When Jesus was talking about not pouring new wine into old wine skins he was communicating the fragile nature of change. Change is difficult, especially in churches so, we need to develop a purposeful process for change. Here is a five-step process you can use to implement real and lasting change in your church.

Step 1: Prepare for Change

Read, watch and listen to the pastors from churches that get it. Those are the churches that are growing despite a culture that finds church irrelevant. And then most importantly pray for God to prepare you for the changes that are coming. Then wait.  You must wait on God. God’s will is doing the right thing in the right way for the right motive at the right time. But never stop believing that God has got something great coming for you and your churches.“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 This verse isn’t just about His heaven, it also applies to His church.

 Step 2: Plant the Vision God Gives You

Vision is not just a destination; it is an ever changing journey, a process. That’s why I encourage pastors who want to get serious about change, to get themselves a coach. Someone who has taken this journey, walked this path. Someone who can encourage you and help point out the landmines that lie ahead. This is a lonely journey. If you try to go it alone you’ll get frustrated, discouraged and want to give up. You need someone who can speak truth into your life, because being an agent of change can be a lonely endeavor. You need a partner in ministry who is committed to you and to the health of your church.  I believe that most of the people in your congregation want to catch the vision that God has given to you for His church. Most will want to follow your lead. But you are going to need someone like a coach whose got your back. Someone to give you the confidence to combat the naysayers and the bullies who will do all they can to thwart the changes God is calling you to implement.

Step 3: Define Your Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) I’ve always appreciated the vision Rick Warren planted in the hearts and minds of his people at Saddleback. “With a Great Commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, God will grow a Great Church”.

In his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Warren describes this vision statement as the way to articulate the importance of a healthy church. A healthy church according to Warren is one that has a balance of the five purposes highlighted in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Evangelism. The church is a body and a well-balanced body has a better chance of remaining healthy.

Step 4: Share the Vision

I think the first thing I did when I began to introduce changes was to form a prayer team. Their purpose was to pray for me and my family because change in a church will certainly bring on spiritual attacks. These attacks come from inside and out, from naysayers and bullies within your congregation and from secular opposition from without. Continual prayer for you and your family is the only way to fight these spiritual battles. After you share your vision with your prayer team, share it with these groups: The influencers- These are the opinion-makers in your church, the people of influence. When they speak, others listen. The doers – These people will provide the needed resources of time, talent, and treasure that are necessary to make the changes happen. The vision team – This is a small group of people who help you dream the dream and define and implement the needed changes. Share your vision and the mission that comes out of it with your church often. Nehemiah shared his God given vision of rebuilt Jerusalem walls to the people every 26 days (once a month).

Step 5: Implement and Evaluate Change

Create repeatable systems that are easy for your teams to pick up on. Continually check to see if your changes are working. If they are, seek ways to improve, if they are not, find out why and fix them. This is what makes McDonald’s and others such successful agents of change; they seek out constant and never-ending improvement.  These steps will help you as you pour new wine of change into new wine skins at church.