The 8 Stages of Leading Good Change in the Church

I am honored to lead the Resources Division at LifeWay and serve with a team of leaders who are passionate to serve the Church in Her mission of making disciples. Each Wednesday, I share the heart behind one of the resources our team has developed and give an opportunity for you to register to win a free copy of the resource. This week’s resource is Thom Rainer’s new book, Who Moved My Pulpit: Leading Change in the Church.

Yes, Dr. Rainer is my boss, and he has been an important part of my leadership development over the years. I have had the blessing to spend plenty of time with him, including working with him on the book Simple Church. His latest book is one that is important to leaders of all types of churches because all churches wrestle with change at some point in their journey. Change is something we as leaders will encounter and need to be prepared in how to lead through it.

Below is a post from Dr. Rainer.

Nine out of ten churches in North America are losing ground in their communities. They are declining or growing more slowly than their respective communities. But there’s good news, too. Other churches are revitalizing. The cost and the risks can be scary. But it wouldn’t take faith if we could tackle these challenges in our own strength and power. It is a sin to be good when God has called us to be great. We need change leaders in our churches who are willing to do something great.
The roadmap to leading change in the church has eight stages. Though they are not perfectly sequential, there is a sense of orderliness to this process. Here is a simple overview of the eight-stage roadmap for leading change in your church:

1. Stop to pray.

You are reading this because you either want to lead change or be a part of leading change. But leaders tend to want to see tangible results right away. That might be the biggest mistake you could make. Leading change begins in the power and strength of God. Pray for God’s wisdom, God’s courage, and God’s strength. Pray for the congregation, and pray for those who oppose and criticize you.

2. Confront and communicate a sense of urgency.

We must face and share the brutal facts with the congregation. Many church members don’t see the need to make changes because they don’t see reality. They don’t see the decline, the worn facilities, or that the church is not reaching unbelievers as it once did. You have to lead the congregation to face reality, communicate that reality, and communicate a sense of urgency. We must remind people again and again that John 14:6 is true, that Christ is the only way of salvation.

3. Build an eager coalition.

We can’t lead change on our own. Lone Ranger leaders only have one opinion: their own. And if they start having challenges and problems, they have no one to turn to. Gather a coalition and meet with them to get their buy-in for the impending change. Do not merely form a committee or task force, but strategically include the right people, taking into consideration chemistry, position, influence, expertise, and leadership.

4. Become a voice and vision of hope.

Change agents are agents of hope. Leaders who embody hope in their churches have three clearly defined traits: They read their Bibles daily. They choose to communicate hope. They look for low-hanging fruit, seeking and celebrating even small victories in their church.

5. Deal with people issues.

Change is all about people, so leaders must have the courage to handle “people issues.” This requires loving people, expecting opposition, building a team of like-minded leaders in your church, leading change one step at a time, not delaying difficult decisions, expecting some people to leave, and lots of prayer.

6. Move from an inward focus to an outward focus.

A church begins with a desire to reach its community with an urgency to get the message of the gospel and the new church to those in the community. Over time, the efforts of the church move inward. Most of the ministry, financial resources, and leadership time are for the members. The church that just a few years earlier proclaimed the Great Commission is now focused on the great comfort. Change will require intentionally outward focused movement.

7. Pick low-hanging fruit.

Small change victories are necessary to sustain positive momentum toward larger change. Picking low-hanging fruit demonstrates the change direction is worth it, affirms the change leader, clarifies strategies and tactics, overcomes resistance, and builds momentum toward the larger change.

8. Implement and consolidate change.

Implementing and consolidating change requires over-communication, transparency, dealing with success, dealing with dissenters, and dealing with complacency.

Many of our congregations need to change in one area or another. It can seem impossible or overwhelming. But our churches need courageous leaders. The first step is to pray for God’s wisdom, courage, and strength. No matter the circumstance, that is a right place to begin, so let’s start there now.

Click here or register in the form below before 11:59pm CT tonight, Wednesday, June 8, 2016, to win one of 10 copies of Dr. Rainer’s new book Who Moved My Pulpit?