For the week of July 11, 2005

Transitioning Isn’t Easy
By: Bill Easum
Thom Rainer just completed a study of churches that have successfully transitioned themselves without changing pastors. Out of 50,000 examples, he could only come up with thirteen, which goes to prove that it is easier to plant a new church than to transition an old one.

But you’re stuck in a declining situation and have no place else to go. So what do you do to turn your church around?

Here is a case study from a church I worked with some time ago. The church is over 150 years old and the pastor had been there over 25 years before the growth began. What caused this transition? Here are the things this pastor told me in an interview (you can purchase this interview in our store under the “Essence of Leadership Vol. 1”.
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Ron was a pastor of 27 years in a church that was 157 years old (2002). After all that time, Ron decided that enough was enough. It was time for the church to begin making disciples. He instituted radical changes for a church of that age.

The big change that underscored all of the tactical changes was the shift from trying to get people to support the institutional church to encouraging them to grow spiritually. He looked around at some other pastors whom he admired and began to ask what they were doing that he wasn’t doing. He was impressed with the faith of these other churches.

What do you do to put yourself in places where you will see what God is doing? When was the last time you visited some other church that you admire to see what God is doing there?

Ron made the following changes:

1. Began a contemporary worship service
2. Less church structure with less committees. Reduced their Board from 150 to 9 people.
3. Began small groups.
4. Began to encourage service ministries for the laity.

The result is that the church began to grow and grow.

Ron talks about how hard it is to make the necessary changes to grow the church. He talks about the point at which they were about to quit. Notice how the church was two weeks from the changes working, and many were concerned with whether they should hang in. But they did. Are you willing to hang in and see the changes through?