25 Ways to Develop a Culture of Change in a Church

1. Always use the word “change” as a positive term.

2. Talk about change frequently, so it is not seen as a threat.

3. Teach the biblical concept of change (growth, new life, radical commitment, leading of the Spirit).

4. Celebrate change whenever it accomplishes something good in the church.

5. See worship as a central cohesive experience of the church, and an opportunity for the church to experience continual incremental change.

6. Try new ways of reading Scripture in worship.

7. Try new forms of prayer in worship (extemporaneous if your tradition is set prayers; set prayers if your tradition has always been extemporaneous).

8. Try new ways of preaching: from notes, extemporaneous, from outline.

9. Hire young. A church staff’s age will increasingly drift older unless a church adds people on the younger side when new positions open. This is important not just for ministry staff, but for secretaries, custodians, or any area.

10. Have children’s ministry and youth ministry leaders look at each new year as an opportunity to bring some incremental change.

11. Prepare for strategic change well ahead of time. Develop ownership of ideas from central leaders on out. Invite them into shaping the ideas.

12. Some major changes take longer to develop (major building expansion; changing church government). Initiate a significant new change by “dropping a pebble in the pool,” and giving other leaders an opportunity to kick the idea around.

13. 1When decisive change is necessary, get the central leaders of the church on the same page, get a solid commitment to rationale, and communicate respectfully to the congregation why the change was necessary.

14. Deal with issues of obvious immorality in a church leader with decisiveness.

15. 1Study how other churches similar to your own have gone through changes.

16. Take ample time in making significant changes. Don’t let a group of discontents rush an important process.

17. Don’t communicate change to the congregation if you don’t know what, why, when, who, and how. It is not an advantage to a congregation if you say you know changes are necessary, but you have no idea what the changes will be.

18. Institute continual incremental change in a ministry area even before it is necessary. Making small steps of change normative is the best way to avoid change viewed as a disruption.

19. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Long before changes, during planning for change, during change. And don’t forget to communicate after the change!

20. Use words other than “change”: adapt, adjust, amend, modify, revise, remodel, refine reorder, reshape, refashion, redesign, restyle, revamp, rework, reorganize, vary, transform, transfigure, transmute, evolve.

21. Thank people who make sacrifices for the sake of necessary change. Be understanding about any sense of loss they may have.

22. Help people understand change that may seem undesirable, but out of your control: a slumping economy, a changing neighborhood, a failed leader.

23. Work with second and third tier leaders as the key agents of change.

24. Dream about the possibilities of your church’s ministry a decade down the road. Don’t make commitments too far ahead of time, but let distant horizons be a positive motivation.

25. Make sure the ministry staff and governing board are always fully informed about upcoming changes.

from Whole Church, chapter 10, “Creating a Culture of Change”

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