Monday, June 11, 2012

Making It Work in the Congregation

I spent several days last week in Shawnee, Kansas, teaching a course for Doctor of Ministry students at Central BaptistTheological Seminary.  They were very responsive, and we engaged in some good discussion around the content.  All of these women and men are ministry practitioners who are daily involved in leading congregations or missional ministries.  I was not surprised but a bit pleased when they pushed back with questions like, “How can we apply this in our ministry setting?”  They found the content of the course interesting, but they also wondered about how this would play “back home.”

I certainly can sympathize with the question.  Every organization we lead must change in order to be vital and relevant but there is a natural reluctance to “being changed.”  Because our churches and ministries are composed of living beings, they are already changing every day!  Everyone with whom we work is growing older and facing new life challenges daily.  This is not a matter of choice but something that is forced upon us as long as we live.  If the individuals in the organization are changing, can the organization avoid change for long?

At the same time, I realize that people in organizations naturally resist change even when it is needed.  Leaders rarely have a mandate to make sweeping changes in their organizations.  Even when a church tells the pastor “We want to grow,” members are rarely willing to make the big changes required for growth to happen.

What’s the alternative?  I suggest starting small.  If a leader has a new idea or process to introduce into the church or organization, he or she would do well to try it out with a small group first.  Do you have a new approach to spiritual formation or Bible study?  Invite a few individuals who are ready to try something new to join together and practice the innovation.  If it works for them, then you have a satisfied group who will share the concept with others.  If it doesn’t work, perhaps it can be fine tuned and adjusted for greater effectiveness.

Every church needs a “research and development” component that is trying out new approaches. If they work, then they can be “mainstreamed” into church life.  Even small changes are generative and may produce the momentum for major change.  You have to start somewhere.

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