I have been working in the field of church revitalization and renewal for almost twenty years now and I wanted to share in this edition of the Church Revitalizer blog about some of the nasty things which happen to the leader of a church’s renewal effort. Wise Church Revitalizers, while not liking some of the things which will come their way, should be ready for some of the big ones which often precede the turnaround of a plateaued church. It was John Maxwell, which taught me some thirty years ago a great principle of leadership and it is never more important to remember than as one who is working in the realm of church revitalization and renewal. John told many of us way back then:
“People will let you down, but Jesus Christ will never let you down!”
I have reflected upon this wise statement many times while in the midst of the challenge of the moment. The reality is that there are some nasty things that are thrown at leaders of renewal as they seek to turnaround a church.
For every Church Revitalizer which is part of our monthly Virtual Coaching Network, I spend time discussing the following challenges in revitalization and renewal in an attempt to assist them in a smoother transition when they encounter these trials. This is the second in a series of blogs focused around “The Nasty Punches That Come Your Way in Church Revitalization and Renewal!”
12. The first thing you must do is to get your congregation prepared emotionally before you begin to make changes (any change not just the big ones)!
All of us have a natural resistance towards change. Our reluctance to let others make changes in our lives is intensified by our human tendency to strive for security and comfort when we know things are not quite right! Here is a critical Church Revitalization Principle:
The more we need to change, the less we are willing to change! Folks are never more creative than when they are raining on someone else’s parade!
The important thing is to remember that such interference can and will occur and to decide that, when it does, you will not be deterred from pursuing your goal. The fact that there will be opposition to your ideas and that you will have critics and detractors, means that as you proceed, there will be winners and losers in your efforts to revitalize your church!
13. If they cannot defeat your efforts towards renewal they will load you down with the non-essential.
After much has been tried to keep you from the task of church revitalization and without any success to keep you from the goal, often the next strategy will be to begin to strategically load you down with non-essential tasks that will eat up your time and keep you from having the time for church renewal. Here are some of the tactics you will observe from the membership:
Resistance tactics – where anything you plan they stay away and not show up.
Delaying tactics – If there is a goal to do something this year a vote will be made to table the effort until next year and wait for a report from a committee which is not known for getting anything accomplished. The result is the effort is killed by no follow-up.
Load you down with other stuff tactics – Suddenly your committees and lay leadership have tasked you with the responsibility (if you let them) of restructuring the churches organizations or rewriting the constitution and bylaws. All of these are things which eat up ones time for church renewal.
Feeling of displacement tactics – Your idea of creating a new series of small groups or adding another worship service is placed on hold by church action until a particular trigger can be accomplished even though you know it will never be accomplished. A thing such as our main worship service grows to 250 and then you can launch a second service. That is extremely difficult when you are only running 35 at the present moment in time.
The leader who wants to bring about change in a congregation must have the ability to tell the difference between content and process. Content- is the stuff people argue about. This is the small talk, the debris that floats to the top of the raging river. Process- is the real reason people argue. It is the emotional reality, the real raging river.
14. Declining congregations lack this sense of the divine calling and leading from God.
Often laity creates an “it’s your fault pastor” because they are afraid of revealing that they are a large part of the challenge! It has been so long since they have seen the divine that they fear the presence of the Lord has left the church and they do not know what to do about it. They need a church revitalizer certainly, but there is an unwillingness to allow the revitalizer the freedom to seek God’s presence for renewal. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”