Innovative Ministry
Start in the Shallow End: How to Make Changes Without Sinking Your Church
How to make those first much-needed changes as pain-free as possible.

Instead, start the process by doing things that reinforce the idea that “us” means “all of us”.

3. Touch Bottom

Start by reminding everyone what they’re all here for. You know, the Jesus parts. The common heritage. The scriptures. The relationships – with God and each other.

Remind church members that these core issues are what really matter. Assure them that any potential future changes will only be made if they strengthen those essentials, not erode them. Let them know they’ll always be able to touch the bottom, no matter how many waves are in the pool.

4. Make Waves Together

When a group of kids are timidly learning to swim, there’s always one older kid who thinks he knows what real fun is like. So he decides to do a cannonball in the middle of a crowded pool. Don’t be that kid.

A pastor should never make the congregation feel like they’re being splashed in the face by a bully.

A pastor should never make the congregation feel like they’re being splashed in the face by a bully. That’s what happens when you impose your change on them before they’re ready to get their faces wet.

You may be having the time of your life, innovating to your heart’s content. But if the people getting splashed aren’t ready for it, hissy fits will be thrown, parents will be called and the bully will be thrown out of the pool, pleading “what did I do?”

Instead, after defining what everyone hates, start creating minor waves by making changes together.

Peal off the torn wallpaper and paint the wall. Clean the musty bathrooms. Replace the buzzing, flashing, yellowing fluorescent light tubes.

Once the lights have been turned on, literally and figuratively, you might start hearing things like, “hey, that carpet looks really dingy next to the freshly-painted wall, doesn't it? We’ll need to pull out the pews to re-lay the new carpet. This might be a good time to replace the pews with portable seating. We wouldn’t want to drive bolts through the nice, new carpet, right?”

It’s a Start

No, it’s not that simple. Church changes never are. But it’s a start.

Enforcing what everyone loves and replacing what everyone hates isn’t easy. But it’s the least difficult way to start the process.

And if anything goes wrong, you can still touch bottom.

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