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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?