I noted that there’s probably no simple answer available, but I noted several factors, which, considered together, should help a leadership team determine how fast their church can change.
BTW: The queries (in italics) would make great discussion questions for your church’s staff or board.
(1) You can change at the speed of your congregation. Your church has a speed limit which is determined by the overall change-readiness of its members. Do you know your congregation’s speed limit?
(2) You can change at the speed of your crisis. No pastor I know goes looking for “a good crisis,” but many pastors understand that a crisis is a time when things can be changed significantly and rapidly, for God’s glory. Is your church experiencing a crisis which is affecting its receptivity to change?
(3) You can change at the speed of your growth. Church growth gives church leaders the opportunity to end ineffective ministries, begin new ones, re-visit the church’s mission, vision, values, strategy and even, at times, it’s “target” or focus group. How does your church’s growth – or lack thereof – impact its ability to change?
(4) You can change at the speed of the Holy Spirit. There’s no question that the Holy Spirit is still interested in leading the Church and the churches. Sometimes He leads us to wait. Other times, He leads us to change rapidly. We need to be ready and willing for either instruction. If the Holy Spirit gives direction to your leaders, will anyone be listening?
No sooner was my post hitting your inbox when three more factors came to mind.
(5) You can change at the speed of your church’s tensile strength.
I don’t know if this is true or not; somebody needs to enlighten me; but I’ve seen more than one action/adventure movie scene where the vehicle transporting the heroes – ship, plane, train, submarine or spaceship – was being put through a change of direction at a speed which threatened to break up the vehicle. Fortunately, this only seems to actually happen to the bad guys.
I do know that the following scenario is for real: I’ve seen churches which changed dramatically and quickly and withstood the shock because of their terrific tensile strength. The patience of the members and the quality of their interpersonal relationships bent significantly under the strain, but didn’t break.
Other churches trying to pull off the same maneuver simply broke up. Everyone went their separate ways. Their membership in “that church” didn’t mean much to them.
What do you think about the tensile strength of your church?
(6) You can change at the speed of your leadership team’s leadership capital.
In the America of 2022, leadership capital, clout or coupons, whichever term you use, is a disappearing and almost priceless commodity. Cynicism abounds; trust is rare.
Your church is blessed if it has quality leaders which it is willing to follow.
This post shouldn’t stray off into the factors which accumulate or dissipate leadership coupons. To quickly determine the state of your own “leadership/followership relationship,” simply announce next Sunday that a surprise congregational meeting is going to launch the next big change for your church; then measure your congregation’s vital signs. Keep a nurse or nurse practitioner handy.
Two aspects of this vital metric are addressed by Carl George and Robert Logan’s wonderful “Bucket of Berries” theory. The bottom-line truth addressed so well by their allegory is that church leaders – I believe they’re writing about pastors – have the most leadership capital with members who are both younger and newer to the church than they are, and the least leadership capital with church members who are both older and longer-tenured than they are.
How is your leadership team’s leadership capital? (BTW: A consultant could help you determine this much more accurately.)
(7) You can change at the speed of your leader’s leadership skill.
I’ve read a number of books that claim that if the church’s senior or solo pastor isn’t a strong leader, someone else can step in and play this role. I have never, I repeat, never, seen this work. If you have, I’d like to hear about it.
Leadership skill is enjoyable to read about, fun to teach about, but in the real world, hard to gain and difficult to exercise. In the realm of church revitalization, where my heart spends so much of its time, the pastor’s leadership skill is far too often the missing ingredient in aborted revitalization efforts.
But with God’s help – and some training and coaching – leadership prowess can be attained by many beyond the few “natural born leaders” among us.
Does your church’s solo or senior pastor have the leadership skills to facilitate change at a reasonable (not breathtaking!) rate?
By prayerfully considering all seven of these factors, God will help you to answer our important question: How fast can my church change?”