Help! I’m A Pastor Who Wants To Transform A Traditional Church

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A common question around ChurchBOOM is how to help transform a traditional church to a modern or contemporary church.

There are lots of strategies, blog posts, and even conferences that can help this. But you are here, now. So what can you do to help transform a traditional church?

How To Help Transform A Traditional Church

1. Discover If They Want To Change.

Most change is difficult. Unwanted change is impossible.

It doesn’t matter how much you want to help someone if they don’t want to be helped. If you have been asked to help a church transform than your difficult job is a little bit easier.

If you are currently at a church that is happy with the way things are then your job is a little more tricky.

I was once told by a friend that when it comes to church leadership, “It’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.” Translation, it’s easier to plant a church than to change one.

But don’t be discouraged. It’s possible.

You just have to be creative.

The most impactive changes happen when a person has the idea themselves.

It’s true in counseling and it’s very true in leadership.

Often, as leaders, we think the key is to give everyone the answer. What we need to work hard at is giving people the destination.

The final destination is what is important. How one gets there is semantics.

People do not have to agree on the path to take, but in order for change to take place they have to agree on the destination.

For many the destination is the traditions they know and love. When you try to change that you are perceived as wanting to erase what they hold close to.

Often identity gets wrapped in buildings and programs that hold significant memories for past generations. The problem is their memories are at the expense of reaching future generations.

The key is to get someone thinking of a new destination. The question is, how do you do that?

2. Ask Questions About The Destination

Legacy is something that people tend to care something about. So asking questions that help them think about a different destination can lead to change.

  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What can you do now that will impact someone 5 years from now?
  • If you had one word to define your life, what would it be?

Most people aren’t going to say, “I hope I’m defined by being greedy” or “I hope I’m defined by being a stiff necked jerk who resisted change.”

You can discover your follow up questions by someone’s answers.

If someone says, “I want to be remembered for being generous” you then follow up with “How will future generations at ____ church see your generosity?

The point is to lead through questions.

When someone discovers the answer themselves it unlocks a passion for the destination and removes resistance to the change.

Until that happens they will see you as a predator trying to kill what they love.

Other questions to ask…

  • If you were a first time guest here what would cause you to want to come back? The answer may be nothing. Or the answer may lead to more questions.
  • How can we fulfill the Great Commission as a church?
  • Who do you know that doesn’t go to church? What would it take for them to want to come here?
  • If you were a new Christian what would help you learn how to follow Jesus? What things in our service would you not understand if you didn’t have a foundation of faith?

The questions aren’t attacking what they love. They are helping them to start thinking about a different destination.

3. Be Patient.

People want to know you care about them.

One of the best leaders I know spent one whole year getting to know the leadership and people of his church. He had lots of dinners, lunches, and meetings where he just got to know people. He asked questions. He won their trust. At every meeting he would show each person how important they were.

He won them over before he asked them to go to a new destination. By the time he did ask for a major change he had the support of his church. That church is now averaging 4K a weekend at multiple campuses.

I stink at being patient.

I know what I want and I want it now. I want you cause I’m Mr. Vain.

Who is Mr. Vain?

I don’t know, but that is from a catchy song from the 90’s. I digress.

The point is we often want change to happen so quickly we bulldoze anyone that stands in our way.

People need time to process change.

They need time to get on board.

They also need to know you care about them.

Change can happen, but you have to be patient.

You will not become North Point, Willow Creek, Elevation, or Saddleback over night. Change takes time.

If you are not patient enough to see the change through then make the hard call and go find a church that you can lead.

4. Think Steps, Not Programs.

#4 is borrowed from North Point’s Playbook. In 7 Practices of Effective Ministry they highlight a crucial step in helping people arrive at a destination.

Programs are typically the churches answer to a specific problem.

We hear of a need and start a program. But today’s programs end up becoming tomorrow’s headaches.

A program that has had past success will eventually lose some effectiveness if it’s not tweaked.

Tradition is frozen success.

In order to help people let go of some older traditions you must help them think steps and not programs.

Steps are a part of the journey to a specific destination.

When churches think in steps instead of programs they willingly let go over ministries or events that no longer work.

Helping people think about steps instead of programs isn’t easy. In order to this you’ll have to ask some amazing questions, and be incredibly patient.

We would love to hear from you:
What did we miss? What would you add to the list? What questions do you have about this post?

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