If you’re a leader (which we’re willing to bet you are), you’ll eventually lead through change. Change is inevitable. Without it, your church can become stagnant, lose influence, or become irrelevant.
We all know change is hard. It’s one of the main reasons people leave a church or organization. Think about the last time a church welcomed a new lead pastor. More than likely, there were a handful (or more) of members who left not because of the new preaching, but because it wasn’t the same without the old pastor.
No one likes change. It’s uncomfortable to sit with the unknown. Our human nature would rather stick with what’s familiar, comfortable, and in our control.
However, God didn’t create us to sit in comfort (that’s a topic for another article). He calls us to grow and improve and become wiser. We can’t do that without change.
So we know change is necessary, and we know change is inevitable, but how do we know when our church is ready for change?
Here are four signs your church needs to make a shift.
1. You’re not making disciples
Let’s start with the most foundational sign: If the lives within your walls and your community aren’t being transformed by the Word of God, it’s time to make drastic changes within your church.
Powell Grisham wrote in a recent Orange article, “We must fully understand the vision and mission of our church and not waiver from our covenant to lead people to our heavenly Father.”
The very purpose and mission of the church is to go and make disciples. Jesus commanded it. The Great Commission, the very last instruction Jesus gave to His disciples, was this:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)
2. You’re focused on the past
Dexter Culbreath said it best: “Holding onto yesterday’s approach limits us.” Dexter explains why it’s important to make necessary changes in your ministry.
When we focus on the past, we can’t pay attention to what’ is before us. We spin our wheels and get stuck. It’s important to acknowledge the past, but to emphasize the present and future by making forward progress.
3. Your passion level is low
Carey Niewuhof once said “Stagnation starts subtly.”
Pay attention to small signs to determine what needs to change. Pay attention to your staff, volunteers, and congregation. Do their faces smile with enthusiasm or are they discouraged with the drudgery of another Sunday?
If the passion levels for yourself, your staff, and your congregation have begun to visibly wane, it’s definitely time to make a change.
4. Your numbers are stagnant
We all know church numbers ebb and flow based on seasons and months. When you’ve been in leadership long enough, you’ll naturally start to see these seasonal trends.
However, if you’re seeing a continual decline over the course of a year, it’s time to evaluate the cause and determine a solution. A key part of this sign is regularly paying attention to your numbers. If you don’t know the data, you don’t know when it’s gone stagnant.
How do you know when not to change?
We’ve reviewed several reasons when to bring about change in your church. But how do you know when something new isn’t the answer?
If your church doesn’t relate to any of the signs mentioned above, don’t move forward with any suggested or desired changes. Pray, seek wisdom, and move slowly. Changing for the sake of change isn’t always wise.
Changing your living room wall color or decorations every few years is a harmless way to bring variety, but changing things in your church for unnecessary reasons (or because one person wants something different) can be detrimental. We don’t change the Ten Commandments just because they’ve been around for a while.
If your church is growing, people are coming to know Christ in a more personal way, and you feel God moving, it may not be the right time to make things different. People resist change when necessary.
Change is not the goal
Imagine how your members would feel if change began to happen frequently, unnecessarily, or based on one small group wanting something new and different.
We must remember: Change is not the goal. The goal is to be right where God calls us. Most of the time that requires stepping into the unknown and making some adjustments.
Where does your church need to make modifications in order to fulfill God’s calling?