By Carey Nieuwhof
When I started at my church, six people attended. As my wife, our child, and I joined, we increased attendance by 50 percent. Stepping into a leadership role in this church, I quickly found that leading change was easy since I had little to lose.
It’s easy to change what someone else built. However, we become wedded to the kind of church we create. Sometimes, we are blind to the change we need.
What kind of change are you called to lead? What is the purpose behind the change you are called to lead?
Five Actions to Lead Change
To dive into deeper change making, key steps change and revitalize our church congregations.
- Drive engagement, not attendance.
Collective guilt is disappearing. People come to service less. Church leaders who love attendance more than engagement will see declining attendance. Soon, only those who are engaged will remain at church. Seek engagement. Seek to lead people to sacrificing, contributing meaningfully, and being passionate. Ask yourself: how do we get people to take a deeper dive into the Gospel and mission of the local church? We often find attendance rising as engagement does.
2. Create a healthy leadership culture.
Healthy leaders create healthy churches. Likewise, if you are dysfunctional at the top, you will be dysfunctional throughout. As my church reached a larger size, I knew I could no longer keep the pulse on each individual. I started doing what I could by investing in the team around me. As we get healthier at the top, people function at their best capacity. Health permeates. If you are healthy at the top, you’ll be healthy throughout.
3. Enable high capacity volunteers.
High capacity people respond to high levels of challenge. To find these people, you need to get rid of a low commitment culture. In our churches, we pitch, “Please help out with kids ministry. We know you’re busy. Get on our rotation to serve every 38 weeks.” There is no greater mission than that of the church, but we settle for weak calls. We set the bar the lowest. If we call people out at their best, ask them to give sacrificially, and exhort them to serve with their hearts, we can have the volunteers we lack.
4. Make the next generation a priority.
Your strategy, not your intention, determines your success. You can be passionate, but what is your strategy and what actions are you taking? You only really fuel what you fund. You might say something is important, but are you willing to put your best staff members on this? If we underfund, we will never fully fuel. We must be sure that developing younger leaders is a top priority, and we must put our funding behind such goals.
5. Separate the mission from the method.
Churches that love their methods more than their mission will die. On the other hand, churches that change their methods to preserve their mission will thrive. It takes great courage to change what we, ourselves, introduced. It means humility because the longer we lead, the more the past looks attractive. The greatest threat to our future success is our current success because the more successful we become, the more conservative we become. Our methods, our formulas that brought us to the place we now are, can become the crutches we cling to instead of to where God is taking us.
Leaders who see the future can seize it. Leaders who value change can make it. Don’t get caught in your own constructs. Keep your eyes open and start today.
Adapted from Pipeline 2016: Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. To learn more about how to lead your church, check out our free Ministry Grid courses Introduction to Leadership Pipeline and Leadership Pipeline Competency Overview.