As the church begins to win new visitors, invariably there will be pushback from current members who feel threatened by the new people, thoughts and actions. As a church leader, you must find ways to integrate the old and the new into church membership. While there might be a tendency to lean toward one group or the other, know your role is to support each group to help shape them into one.
The role of the leader is to provide vision, direction, encouragement and guidance as both sides figure out their new role in serving in the church. The goal is not to create factions or teams but to create a central message of serving together for the greater good of the kingdom of God.
Examining Strengths and Weaknesses
Inside the local church, many needs will need to be met as you move toward becoming the church God has called it to be. As such, there should be an honest assessment and review of the church from the top down. The study should include all groups, leaders, classes, and activities. If the church is going to move forward, then an accurate analysis of what is happening at this moment in the church’s life must be assessed. Once you have a clear idea of what is happening, the leadership team should examine the strengths and weaknesses of each leader, class, or activity and if the right person, program, or partnership is in the right place.
Churches that integrate visitors into members have a clear direction of where they are going. By examining the church’s strengths and weaknesses, you can understand the culture better. With the new cultural understanding, the team can explore which pieces of the larger puzzle need to be positioned to meet the new season the church is entering. Sometimes, leaders will need to be rearranged into new positions, classes stopped because they are no longer meeting the immense need, and programs might need to be added to address the future focus of the church. As you examine the conditions, be open, and do not be shy because of friendships, personalities, or personal likes. Observe the church as an outside consultant so that you provide proper direction that is not skewed by one side or the other but founded in helping the church progress forward.
Providing Fresh Insight
New attendees pick up on what is and needs to be more accurate in winning the lost to Jesus. It may take a few visits, but before long, they begin to see what the church cares about. Long-time members get transfixed in their areas and miss the broader look and feel of the overall church. Integrating the two sides into one, you start the leadership team with a listening ear. The team needs to hear out all perspectives, not just those they agree with. Sure, it is uncomfortable, but with comfort comes stagnation. And stagnation breeds death. Tom Cheyney wrote, “Internal warfare has reduced many congregations to mere stagnant, status quo existence. It is crucial to understand the background of a church’s battles in an effort to later describe both results and resolution.” Be careful not to bog down in the negative and miss the positive things the church is currently doing. But on the flip side, do not be afraid to tackle the issues holding the church back from future growth. When done well, this balance celebrates the past and journeys toward the future. The downside is the destruction of what could be with new people and new ideas.
As new ideas and thought processes are brought in through new guests, and as the team provides a self-assessment review of all areas of the church, there is an excellent opportunity to see new things, add programs for the future, and subtract things that are not working. Stay open to the thoughts and words of others. To be effective long-term, you have to provide fresh leadership while maintaining the mission and vision of the local church. If you are not reading on the subject seeking other ways of doing things from your contemporaries in the field, then having a listening ear is crucial to the development of new ideas and thought processes for serving in the local church. Leadership development is continual, not just a degree earned or title bestowed upon a person. Degrees are only good for the time you are achieving them. Titles are only worth having if you are willing to strive to move the church forward by using them to see the broader picture.
The Next Best Step
Your local church has a rich history. If you were to add up all the people who have attended or been a part of your church for decades, it would number in the thousands. God used a multitude of people and gifts throughout the decades to help usher the church forward. Looking back through the years, you might see the tremendous mountaintop and low valley moments, but God provided through it all. Leslie Parrott wrote, “It is doubtful if preaching alone is going to bring the spirit of revival in any church. We need saints without halos to walk among the young, the apathetic, and the avantgarde of this generation, and demonstrate in understandable terms the transforming love of Christ.”
Today is no different for the local church. God is sending the right people for this season that the church finds itself in. The people you have and the people God is sending you are for this season and beyond. Focus on now. Focus on the next best step for the local church. Begin to dream again. By following God’s steps today, begin to see things through fresh spiritual eyes that will help prepare for the future.
The new people the local church receives will have giftings that can fill holes, establish new ministry leads, and provide much-needed spiritual labor to help lead the church forward. Instead of fighting the unknown, the church should embrace it by meshing the current members with guests who will become members of the future. Together, the whole church will rise or fall on the ability to bring together groups as one.