In a struggling church that has faced years of attendance decline, few children and deferred maintenance issues, the leadership tends to look for a person, program or partnership that can reverse the decline in an instant. The Hail Mary hire or programmatic change is a desperate attempt to reverse decline. Instead of a church looking for a silver bullet, they can develop and follow microsteps to achieve their turnaround dreams. Mircosteps are a series of small steps taken to move the church forward over time, seen through deliberate actions to pause, plan and promote.
Pause Before Change.
When the church is declining and the people are desperate, they will do one of two things that are polar opposites: One group will hunker down and want to keep everything the same, hoping by waiting, things will change on their own. The second group will want to change things drastically and create even more upheaval within the church. Instead of doing nothing or doing too much, the microstep of pausing is a crucial element in helping people recognize the need to adapt to the current situation.
Plus, there may be a tendency for a leader to push past this microstep and try to overcome the challenges by moving things fast and forgetting that the legacy of missteps will not go away without acknowledging them through reflection and reviewing what went wrong.
To move from decline into a space of renewal, pausing to evaluate the current landscape within the church is essential. By listening to concerns and ideas from inside and outside the church walls, leadership begins to hear and see where God may be leading them. It is in the pause step that reflection can take place, ownership of past missteps can take place, and development of a new way forward from decline can begin.
Plan Through Small Wins.
Leading change in a church can be challenging as diverging interests push and pull their agendas in the name of the Lord. As they move from pausing, leaders should begin to plan small wins where the diverging interests can be brought together, focusing on the main interest of rebounding from decline and obeying God’s will for the local community. In every church, there are small wins that, when combined, can create momentum that will move the church from the rut of discouragement to the progress of forward momentum.
Though your church might have limited resources, evaluate where it can use them to make a big move. Sometimes, this takes moving resources from one area to another to make sure that the new initiative progresses forward. Plan to develop several early wins that will build on each other to create the needed momentum to push more considerable changes that must take place in the future.
Developing mircowins that everyone can celebrate leaders will generate an atmosphere of excitement that will help the leader and the congregation navigate the change that will come next. Through strategic planning and implementation of initiatives, small mircowins will help the church look past failures and celebrate future successes.
Promote Success Through Stories.
The story the church has been telling itself in decline has to change if it is going to rebound. Every person in the church is a storyteller who expresses emotional sentiments about where they think the church is going. The long-term negative sentiments will change over time through small microsteps of stories of lives transformed, children impacted through ministry, and community members engaged through a renewed purpose from the church.
The story you tell yourself as a leader is as important as the story you tell others when you speak directly to them. There may be discouraging days and seasons in ministry, but remember, God has not forgotten or forsaken you or the local church. Push through these doubt moments by leaning on God to guide you as you share through your fear the faith you have in leaning into this new phase of the church. Spirit-led storytelling enables others to witness the move of God and encourages them to share the good things God is up to. Transformational leadership and change start through micro storytelling that increases the likelihood of changing the culture of the church from a negative mindset to a positive one.
Microsteps are an essential ingredient to a turnaround that will help the church move forward. Pausing, planning and promoting the new culture the church desperately needs moves the church from a negative spiritual mindset into the new frontier of renewal.