Does the ‘church’ need to change? Six simple words that ask a complex and sometimes controversial question. Sometimes it’s the littlest questions that spur off huge discussions, debates, and yes, some times arguments — even in churches.
To answer the question above we need to start with, ‘what would the church need to see before making a change?’ Making a change in their visitation and child check in processes, weekly sermons, email communications or other ministry areas can have devastating effects, if the new model is not thoroughly reviewed. After all churches, like any organization, don’t want to change willy-nilly — without data backing up their decisions.
What about organizations that hold onto internal processes, after data, surveys, and audits show them to be inadequate? In this instance, the church leadership is ignoring the data when making decisions. They are sticking to their older processes that have minimal proof, if any, that they are working. A common comment from leadership when data shows inadequacies is, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.
While this comment may be true, my question to the organization’s leadership is, humans use to do a lot of things. They use to live in caves, traveled in horse-drawn carriages, farmed the land with hand tools, and so on. While no one would argue these methods worked in the past, would you be willing to go back to this way of life given new technologies? Most leadership would say no. Then, why use old methods in the organization when newer and better methods are available? Newer technology makes processes faster and more manageable. Technologies can have a large effect on society (community) in how they interact with an organization and each other.
Once an organization ‘sees’ the data that indicates inadequacies and reaches an agreement on those items, then we can go back to the original question of, ‘Does the church need to change?’ Without agreement on this, the organization has little hope of moving forward. When the collected data shows short comings, then the only course of action is to change the model. Additionally, the organization may not know what the new process model looks like at this point. What’s important is they are in agreement that a new model is needed.
What happens next is crucial for organization to change from the old way of doing things to a new way. The leadership has to show unification in the chosen path to all interested parties. Leaders shouldn’t grumble about the changes taking places to anyone. When there’s differences in opinion among leadership, then leadership should work these out first before the new process/model is public for all to see.
The next step is to get buy-in from all parties that weren’t in the initial discussions. This can be difficult or easy for many reasons, however most of those reasons come from one theme — ‘organizational culture’. When it’s easy, count your blessings. When it’s hard, then the organization must rely on many resources to get it off the ground and working. For example, I have seen spokespeople that introduce the new model but aren’t the most persuasive speaker in a leadership position. A way to address this is to have a persuasive spokesperson.
The masses will definitely have opinions of their own just like the leadership did and have a unique perspective that may or may not have been discussed. Public spokespeople must provide reasons why certain opinions won’t work. Maybe they tried the suggestions in preliminary testing but had dismal results. They could report this to that group of people, showing that they listened to them, but these were the downfalls that we can’t live with and preferable offer up an alternative process.
Here’s the key to getting buy in from all parties. When introducing a new process, software technology, communication venue, and so on, the discussion must be handled in a gentle manner. People can’t be turned off to the new model because the spokesperson is a little harsh when explaining things. In other words, the church can’t lose half their kid’s ministry because the spokesperson places a public ultimatum on the them. I have found that when people’s voices are heard, they will feel better and will accept something they may not necessarily agree with 100%. They are willing to give it a try.
When facts are presented that don’t align with the perceived way of doing things, then the church leadership should question, why? Ultimately, one of those questions will be ‘Does the ‘church’ need to change?’ Facts should over rule the perceived way of doing things, as facts show the reality — not the feel good perception. While this blog gives general guidance, it couldn’t possibly answer all the questions and the most important one — ‘Does the church need to change?’