Think you’re going to lead your church successfully through the next growth barrier? You might want to think again – seriously. The success rate for barrier-breaking is less than 20 percent, and if you happen to be in a mainline denomination, your odds just dropped to 10 percent. The real bad news is this (and “this” could be professional suicide): your odds don’t improve much if you hire a consultant.
There are many, many reasons why churches fail to successfully break growth barriers, but the number one, top, chief reason for failure is that few church leaders, councils, boards, sessions, and vestries have the stomach or the spine for “transformational fallout.” Transformational fallout occurs any time the church instigates changes for the sake of growing or transforming the church.
Here’s how it works. When leadership makes a decision or tries to implement a change, there will be an overwhelming backlash that emanates from within the congregation. The volume of these objections will make it appear that they come from a very vocal majority when, in fact, the transformational fallout will most likely come from just two or three individuals who will insinuate they represent a majority of the congregation, or else a powerful faction. If they don’t get their way, the conflict almost always escalates to bullying or terrorism (threats).
In the end, most church leaders will forsake what’s actually best for the congregation in order to placate these individuals. When they do, the transformation attempt is awash.
There’s an axiom used in church transformation circles: “you choose who you lose.” No matter what decisions for or against transformation a church makes, someone (or several someones) will not be happy and they will either leave, threaten to leave, or worse – threaten to stay. If the leadership opts to pacify these few, then they choose to lose the possibility of growth.
If, on the other hand, the leadership responds by remaining faithful to growing the congregation and reaching their community for Jesus Christ then they will have no choice but to neutralize the opposition. By doing so, they will be choosing to lose the antagonists, but they will also be choosing to honor the church’s mission (I’m of course presuming that your congregation has a mission for making disciples).
And so, if you’re trying to grow your church and transform your congregation and community, then know that the choices you make about how to deal with your bullies and terrorists will be very painful. But, as I’ve said before (quoting Spock), “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.”
Question: Have you experienced transformational fallout? Let us know how your church leaders handled (or mishandled) the situation and what the results were. Add your comments below.