When we see churches stuck in a long-gone decade, it’s because they stopped changing somewhere along the way. They might have launched with an innovative vision or made a change to reach a particular demographic, but at some point, they settled in to a comfortable routine.
Leaders in these churches might struggle to see how change is possible. They’re asking questions like:
What changes will we need to make so the environment is appealing to new people?
How do we accomplish that without offending the people who currently attend?
How do we do it without jeopardizing the giving that helps our church run?
In my discussions with pastors facing these challenges, I’ve seen these four patterns emerge with churches that have changed successfully.
1. Put vision in front of it.
Most of the time, people don’t like change because the purpose is missing or unclear to them. They don’t want to give up what they know and like. As leaders, our task is to move people’s focus from themselves to people and things they love.
For example, transitioning music styles can cause conflict. Instead of leading with the fact that the music is changing, get people thinking about their grandkids. “We know many of you would like to see your grandchildren in church. We’re going to make some intentional changes to reach them.”
Making that personal connection helps them understand you’re not getting rid of the old just because it’s old or because you like the new better. When the purpose is something they believe in, people are more willing to try something new.
This also applies to your team. Some of the most important vision casting you can do is to help your leaders internalize the purpose behind the change. You might also create opportunities for new leaders to emerge who already embrace the vision.
2. Make it incremental.
Sometimes it’s appropriate to accelerate gradually. Small, incremental changes allow you to help people embrace the change as you progress toward your larger vision.
Returning to our example of transitioning music styles, you might start by modernizing hymns, varying the flow of worship, and introducing some new songs with the old ones. You could begin to incrementally add members to your worship team that more closely resemble the people you’re trying to reach.