(This article appeared first in the Baptist Courier on May 3, 2016)
About 300 years ago, George Whitefield and John Wesley led a great Evangelical Awakening in the United Kingdom. However, last month, on a study abroad trip to England and Scotland, I was reminded of the need for change within churches as we witnessed large cathedrals that no longer functioned as churches, but served as museums and concert halls. The churches in the UK suffered such decline and secularization because they refused to change their methods to reach a changing culture. Our churches in the United States could suffer the same fate if we fail to change our methods to engage people in our culture with the gospel. Although the message of the gospel never changes, the methods and means by which we communicate it must constantly change.
Sometimes it’s hard for leaders to lead change in their churches. Let me suggest 10 tips which I hope will help you implement healthy change in your churches. I credit John Kotter’s helpful book Leading Change for ten of the steps below.
Pray. Sometimes it’s hard to determine what type of change is needed. Scripture states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5 ESV)
Read what the Scripture says about change. The Apostle Paul presents a biblical precedent for changing to reach the culture when he states, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22 ESV)
Help your church members see the need for change. Communicate to members why there is a need for change. If they do not first see the need, they will possess no motivation for change.
Build a team to lead the change. Formulate a team of leaders in the church who understand and share the need for change. Focus on key leaders within the church to serve on this team.
Develop a vision and strategy for change. Utilize all of your team members to create this vision and strategy for change. The more people involved in this process, the more ownership they will feel towards the change strategy.
Communicate the vision and strategy for change. Share the strategy and vision for change through your team. Consistently keep the strategy in front of the church members.
Moblize your members to implement the change. Encourage your members to take part in the change process. Allow them to use their gifts and abilities in enacting the change.
Celebrate small wins. Lead the congregation in celebrating goals they accomplish in pursuing change. As you celebrate these wins, momentum for change will grow.
Solidify the change and make it part of your church culture. Using the momentum from small wins, carry the change to completion and reinforce the change until it becomes part of the DNA of the church culture.
Then, get ready for the next change.
Following the steps above through the guidance of the Holy Spirit will help you successfully lead change through the church. Such an approach helps pastors and church leaders to shepherd church members in becoming “all things to all people” so that by all means they might save some.
Tim is the Associate Professor for Youth Ministry & Missions at Anderson University and is the Executive Director of Youth Ministry Round Table. He is the author of No Better Gospel and the coauthor of the upcoming Raising the Bar 2nd edition.