I received an e-mail from someone whose church has seen some decline. He and the pastor want to implement some changes, even a new set of by-laws, to reorganize the church. I am going to share some of my response here as many churches are at this crossroad. Either you make changes or you continue to decline and perhaps die.
Before trying to implement change, especially change that affects the church’s culture or DNA, you need to first lay the groundwork, to cast the vision for it. What I have found is that people tend to get more involved, or participate, when there is a reason to. They need to see that the church is going somewhere and how they are needed as a part of that process.
People need to brought onboard, to have a sense of understanding and ownership. The worst thing you could do is to simply tell people what they must do or what changes you will be making. — First Things First: Make Sure You Lay the Groundwork
Ask yourself these questions:
What do people need to understand in order to come onboard?
What means can we use to help them gain that understanding?
How can we consistently communicate that understanding?
Some of that will come through teaching but much needs to come through the example of leadership as well. There should be a consistency between what is communicated formally and what is observed informally. So, first make sure all leadership in the church is on the same page and then move out to getting the people onboard. — First Things First: Make Sure Leadership is Onboard
And, of course, all of this needs to be enveloped in prayer. You undoubtedly are looking at the need for heart change and not just behavioral conformity. That requires divine power. If you fail to get beyond behavioral conformity, you probably will not have lasting change. Pray in the planning stage. Pray as you lay the groundwork. Pray in the implementation stage. — First Things First: Make Sure You are on Page with God
Too often we skip these first steps. Then we wonder why change is so difficult or why it doesn’t last.
The order of what I have written above should actually be reversed in the actual process:
1) Make sure you are on page with God.
2) Make sure leadership is onboard.
3) Make sure you lay the groundwork with the people.
Once you have done what needs to happen first, then you are ready to start implementing change. Below are pages that might help. They are from the church purpose section of the site but can be applied to other areas.