powerful. Now, I’m not saying we should scrap one for the other. I’m just saying, take advantage of personal stories; they’re powerful.
- Not challenging people to take next steps. And finally, one of the biggest mistakes preachers make is not asking people to take an action step based on the message just preached. If you preach on spending more time with your spouse, challenge them to take a date night. If you preach on generosity, challenge people to tithe. If you preach on Jesus and His resurrection, challenge people to start a relationship with Him. People are way more likely to take a step, if you ask.
Now, it’s time for your next step, which is leaving a comment below and letting me know what you thought about this post. Have you ever used the preaching voice? If you’d like to continue improving as a preacher, check out my ebook 8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching. And as always don’t forget to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.
Most pastors I’ve met are nice. My pastor is one of the nicest people I know. It seems to be a part of the job requirement. Sure, there are a few pastors who are jerks, but overall when I think about pastors, I think they’re mostly nice. Which is a good thing…and a bad thing at times. Let me explain…
It’s great for pastors to be caring, kind, helpful, put others first, etc. Those are great traits to have.
Until…it starts to hurt the mission and vision of the church.
You’re probably asking how, so let me give you a few examples.
- Nice people tend to avoid conflict. It’s not fun having a conversation with a volunteer who never shows up on time. Trust me. I’ve had a few of these, and people didn’t think I was very nice. I tried my best to explain the importance and be as nice as possible, but feelings still got hurt.
- Nice people tend to hire the wrong people. Many times instead of hiring the most qualified, pastors will hire the person they like the most. It doesn’t even have to be a paid position. This happens all the time with volunteers. You have someone in your church that would be a much better worship leader than your current one, but you and your current worship leader have been friends for ten years. That makes it difficult.
- Nice people tend to never fire anyone. It doesn’t matter if they’re paid or a volunteer. It’s hard to remove someone from his or her position, especially nice people. So, we’ll leave someone in a position that doesn’t have the capacity to do the work, letting the ministry suffer.
- Nice people tend to avoid the facts. This means the church can be losing people, but they’ll find a way to justify it. I’ll give you an example. They’ll say things like, “People aren’t coming to our church because they know we preach the truth.” When the truth is, no one comes to their church because they’re still doing church like it’s 1988.
- Nice people tend to sacrifice the flock for the sake of one sheep. This happens every time someone gets up on stage to sing that you and I both know have no business singing. “God laid this on my heart” is not a good enough reason to hand someone a microphone.
Now, don’t get me wrong, as pastors we should be nice. In all honesty I’ve probably became quite a bit nicer as a pastor over the years. In the beginning it was hard for me to be nice because there was so many issues that needed to be addressed.
So, be nice, but don’t sacrifice what God wants to do through you and your church because you’re worried about hurting feelings. Jesus did it all the time.
Is being too nice something you struggle with? In what ways? Let us know by leaving a comment below. If you need help deciding what’s your next step as a church check out my coaching page, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.