CHANGE & “2 Don’ts (& 1 Do) to Change a Resistant Church.” New article by @BobWhitesel published by Church Revitalizer Magazine. Leadership.church www.8steps4change.church

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ARTICLE ©Whitesel 2 don’ts & 1 do to change a resistant church, Church Revitalizer Magazine July-Aug 2020 

2 Don’ts (& 1 Do) to Change a Resistant Church

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/24/20

Most of my clients in the past 30 years have been congregations that don’t want to change. Small churches, rural churches, urban churches or mega-churches, they all have the same thing in common: the leadership wants to bring about change, but the congregation doesn’t. The solution is understanding two don’ts and one do. 

DON’T force change.  

Change proponents usually force change arguing that is necessary for the survival of the church. They also suggest that if people don’t want change, they should go elsewhere. But researchers(1) have found that status quo members won’t usually leave a church. The status quo just quietly wait for the change proponents to make a misstep and then they reappear to cry foul. Because the church is the status quo’s social environment (e.g. extended family), they can’t go elsewhere.  Therefore successful change involves getting the status quo members involved in the change. See how below.

DON’T quit in protest. 

Change leaders often leave a church with metaphorical protest, citing Matt. 10:14: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (NIV).  But theologians such as R. V. G. Tasker remind us this verse is about Jesus sending out the 12 on a short-term mission which requires “such haste that they must not linger at any house which will not receive them.” (2) Today’s long-term and evolving relationship between pastor and congregants, usually requires working through change rather than quitting in protest.

DO these 8 steps.

So how does successful organizational change occur? There are actually eight steps first formulated by Harvard management scholar John Kotter. (3) I adapted them to church change while completing my Ph.D. research in church change at Fuller Theological Seminary. In fact, these eight steps are a key element of the D.Min. course I  wrote and have taught at Fuller Theological Seminary titled: “Leading Turnaround Churches.”

Here are the steps summarized from my book: “re:Mix – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color,” Abingdon Press (2017) with Mark DeYmaz. Learn more details of each step at:  ww.8steps4change.church

1. “Establish a Sense of Urgency.” Begin with a period of time acquainting the congregants with the need and biblical mandate for change. Because of the urgent situation, many church leaders will be tempted to ignore this step and launch headlong into transition. Yet, in my consulting work I have found that this step is critical. Pray, study, research and dialogue on the importance of a church transition first. But don’t make plans yet. Your task is to increase awareness of the urgency for change. How that change plays out is in the next steps, which for success require input from many church factions. Scripture; Ezekiel 3:17-19.

2. “Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition.” Even though you might think you know the situation the best, due to history, education or background: a church is a communal organization and leadership works best when there is a communal consensus. Find those who resonate with the transition and help them take the vision to the rest of the congregation. These may be “persons of peace” (Luke 10:6). The Greek word here for peace is derived from the word “to join.” It literally means a person who helps people from different viewpoints and even warring convictions to join together in unity whereby oneness, peace, quietness and rest result. (4) Scripture: Luke 10:6

3. “Create a Communal Vision.” The step 2 guiding coalition creates the vision, thereby taking into consideration concerns and insights from various segments of the church. This guiding coalition helps you draft, refine and edit the vision. People must see the future before they can work toward it. The goal is to have an easy to read, clear vision statement in no more than a paragraph that is crafted by persons of peace from varying church segments. Scriptures: Proverbs 15:22, 29:18.

4. “Communicating the Vision.” Take your guiding coalition as well as congregational members to places where turnaround ministry is being done and let them experience it firsthand. Also use stories to help people picture change. Atlanta mega-congregation, 12Stone(c) Church, found that the story of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4) inspired their attendees to trust God for “many bold crossings” in their faith journeys. Scripture: use a story that illustrates your church’s spiritual waypoints.

5. “Empowering Others to Act on the Vision.” It is important to delegate your power to others (or burn out). Too often passionate church leaders are tempted to go it alone. One pastor said, “Jesus had to do it alone.” And atonement and redemption were definitely things that only the Son of God could accomplish. But remember, Jesus rounded-up and delegated to his disciples his power. Scripture: Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9. 

6. “Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins.” Probably the most overlooked step, short-term wins help people see the validity and direction of a new vision. Short-term wins are projects and programs that can be undertaken quickly and temporarily. They usually won’t change the long-term outcomes (yet). But they demonstrate the validity of the new direction in a quick way. So, use temporary “task forces” instead of semi-permanent committees to launch new projects in ministry.  Scripture: Luke 10:17-20.

7. “Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.” Short-term wins will give the guiding coalition the social capital to make long-term structural changes. Don’t start with structural changes. You haven’t enough buy-in from hesitant members. Only after short-term wins validate your approach will you be able to change systems, structures and policies. Scripture: Matthew 8:1-22.

8. “Institutionalizing New Approaches.” Finally, it is time to adopt a church personality that reflects these changes.  Now your church vision statement might be changed. Now your church’s personality in the community might change. Your logo and byline might change. Don’t be tempted to do these first (most leaders do and fail because of it). The church’s new personality is the last thing to jell and it comes organically from the church’s new direction. I remind clients that “Vision won’t bring about change, change will bring about vision.”

Footnotes: 

(1) Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model.” Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It(Abingdon Press, 2003).

(2) R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel of St. Matthew, Tyndales new Testament Commentaries, 1961, p. 103.

(3) John Kotter, Leading Change, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007),

(4) James Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1515.

 

 

TURNAROUND CHURCH & Don’t fall into these three newbie turnaround traps by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf.

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Don’t fall for these 3 newbie turnaround traps … Do this instead (and start out strong).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, May/June 2019.

As I prepare to teach my course titled “Turnaround Church” at Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, I thought it would be helpful to describe the most common traps into which inexperienced turnaround leaders fall (and ways to avoid each).

TRAP 1: Being hired to do the work of revitalization. 

Why this trap occurs:  

Hiring your way out of trouble is a standard practice in the for-profit world. However, because their business model operates on a for-profit basis, it allows them to plow profits into hiring their way out of adversity. Nonprofits run mostly on volunteers and small staffs. They have leaner budgets and usually cannot afford a hiring solution.

The lean-staff and “keep it simple” alternative has been immortalized in Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 9:1-6 (MSG): 

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”

Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

Do this instead: Mentor & delegate. 

This is may be hard for trained church leaders, because they feel they have been hired to be the experts. Thus, they customarily attempt to do most of the work themselves. However, this usually leads to burnout. Instead, church shepherds should model Jesus’ example of giving his disciples responsibilities and then sending them out to minister to others (Luke 9:1-2). 

Mentoring is characterized by a back-and-forth dialogue with the mentee regarding how the processes going. We see such examples in Jesus’ dialogues with his disciples, for instance Matt. 17:18-20 (MSG):

He (Jesus) ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”

Delegating is slightly different from mentoring. It means giving others something you could do yourself, but allowing them to learn as they fumble their way through. Jesus, as the omniscient Son of God, knew his disciples would be unable to cast out demons (Luke 17:19). But still he let them try. In His omniscience, Jesus knew an important lesson would be driven home if the disciples first had a chance to flounder and then learn from that experience.

TRAP 2: Giving (and requiring) 110% effort.

Why this trap occurs:  

People usually feel that if they overwork themselves (e.g. give 110%) they will succeed. This manifests when a leader works more hours during the week than for which one is paid. Such leaders may expect volunteers to increase their hours too. A trap occurs when burnout, neglected families and leadership turnover result. Billy Graham stated similar regrets:

“Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.” (billygraham.org)

Do this instead: Adjust everyone’s duties

Remind them that the church is going to need to do different things and that there are two ways to do this. One way is to ask everybody to give extra, e.g. 110%. But, you recognize this only leads to burnout. Remind them you don’t want to see them or yourself burned-out or families neglected.

The second, and more rewarding way, is to ask them to purge from their duties 20% of what they are currently doing. Ask them to use that 20% to become involved in new activities, e.g. involved in a new service or a new community outreach. The principle is that this requires, for the sake of spiritual health, to pull back and reduce their current volunteer efforts by 20% to open up 20% involvement in new activities. 

Exemplify this yourself. Acknowledge that you are unable to continue to do everything the previous pastor did while at the same time reaching out to new generations and cultures. Remind them that you don’t want them, or you, to sacrifice family or spiritual well being. Show them you have too much respect for  your and their spiritual health.  

As you ask them to readjustment their volunteer activities, suggest they write this down and submit their “readjustment” to the person overseeing their work.  

TRAP 3: Promising big changes too soon.

Why this trap occurs:  

Plateaued and dying churches have been dreaming about health for so long, that they often expect it to take place too fast. In addition, models they see of healthy churches are usually many years in the making. My experience and research has let me to believe that healthy church change is slow, but deliberate. In fact, one of the most knowledgeable researchers on organizational change, Harvard University’s John Kotter (Leading Change, Harvard Press), found that “celebrating small-term wins” leads to more change, more quickly.

Do this instead: Plan for & celebrate short-term wins

Meet with the church leaders and discuss what the church should look like in five years. Then ask them to describe what would it should look like in 2.5 years, one year and six months. Map out several goals for the next six months, asking yourselves which are most likely to be attained. Write these six month goals down and begin to create tactics to reach them.

As soon as you reach any of your short-term goals, celebrate! The key is for people to see and celebrate progress. For effective change, people don’t have to see enormous changes, but they do need to see movement.

 

TURNAROUND CHURCH & 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Revitalizing a Church by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf #BestOfYear

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 6/12/18.

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Though the church began to grow again on my first turnaround effort, knowing the following would have made the journey more pleasurable for both myself and the congregation.

I wish I had known #1. Church revitalization will take 2 to 3 times longer than you expect. 

As my first church revitalization effort, I asked and received a one year contract. The church and I felt this would be sufficient time to turn the church into a new direction. But, at the end of one year I had only gained enough social capital for the congregation to start trusting me. It took another year, which the church graciously offered to finance, before the first signs of change emerged. However, when small fruit emerged at the end of the second year it provided a foundation for revitalization to actually emerge in the third year.

Here is a timeline that works in many congregations, yet it’s slower than the church or the shepherd usually desires.

Year 1: Fact gathering and building up the social capital needed for the congregants to trust you.

Year 2: Implementing small change in the organization. Small victories can begin to convince reticent members of the church the validity of the new direction. More on this in “ Things I wish I had known # 2.”

Year 3: Church systems begin to change. Often times church leaders think if they change the system, then the congregants will change. But because the church is an organic institution (1 Cor. 12:12-27) changes in the system must bubble up from changes in people, not from top-down changes dictated from the top. A three year process gave this time to happen.

I wish I had known # 2: the power of small victories.

In year two, initial but small goals were attained. One of our small goals was to see in both the spring and fall a “Newcomers Sunday School class” emerge. We publicized the date for the beginning of the class even when we didn’t yet have any visitors. But once we published the date, suddenly members in the congregation started inviting their friends to church. The newcomers’ class provided a tangible target. Thus, small victories in the second year convinced the congregants we were headed in the right direction.

I wish I had known #3: Don’t speed up too fast just because you have some small victories.

The small victories got the church excited and soon they were ready to launch a worship service oriented towards younger people. At this time I came under a lot of pressure to begin the service immediately before it was thoroughly mapped out, staffed and prepared. Many of the leaders had read books that discussed how a church can grow up to 15% by adding a new service. And because the church had limped along not meeting it’s monthly budget for about 18 months, the pressure of an added revenue stream push the leaders to decide a new service was necessary sooner rather than later. 

I advised and eventually convinced the leaders a slowed down approach was warranted, so that the new service could be better planned and developed. I fact, this new service did not begin until almost 11 months after we began planning it. The slower paced allowed new and younger leaders to be recruited and prepared. The extra planning time seemed excessive to me at first, but in hindsight it was just about right. It allowed the turnaround church to develop indigenous leaders who reached out in a well prepared worship expression.

I wish I had known #4. Don’t expect new people to support the church financially or physically for some time.

The newcomers kept our church at arms length for almost a year or more before they decided to become part of our membership. They seem to thoroughly enjoy the newcomers class, but when membership was mentioned they often stiffened.

In response I used the metaphor of dating. 

The first date: I said when new people visit a church, it’s like being on a date: you aren’t ready to commit to a long relationship but rather want to get to know the other.

The second date: Going to the newcomers class was like a second date: it was a time to get to know about the hopes, aspirations and purposes of one another.

Engagement: After completing the newcomers class I said they may want to pray and consider becoming a member. I encouraged them to consider more carefully their level of involvement, their spiritual gifts and how they would fit in. I also stressed that the engagement could be as long as they needed.

Marriage: Finally I explained that when they agreed to be part of a membership class, this was like marriage. They were not marrying to just a local congregation church but also to the body of Christ as present in His people.

I wish I had known #5. You must spend more time in leadership development than you think.

As the church began to turnaround, there was an influx of people excited about the church’s direction. But this sometimes draws people who did not fit well in their previous church, because they were not mature enough to take on leadership responsibilities. I learned the hard way that sometimes people who come to a revitalized church are often people who need revitalization themselves – because their involvement in another church has not been a healthy one. Therefore I developed leadership courses and a mentor/mentee system so that new leaders could be vetted and trained before they were put into volunteer roles.

I wish I had known #6. There’s more power in spiritual transformation than most people realize.

People began to share testimonies about how their lives were being changed by the Holy Spirit. An emphasis upon salvation began to refocus the church. Older members recalled how in the early days the church, they had also emphasized conversion accompanied by powerful testimonies of change. Older members began to see that a turnaround in spiritual climate mirrored those times in the past when the church had been happy and healthy.

As a result I train turnaround pastors in the importance of understanding a church’s history and to pinpoint when they had been alive in the past. Usually a church had been alive in the past when the church was involved in evangelism and conversion. Reminding a church about this part of their history, made it more palatable for their present… the salvation of individuals. 

7. Last, but not least, is the power of a praying congregation. I set a goal for the prayer ministries to grow at the same rate as the church. If the church grew 10% in six months, we then expected 10% more people involved in prayer ministries. It has always seemed to me a spiritual principle that vibrant prayer life in a church would lead to a vibrant church.

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TURNAROUND CHURCH & The starting point for church revitalization is not prayer… it is focusing in the needs of others. Here’s why…  

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 3/1/20.8A3F2F62-0056-4157-8F4E-F7A52D034015.jpeg

The first inclination when writing on the starting place for church revitalization will be to focus on prayer. That is most likely (and rightly so) because we want to remind ourselves that we can’t do it without Christ’s help.

I’m not suggesting that prayer is not important for church growth or even that it should be postponed. It is!  But I’m suggesting we first must understand what we’re praying for. 

Therefore, the first question that must be asked before chruch revitalization is, “Whose needs is a revitalization effort intended to meet?” In fact, in church revitalizations there are three needs that often come into play. And after 30 years of consulting chruch revitalizations, I have come to believe if you pick one of them you’ll succeed. But, if you pick one of the others, you will usually experience failure.

Reason 1) Meeting the needs of a church’s congregation.

Often church revitalizations are launched because a church wants to survive. Members remember its illustrious history, the close bonds of friendships that were forged there and the many good things accomplished in their past. And they want to want to preserve these legacies for future generations. I’ve often heard leaders say, “We want to ensure this church lives on by younger generations coming to it.” And while this is laudable, this will be in adequate to successfully revitalize a church. That is because of two reasons. 

Reason A: Younger generations quickly pick up on a church’s desperation to survive. They’ve experienced and rejected churches that are not interested in meeting their needs, but rather interested in preserving the church’s aesthetics and culture, to which the younger generations may not relate.

Reason B: A church’s desire to retain a legacy, even a good legacy, can overshadowed the real purpose of revitalization: to introduce more people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Luke 10:1-16).

Reason 2) The second misguided, but common, starting point for church revitalization is to focus on meeting the needs of the revitalizer.

The revitalizer may feel that they want to start anew with a new type of church. This is similar to what motivates many church planters, i.e. the leader wants to grow an organization that they can form over in the vision they reimagine. They want an organization that they believe will be easier to lead, more like they want and filled with people like them. But this focus will also usually fail. That is because revitalizing a church, like church planting, is a missional effort that usually requires us to be challenged and uncomfortable.  James states, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (2:1-4 MSG).

We must expect and be satisfied with the pressures and pains that come from serving Christ in missional activities. Regrettably some people today don’t look upon leadership as a missionary might. Missionaries know that they are going to sacrifice what is comfortable and familiar, in order to bring the Good News to people in need of it. Missionaries I know are leading threadbare, uncomfortable lives in service. Yet, when it comes to a church revitalization, we often want the most comfortable and potentially successful neighborhood in which to revitalize a church or plant one. Rather we should be looking at those with the greatest needs, putting their needs first and putting ourself last.

Reason 3: Meeting the needs of non-churchgoers.

This is the reason that leads to successful revitalization.  A revitalization effort by its very name focuses on revitalizing an organization. But perhaps instead we call it re-focusing an organization. We all know that it doesn’t take long after a church is planted or even revitalized, that it begins to focus inward and mainly on its own needs. When that happens the church increasingly becomes focused on programming, staffing and churchgoer activities that make its congregational life more comfortable.

But, a church that is revitalized must first become refocused. That happens when the focus is to turn our eyes to the harvest and seeing its need.  My father grew up on a farm. He knew that when the harvest was ripe you stopped everything else you were doing, even going to school, and went into the field until the harvest was complete. Jesus talking to a similar agricultural society, prepared them to endure hardships in mission by utilizing an agricultural metaphor:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.  Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,  ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1-12, MSG).

Thus, I’ve found that a church revitalization starts by a profound and persistent refocus on whose needs are you called to meet. Then your prayers can be focused.

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MILLENNIAL LEADERSHIP & What Boomers & Xers must do differently to lead millennials

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Feb./Mar. 2019.

I find it refreshing to return full time to my passion of coaching churches on church health and revitalization, after two decades of teaching graduate school and seminary students. But my teaching and consulting worked well together for two important reasons:

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  1. I became especially attuned to how to lead millennials, because most of my students were in millennial generations (Generations Y & Z). 
  2. And, I became increasingly aware that older leaders (Boomers and Xers) must change their leadership styles radically to to lead millennials, which led to my book “ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church” (Abingdon Press).

You may ask, “Why must I learn to lead millennials, most of my congregants are older?” Though this may be true, you must lead millennial generations in order to create a new lifecycle in church revitalization. 

Here are 7 ways you must lead millennials differently.

Communication systems: In the millennial culture communication is increasingly electronic mediated. Twitter, Facebook, emails, instant messaging, Instagram, Snapchat are are all efficient ways for millennials to get their information. If you’re trying to make them aware of what your church is doing to reach out, you must communicate through their electronic mediums.

Rx: Cross-cultural communication usually begins with one-on-one communication. Have your organization’s leaders each find and begin to mentor a millennial mentee. Ask the millennial to help you communicate to their fellow millennials what you are doing. A standard missiological method is to ask someone from the indigenous culture to help translate your message. They may not actually agree with your message yet, as they translate it they will be learning about it.

7.2 systems yellowReconciliation systems: Millennials have grown up in an age of outrage and cultural fissures. At the same time many want to bridge those divides. The New Testament reminds us the Good News traveled from Jewish believers to Gentile oppressors in a similar time of division and outrage. The Letter to the Romans is an example of the Holy Spirit’s ability to create a unifying Messianic subculture filled with Good News. Among my client and student millennials, I’ve found they want leaders who do not polarize the church, but rather foster a community where dialogue is accompanied by biblical fidelity.

Rx: Foster opportunities to dialogue, understand, forgive and reconcile people who have been polarized over differences. Paul said, “…we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong… Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:16–19).  To Paul reconciliation is a dual process: 

    1. “not evaluating people by what they have or how they look” (v. 16) and
    2. “anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! (v. 17). 

Supernatural system: The Hebrew word “worship” literally means to come close to God’s feet and kiss them in homage. This is how worship should be measured, not in flow, performance or excellence. And though millennials have many worship styles, most millennials are united in their uncomfortableness with their parents’ quest for worship “excellence.”

img_0632-3Rx: The solution is to take the focus away from styles and excellence of worship, and put the emphasis back upon the biblical “purpose of worship.” Worship should be evaluated by how well it brings attendees into what I have called, a “face-to-foot encounter.”

Regeneration system: The Good News is news of salvation and change. Most churches have a weak regeneration system. They often have seen few salvations and few changes in congregants’ attitudes. Because millennials have grown up in such an age of rage, they support organizations that help change people for the better. Millennials must find the chruch recapturing its rightful place as a place where people and communities are being changed for the better.

Rx: This requires praying for and allowing the Holy Spirit to work by liberating people from sins, addictions, abuse, bigotry etc. as well as changing the neighborhoods in which the congregants live. Programs that help people change their lives (e.g. divorce recovery, 12-step addiction recovery programs, grief recovery and most importantly the salvation experience) should be what a church is known for.  While researching John Wesley and the power behind his methods, I found a key method was a requirement that every small group regularly help the poor, and so fulfill Matt. 5:16: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

Involvement system: Millennials expect to experiment with volunteerism, even before they have expertise. Because millennials have experienced a world of knowledge on handheld devices since they can remember, they learn by experience more than by long training sessions or wordy manuals. 

Rx: Increase latitude on who gets to volunteer and what responsibilities they are given. This doesn’t mean giving people responsibility for which they’re not qualified or suitable, for example I’m not suggesting a non-believer distribute the sacraments, etc. But in other areas millennials can be given opportunities to volunteer, even early on in their spiritual journey.

Unified system: Raised in an enraged and divided world, millennials seek a spiritual community that has a higher degree of unity than they have experienced in the world. As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Millennials don’t expect the church to be dissonance free, but they do expect it to be more harmonious than what they experience in the world. 

Rx: Millennials look for a church where conflicted parties sit down and discuss their differences. Conflict resolution theories suggest the first step is to get the divided parties talking directly to one another. The second step is to ensure the leader does not get in the middle. This takes the leader out of being a go-between (who can be blamed by both sides) and gets people connecting directly with one another to understand and grow through face-to-face discussion.

Competent system: On the one hand, millennials often focus their churches on a few signature programs that draw people from across a region. On the other hand, Boomers and Xer churches often saturate a narrowly defined community offering a wide variety of programs (often with mixed results). Studies have shown that healthy churches have a specialized ministry competency that is appreciated by the non-churchgoing community. Not surprisingly, millennials have come to expect churches to know what they’re good at doing and to focus their time, talent and treasures toward what God has empowered them to do.

Rx: Ask community leaders what your church is known for and which of your programs the community most appreciates. Then with millennial mentees assisting, begin to sketch out what God has uniquely empowered your church to do well and that the community appreciates. Ask your millennials to help you expand on these signature ministries by slowly allocating more time, talent and treasure toward your God-given ministry competency.

Find more ideas for church revitalization at www.7Systems.church 

Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – What Boomers & Xers must do differently to lead millennials, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Feb. 2019

7 systems yellow

SYSTEM 6 of 7SYSTEMS.church: UNIFIED & How to Unite a Conflicted Church 

7.6 systems yellow

This is sixth (6th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (12/23/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

This sixth installment of how to turn around a church, like the previous installments, is based upon the most comprehensive study of churches ever conducted in North America: The American Congregations Study (Hartford Seminary, copies available at www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org).

A church that has “dissonant harmony” can be turned around, but not usually one with “severe conflict.”

Every church has some degree of conflict. But “severe conflict” is defined as when opinions are so opposed that even in times of emergency the groups will not work together. A different type of tension is “dissonant harmony,” a term coined by Starke and Dyck in their groundbreaking research on church splits. They found that while all churches have a degree of disagreement, if people overlook disagreements to work together for the common good when necessary, there is harmony with some dissonance.

To find out if you have “severe conflict” or just “dissonant harmony” ask yourself the following four questions.

1. Does your church have a guiding vision or mission which most of the people work toward?

2. Do committees, choirs, Sunday School classes and teams focus mostly upon finding the good in others (inside and outside the church)?

3. When unexpected challenges occur, do the people pull together for church survival?

4. Does the congregation view itself as a faith community that at times “agrees to disagree?”

If you said yes to three out the four, then you probably have “dissonant harmony.” If so, you can unite the congregation around a turnaround mission/vision.

The secret cure for turning around a church that has “severe conflict.”

If you could not answer yes to three or more the questions, you are probably bordering on, or already in, “severe conflict.”

Most church leaders will tell you conflict is poorly addressed in the church. Having perused libraries/bookstores for decades on leadership, my hunch is that conflict resolution is the category with the fewest books published. Yet every church leader knows that conflict resolution is a key part of that leader’s job. 

But in conflict resolution literature you find that there are two simple and basic principles in almost all conflict resolution strategies. Here they are.

First, don’t get in the middle as a go-between or so-called peacemaker between the factions.

Church leaders are often inspired by Jesus’ lauding of the peacemakers in Matt. 5:9. Leaders interpret this as a “go-between” or “diplomat” between warring factions. But the Greek does not carry an idea of “go-between” but rather, “keeping aloof from sectional strifes and the passions which beget them, and living tranquilly for and in the whole.” Starke and Bruno found that go-betweens are also usually blamed for resolution failures, because they are not perceived as correctly communicating each party’s perspective. Both sides take aim at the so-called peacemaker who is then often pushed out of the organization. 

Second, get the disagreeing parties talking directly to each other.

Surprisingly, this is the central component of almost all conflict resolution programs. Only when warring parties meet face-to-face to hammer out a compromise, does resolution result. It means getting people with differences to sit down together and tasking them to come up with an amicable solution. The leader makes it the duty of people with differences to come up with a plan that meets both factions needs. 

What if conflict can’t be overcome?

In some churches conflict has been so severe, for so long that compromise may be impossible. But we have a scriptural example to follow when conflict is so severe it may be better to part ways. We see this in Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement about taking John Mark with them on their second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39). John Mark had accompanied them on the first journey, yet left midway and Paul seemed to feel it was because of his lack of commitment and perseverance. Barnabas, whose very name means son-of-encouragement, undoubtedly saw the potential in John Mark (after all John Mark would later pen the Gospel of Mark) and urged Paul to let him come along. The scriptures indicate that between Paul and Barnabas a “sharp disagreement” arose, which in the Greek literally means “incited … to anger.” The end result was that Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on two separate missionary journeys where twice as much ministry took place. 

It may be that conflict in your church is so severe and so historic, that only by parting ways can both organizations be revitalized. Even after a church split, I have found those who remain are usually more open to change. Without the emotional disagreements and historical baggage of the factions in their midst, churches that go their separate ways can often subsequently be revitalized.

Utilizing the tools above.

If you are in dissonant harmony, continue to take the focus off of differences and get the focus back upon overarching goals. But, if you are in severe disunity then agree to disagree, parting ways if necessary. Use the questions and tools in this article to help.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

SYSTEM 5 of 7SYSTEMS.church: INVOLVED CHURCH MEMBERS & How to Train, Inspire & Recruit More Volunteers

7.5 systems yellow

This is fifth (5th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (3/1/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

The American Congregations Study (Hartford Seminary, copies available at www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org) may be the most exhaustive study of churches in America. In it are seven marks of a healthy, revitalized church. This is number five in the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church)

This fifth mark is “involved church members.”

My colleague, Aaron Earls at LifeWay, summarizes some of the data from The American Congregations Study this way: “How likely is it that a church grew? For those whose laity was …

  • Not at all involved: 35 percent
  • Involved a little or some: 45 percent
  • Involved quite a bit: 63 percent
  • Involvement a lot: 90 percent”

Since Villfred Pareto famously intoned that 80% of the value lies in 20% of the components, people have applied this to church volunteers. This seems about right: most of our churches have about 20% of the people doing 80% of the work.If this study is correct (I have looked at its research methodology and believe it is), then most of our churches need to double, triple or even quadruple the number of our church volunteers in order to be healthy.  How did we do that? Let me list four ways:

1. Create a compelling vision. People are motivated when they see the future. But, how do we create a compelling vision? First, it begins with understanding what your organization is already good at doing. I believe that churches, like people, are given special gifts by God. We see in the Bible the church at Antioch had a special gift for sending missionaries, and in Jerusalem we see a church that had the gift of sorting through emerging theologies. 

I believe churches today have special attributes or gifts in certain types of ministry. Thus, to create a compelling vision, you must start with what you’re already doing well.

For example, a smaller church in a growing suburban hosted a 12-step recovery ministry for many years. When new people starting moving into the neighborhood, the church decided it needed a contemporary worship service. It tried its best to mount a contemporary service, but it just didn’t have the right people or the right gifts. Then the pastor began to build upon what the church was already doing well, a 12-step recovery program. The church leaders launched a similar program for people recovering from divorce. This appealed to the younger people moving into the community and also built upon what the church did well. Soon the church was offering other recovery ministries, such as grief recovery.Once you find out what you’re doing well, the next step is to get your volunteers into the right job.

2. Help volunteers fit into the right job. Three types of complementary leaders are needed on every team. As I describe these types of leaders, ask yourself, “Which one am I?”

Strategic leaders. These are leaders who see the big picture, sometimes called visionaries. They see the future so well that they may be out of touch with the present. They often don’t know how to get to the future from the present. Therefore, while they may be senior leaders who cast the vision, they need the other two types of leaders on their team.

Tactical leaders. These are probably the most overlooked, but most needed. Tactical comes from a Greek word that means “to put in order.”  These are people who work with planning charts, budgets, spread sheets and numbers. Such tasks are usually the things strategic leaders don’t like to do and sometimes conflict arises because of it. The strategic leader may propose a new idea, to which the tactical leader may respond, “How much is that going to cost?” This frustrates the strategic leader, who sees it as a lack of faith. But in reality, the tactical leader is just asking: How does the strategic leader envision God providing the money for this idea? The tactical leader believes that God will move in the numbers too. Tactical leaders are crucial and critical members of your team. They will keep you from getting in debt or from having too few volunteers for a project. When they ask, “How are we going to fund this?” just respond: “I’m not sure, but I’m hoping you will help me figure that out.” They want to be part of the team and they want their skill in organization to be appreciated.

Operational leader. These are relational leaders. They are people who lead through the relationships they have made and are often happiest leading a small team in some task. Because they enjoy the relationships more than the task, they may not want the task to change. They like doing the same thing over and over again, because it allows them to forget about the task and focus on developing deeper friendships with other team members. 

When all teams have three types of leaders involved, people can easily find a place to contribute. Look around and ask yourself, “What kind of job does this volunteer do during the week?” Asking this question can give you a hint about his or her strategic, tactical or operational gifts. Then find people who have strengths where you have a weakness and make them a part of your team.

3. Organic recruitment. 

Many churches hold job fairs to recruit volunteers, but these seem to me unnatural and uncomfortable for volunteers. Rather, let me suggest an organic approach.

Require all leaders to be training someone that can take over for them one day. This is a “mentor– mentee” tactic.  Every leader should not only be required to put their name on the line, but also to write down the person they will be training to take over for them. This creates not only a church of volunteers, but also a church of emerging volunteers who are learning on the job.Training someone to take over for you, also allows volunteers to look forward to a break. After all, our God who did not need a sabbatical took one as a reminder to us of its importance (Genesis 2:3).

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

SYSTEM 2 of 7SYSTEMS.church: RECONCILING & How to reach a growing culture.

7.2 systems yellow

This is second in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/24/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) is upon an analysis of 32,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) can be found here: www.7Systems.church

To revitalize a church, we must first understand what we are revitalizing it into.

This article is the second in the series investigating the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7systems.church) that describes what a revitalized and healthy church looks like. These seven characteristics are drawn from the exhaustive research in Hartford Seminary’s: “American Congregations Study” (available free at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org). While the survey is long, I have broken it down into seven categories of a healthy, revitalized church. 

In the series’ first article we looked at “visibility.” Healthy churches are visible either through location or by making an impact in the community.  In that Church Revitalizer magazine article you will find ideas to increase physical visibility, social media visibility and member visibility.

The Second Characteristic is a product of a church’s reconciling system: “Reaching Out to a New Culture.”  

This article will look at how to reach out to a new, but growing culture. That’s right, most revitalized churches have looked around them and seen what cultures are emerging in the community and they have reached out to them one at a time. 

There are many different types of cultures. Most churches already have some experience reaching out to different age cultures. For example, many aging church have looked around and seen younger people moving into the area and reached out to them.  

But most churches are less experienced with reaching out to different ethnic cultures. For instance, congregations today are increasingly looking around and noticing that people who speak a different language are moving into the community. Most church do not (yet) have ideas about how to reach out to a ethnic culture.  But read on, for this article will show you seven steps to reaching a new and different culture.  

How to “Reach a Growing Culture.”

In the above scenarios, a church realizes that the culture that comprises the existing church is not the growing culture in the community. And the church realizes in order to be healthy, it’s existing leaders must help the church transform into a church that represents the growing culture in the community.

This is done in seven field-tested steps first suggested by Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.

1. Communicate the urgency. The congregation must realize that it has to reach a growing culture or die with its existing culture. This must include studying the behaviors, ideas and traditions of the new culture.  While some aspects of a culture can run counter to the Good News, other aspects may not.  Leaders have to do what Eddie Gibbs calls “sift a culture.” He uses a colander metaphor to describe how mature leaders must sift out the impurities that run counter to the Good News, while retaining the good.

2. Create a guiding coalition. This means partnering with leaders from the emerging culture. One of the best ways to do this is to look for what the Bible calls “persons of peace” from the emerging culture (Luke 10:6).  The biblical word for peace comes from the Greek “to join” and indicates a person who unites people from divergent cultures.  So, look for people who are “peacemakers” with a demonstrated ability to bring different people together. They are usually recognized as a leader or at least an informal influencer in their culture. Begin by looking for them, then invite them to bring along several of their colleagues to help you understand and plan ministry to this culture. 

3. Create a vision.  This coalition creates a vision to help people visualize what the church will look in five years.  This can be a descriptive paragraph depicting what a revitalized and intercultural church might look like.

4. Communicate the vision. You can’t just make a vision statement, you need to regularly in sermons and then Bible studies, stress what the church will look like in the future. Painting the picture over and over again is critical. Research also shows that you are almost three times more likely to change if you attach a story (such as a biblical story) to the change.

5.  Empower others to act on the vision. This means beginning to give people from the other culture permission to lead.  It also means experimenting with and supporting new ideas from that culture. Because the vision has already been cast and promoted, people are more willing to experiment and try new ideas. 

6. Celebrate small wins. After you experiment (in step 5) you will then want to celebrate small wins. Perhaps opening up your facility for use by another culture or if you can afford it hiring a person of peace from that culture to be a minister to that culture. Churches customarily do this by hiring a youth minister to reach out to younger generations or a Hispanic Spanish-speaking minister to reach out to the Hispanic community. When fruit results, no matter how small, you must celebrate it. This gives people an opportunity to see progress.

7. Create bigger and better wins. Don’t be satisfied with small wins, but use them as a stepping stone to more progress. Here is a key most churches overlook,  because once they have some success they stop.  Church revitalization will stall unless you keep a church moving forward. So, keep pushing ahead for bigger and bigger wins … but have tact and don’t go too fast. Too often churches are satisfied with small changes, but long-term health requires a continued expansion of bigger and better changes.

8. Institutionalize the change in your structure. Here you begin to change the organizational structure of the church, by voting people of the new culture into leadership and decision-making committees. The church now begins to become intercultural in all of its committees, teams and structures. Leaders often baulk at this last element, but to bring about intercultural understanding and partnership for the cause of Christ requires partnering with new, emerging cultures (c.f. Acts, 17:26-28, 1 Corinthians 9:20, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 4:2-5, Colossians 3:11, Revelation 7:9-10.)

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7Systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

 

7Systems.church & An introduction to the 7 church health systems and their ability to measure and increase church health.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Dec. 1, 2018.

In a quest to understand the systems and benchmarks of a healthy church,  …

  1. Over the past 30 years …
  2. I’ve written 13 books,
  3. earned two doctorates from Fuller Theological Seminary,
  4. Coached hundreds of churches,
  5. Co-founded a seminary,
  6. Studied theology & church history (Fuller Theological Seminary) to add a solid Biblical understanding to my practical experience.

As a result I’ve discovered seven systems that must be healthy for the church to grow.

7 systems yellow

1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring Good News (Acts 13:32). 

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message.  Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden. 

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the redemptiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system).  

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

But, there is another important aspect to reconciliation. Paul stated, “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know… Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 MSG). Paul continues, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

Healthy churches to do stop at cultural reconciliation (any more than Paul did when reconciling differences between the Greek/Roman and Christian/Jewish cultures). Like Paul, a healthy reconciling system says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

How well does your church reconcile people to one another and to God?

3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)

“Numinous” is a theologian’s term for coming close to God. “Worship” in Hebrew carries the idea of reverence, such as bowing to kiss the king’s feet, that results from a close encounter  (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament). When people use the word “worship” they are describing an environment where they feel face-to-foot with God.

Striving to create a perfect experience, usually only creates an attraction to an event. But seeking to foster a supernatural encounter creates an attraction to God.

4.  People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation.

5.  Involved volunteers (leadership system)

This results from 3 STRand leadership (Ecclesiastes 4:12) i.e. a balance between three types of leaders.

Strategic leaders are visionaries who see future goals, but don’t see as clearly the steps to get there. A biblical example is the apostle John, who sketches the grand scenario of Jesus’ ministry, but leaves out many of the contributing details.

Tactical leaders enjoy watching how analysis and numbers lead up to a goal (Gr. taktike, meaning: to set in order). Found in professions like medicine, accounting, etc. a biblical example would be the physician Luke (Colossians 4:14) who fills in many of the details that lead up to the actions that John describes. Tactical leaders take ideas generated by visionaries and enjoy putting together steps to accomplish them. 

The relational leader leads through deep personal relationships with others. Functioning well in a small group/team environment, they watch out for one another’s spiritual progress. 

Leaders are a mixture of all three, but most have a propensity for one over the others. The strategic leader sees the long-term direction of the church, the tactical leader sees the steps necessary to get there and the relational leader gauges how people are feeling about the direction. A healthy leadership system ensures that major decisions involve input from all three types.

6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)

The healthy church anticipates disunity and utilizes two tools to it from escalating into serious conflict.

a) They slow down the introduction of new ideas, building broader consensus before they implement new ideas. 

b) When disunity arises, they get the two sides talking together and finding common ground.

This ability to build consensus for new ideas before implementation and to discuss differences of opinion before they fester, are two benchmarks behind an effective unity system.

7. Signature ministry (competency system)

A healthy church knows what it does well, and focuses on it. Such a core competency is noticeable in the community where it is viewed as a signature ministry, e.g. children’s ministry, music ministry, missionary churches, a food shelf, grief recovery ministry, divorce recovery ministry, etc. The church is not trying to do many things poorly, but a few things well i.e.:

a) A signature ministry is not something that meets the needs of the congregation or congregants, but rather meets non-churchgoers’ needs (and they are glad the church does so).

b) It is an underlying, church-wide competency that the church does well in many different ministries throughout the organization, hence it is called a “core” competency.  

c) The church is so competent in this area that people outside the church may recognize this in various signature ministries. People are attracted to your church because these are things you are good at and they resonate with that. It also means that new ministries in the church (and the longevity of older ministries) will be evaluated based upon how well they dovetail with this greater church-wide competency.

Discover more at http://www.7systems.church.

  1. Visibility (communication system)
  2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system)
  3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)
  4. People & places are changed (regeneration system)
  5. Involved volunteers (leadership system)
  6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)
  7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

©BobWhitesel 2018

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #4 & Putting Church Time Ahead of Family Time. #PersonalExperience

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Family Time vs. Church Time

Finally the fourth area is the important aspect of carving out time with your earthly family and your heavenly family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). During some of my most successful years in ministry my children were young. And though they had have great memories from their childhood, I wish I’d spent a bit more time with them. I could have had more deep dialogues with them. I could have known them even better. And this is good not only for our earthly family, but our heavenly family as well.

Solution: Later in my years as a turnaround pastor I found that I benefited greatly by taking two days off every week to be with my early family (recreation) and my heavenly family (in scriptural meditation and prayer). On those two days every week I did no church business. I viewed those days as a sabbatical. If God, the all powerful creator of the universe took off a seventh day to rest (commanding it upon his children as one of his 10 commands) then I need something more regular and restful than a couple of partial days off each week.

These four principles helped me not only survive ministry, but enjoy it and thrive in it.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #3 & Being Viewed as an Expert and Not an Equipper.

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Equipper vs. Being an Expert

As ministry impact increases, people often start to look to the leader as “the expert.” This can be exacerbated when a church is struggling and looking for any help. The result is that the congregation and the leader may put too much of the burden upon the leader.

As a result, turnaround leaders tend to undertake the most important things themselves. They tend to do most of the preaching themselves, they tend to do most of the organization themselves, they tend to run the meetings themselves, they tend to do most of the evangelism themselves, etc. etc. An all too common result is a burned-out pastor and a church that feels even less likely to turn around.

Solution: As pastor your job is to equip the believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16). When turning around client churches I have found it most helpful to get people’s eyes off of the pastor as expert, and start seeing the pastor as their trainer and equipper. An important personal discipline for the turnaround pastor is to train and delegate to others important tasks rather than trying to do it all oneself. This means seeing the potential in people and even giving them the chance to flounder at times. It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

QUOTE: It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #2 & Mentoring Others, When You’re Not Being Mentored Yourself.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Sept /Oct 2018.

Mentee vs. Being a Mentor

… In my personal life I found that as my ministry increased, others wanted me to mentor them. Not only was I honored, but I was told I had the gift of teaching and therefore I enjoyed mentoring others.

But the times when I suffered the most were when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me. In my town I sought out the lead pastor of a large nearby church. And though we were very theologically different, we became fast friends and he became my mentor. Later he went on to become the president of a nationally recognized theological seminary.

In the times we spent together in his kitchen, I realized the challenges I was facing he had already faced years before, and he had insights from the encounters. In much the way Paul mentored Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), a more experienced leader can bring needed encouragement to a pastor who is encountering daily frustrations in turning around a church.

Solution: Find a mentor and submit to being a mentee. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there is probably someone who has encountered what you are encountering now, and can offer perspective and biblical insight. The New Testament precedent is a one-on-one relationship with someone who has already countered the challenges which a turnaround pastor is daily encountering.

QUOTE: I suffered the most when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #1 & Being Autonomous Without Also Being Accountable. #Acts15

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

I have coached hundreds of churches in the past 20 years, I’ve come to believe these four areas of personal discipline are critical for not only having an impact in ministry, but for being happy as well.

Accountable vs. Being Independent

Usually when a church needs to be revitalized, it gives the turnaround leader a great deal of control. And why not, if the church has been failing under its previous strategies and tactics, then shouldn’t the new shepherd be allowed to implement their own approach?

If the turnaround leader did not have much control in their previous ministry, this can exacerbate the situation. I’ve noticed that some leaders may undertake a turnaround because they look forward to having some independence. When congregations are desperate to survive, they may give inexperienced turnaround leaders carte blanche to do what is right the leader’s eyes.

This dual empowerment can be good if the leader is skilled, experienced and equipped to be a church revitalizer. And after all, equipping the church revitalizer with the skills necessary is the purpose of Church Revitalizer magazine. But if a leader is still learning about the dynamics of a turnaround church, the resultant independence that the congregation bestows upon the leader can be the the leader’s undoing.

Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability. The turnaround pastor and a struggling church’s desire for someone to lead the congregation out of its marginalization, can inadvertently give the leader so much independence that the leader does not have the accountability or professional oversight needed.

Solution: If you are a turnaround leader, then seek out accountability. Don’t just seek out like-minded peers who are going through the same professional and spiritual battles. And just don’t seek out one person, but rather seek out a group of individuals that can give you guidance.

QUOTE: Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability.

One of the thorniest questions the early church had to battle was what to do with Paul’s new ministry to non-Jews. This was a substantial and divisive issue. However, Paul submitted not to an individual, but to a council of godly leaders which we know today as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Having an accountability to a godly group not only sharpened Paul’s theological insights, but also gave him a platform of accountability that would help most of his detractors overlook his former life as a persecutor of the faith.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & Helpful vs. Hurting Disciplines: How to thrive in ministry by choosing the best spiritual practices.

ARTICLE Whitesel CR Helpful vs. Hurting Spiritual Practices

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Having pastored in small, medium-size and mega-churches (as well as planting a church) I realized there were certain spiritual disciplines that when embraced my life and ministry flourished. I also realized that when I ignored them my ministry became difficult and unstable.

Church Revitalizer Personal Disciplines.jpegHaving coached hundreds of churches in the past 20 years, I’ve come to believe these four areas of personal discipline are critical for not only having an impact in ministry, but for being happy as well. 

Accountable vs. Being Independent

Usually when a church needs to be revitalized, it gives the turnaround leader a great deal of control. And why not, if the church has been failing under its previous strategies and tactics, then shouldn’t the new shepherd be allowed to implement their own approach?

If the turnaround leader did not have much control in their previous ministry, this can exacerbate the situation. I’ve noticed that some leaders may undertake a turnaround because they look forward to having some independence. When congregations are desperate to survive, they may give inexperienced turnaround leaders carte blanche to do what is right the leader’s eyes.

This dual empowerment can be good if the leader is skilled, experienced and equipped to be a church revitalizer. And after all, equipping the church revitalizer with the skills necessary is the purpose of Church Revitalizer magazine. But if a leader is still learning about the dynamics of a turnaround church, the resultant independence that the congregation bestows upon the leader can be the the leader’s undoing.

Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability. The turnaround pastor and a struggling church’s desire for someone to lead the congregation out of its marginalization, can inadvertently give the leader so much independence that the leader does not have the accountability or professional oversight needed.

Solution: If you are a turnaround leader, then seek out accountability. Don’t just seek out like-minded peers who are going through the same professional and spiritual battles. And just don’t seek out one person, but rather seek out a group of individuals that can give you guidance.

QUOTE: Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability.

One of the thorniest questions the early church had to battle was what to do with Paul’s new ministry to non-Jews. This was a substantial and divisive issue. However, Paul submitted not to an individual, but to a council of godly leaders which we know today as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Having an accountability to a godly group not only sharpened Paul’s theological insights, but also gave him a platform of accountability that would help most of his detractors overlook his former life as a persecutor of the faith.

Mentee vs. Being a Mentor

This means being a mentee, in addition to being accountable. But often turnaround leaders are tempted to be the mentor more than the mentee. In my personal life I found that as my ministry increased, others wanted me to mentor them. Not only was I honored, but I was told I had the gift of teaching and therefore I enjoyed mentoring others.

But the times when I suffered the most were when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me. In my town I sought out the lead pastor of a large nearby church. And though we were very theologically different, we became fast friends and he became my mentor. Later he went on to become the president of a nationally recognized theological seminary.

In the times we spent together in his kitchen, I realized the challenges I was facing he had already faced years before, and he had insights from the encounters. In much the way Paul mentored Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), a more experienced leader can bring needed encouragement to a pastor who is encountering daily frustrations in turning around a church.

Solution: Find a mentor and submit to being a mentee. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there is probably someone who has encountered what you are encountering now, and can offer perspective and biblical insight. The New Testament precedent is a one-on-one relationship with someone who has already countered the challenges which a turnaround pastor is daily encountering.

QUOTE: I suffered the most when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me.

Equipper vs. Being an Expert

As ministry impact increases, people often start to look to the leader as “the expert.” This can be exacerbated when a church is struggling and looking for any help. The result is that the congregation and the leader may put too much of the burden upon the leader.

As a result, turnaround leaders tend to undertake the most important things themselves. They tend to do most of the preaching themselves, they tend to do most of the organization themselves, they tend to run the meetings themselves, they tend to do most of the evangelism themselves, etc. etc. An all too common result is a burned-out pastor and a church that feels even less likely to turn around.

Solution: As pastor your job is to equip the believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16). When turning around client churches I have found it most helpful to get people’s eyes off of the pastor as expert, and start seeing the pastor as their trainer and equipper.  An important personal discipline for the turnaround pastor is to train and delegate to others important tasks rather than trying to do it all oneself. This means seeing the potential in people and even giving them the chance to flounder at times. It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

QUOTE:  It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

Family Time vs. Church Time

Finally the fourth area is the important aspect of carving out time with your earthly family and your heavenly family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). During some of my most successful years in ministry my children were young. And though they had have great memories from their childhood, I wish I’d spent a bit more time with them. I could have had more deep dialogues with them. I could have known them even better. And this is good not only for our earthly family, but our heavenly family as well.

Solution: Later in my years as a turnaround pastor I found that I benefited greatly by taking two days off every week to be with my early family (recreation) and my heavenly family (in scriptural meditation and prayer). On those two days every week I did no church business. I viewed those days as a sabbatical. If God, the all powerful creator of the universe took off a seventh day to rest (commanding it upon his children as one of his 10 commands) then I need something more regular and restful than a couple of partial days off each week. 

These four principles helped me not only survive ministry, but enjoy it and thrive in it.

Bob Whitesel DMIN PhD has been called “the key spokesperson on change theory in the church today” by a national magazine and ranks as one of the nation’s most sought after church health and growth consultants. An award-winning author of 13 books, he founded an accredited seminary (Welsey Seminary at IWU) and created one of the nation’s most respected church health and growth consulting firms: ChurchHealth.net

Read the article in Church Revitalizer Magazine here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/magazine_sample_for_everyone?e=14225198/64015141

ETHICS & The ethical character of a church leader: What is “ethical character” and how should a turnaround leader use it?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/26/18.

What exactly makes a decision ethical? 

It is best to think of ethical decisions as those that honor the “the spirit behind the law.” 

Definition: “Ethics” means operating in the “spirit behind the law” and not just the letter of the law.  Example:  Something can be lawful (a loophole for instance) but not ethical and thus does not honor the “spirit” behind the law. 

The “character” of an ethical leader requires a 3-pronged approach, as popularized by former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and ethics professor Alexander Hill (“Just Business: Christian Ethics for the Marketplace [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997].)

Ethical leaders have a “character that embraces” three principles…

1. Right actions

2. Just actions 

3. Acting in love

Let’s briefly explore each.

RIGHT ACTIONS are actions in harmony with God’s Word, sometimes described as “holiness” or Biblical godliness. Here are two examples:

a. Being physically and emotionally separate from impure or or ungodly principles, practices and actions. Peter reminds us that as Christians we are to “be Holy without blemish” 2 Peter 3:11-12. EXAMPLE: the ethical leader spends time in Bible study, theology and history to be able to distinguish between actions that go against Christ and His Word.

b. Right actions are rooted in humbly serving others as exemplified in the servant leadership of Jesus. EXAMPLE: “If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” 1 John 2: 4-6.

JUST ACTIONS characterize leaders who practice equal procedures, fair reward for merit, and protection of rights.

a. Equal procedures mean that regardless of where the person is in the company hierarchy or their cultural background, they are treated equally. EXAMPLE: The apostle Paul living in a highly bigoted and hierarchical culture said that in Christ said that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” Galatians 3:28. Ponder for a second how revolutionary this was in Paul’s day. Embracing equal procedures means treating people the same regardless of gender, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic culture.

b. Fair reward means that a person is paid fairly based upon their performance (merit) when balanced with what the congregation can afford. EXAMPLE: Exorbitant salaries for church leaders cannot be justified by saying that: “We’ve always paid this much for that position.” Sometimes in church turnarounds, the pastoral salary was set at a time when the chruch could afford a larger salary. Fair reward means negotiating salaries that are equally fair to the organization and the individual. 

c. Probably the most important aspect is to protect the inalienable rights that God has bestowed upon his creation, including bodily safety, freedom from harassment.

ACTING IN LOVE is what sets apart the character of a Christian, because it means our ethical framework demonstrates supernatural love. Here are two areas where Christians often fail in their ethical behavior.

a. Shouldering others pain: This means when one person in the organization suffers, we all suffer and therefore everyone does something to address their pain. Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-45 that in reaction to Peter’s Pentecost sermon, “They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” EXAMPLE: When a church is undertaking a turnaround, one of the most powerful examples occurs when leaders give up something to help others. A notable secular example occurred when Malden Mills, a textile factory was destroyed by fire. Their CEO refused to lay off his workers. Instead he paid the worker’s salaries out of his own pocket. He told the news media that the workers were, “part of the enterprise, not a cost center to be cut. They’ve been with me for a long time.  We’ve been good to each other, and there’s a deep realization of that.” (Manuel G. Velasquez, Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases, 5th ed. [Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Publishers, 2003], p. 122-124, 491-92.)

b. Taking action on others behalf: This means working and coaching others to help them improve rather than firing them to find someone else. EXAMPLE: In many churches in need of revitalization, there is often an unhealthy and historical “Burn and Churn” style of leadership. “Burn and Churn” means that leaders “burnout” the volunteers/staff and then  leaders recruit more volunteers/staff to replace them, creating an endless “churning” cycle of: recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-etc. However, “taking actions on others behalf” means noticing when people are struggling and coaching them to improve, rather than dismissing them. By taking more time to mentor volunteers/staff rather than firing them, builds upon the strengths of the volunteers’ experience, the volunteers network of friends and the volunteer’s feelings of self worth.

Below is an example case study. Can you spot what could have been done differently utilizing “right actions, just actions and acting in love?”

Sarah doesn’t know very much about her new job as the Director of Discipleship. The previous director suddenly left because of burn out. And though he had no more prior experience than Sarah, the church paid him more because he was a man and was perceived to be the sole provider for his family.

A little more than year into the job Sarah felt she was starting to understand her responsibilities. For most of that year Sarah was on the verge of burning out because she felt the mission of the church was so important that she often worked 60 to 70 hour weeks taking time away from her two young children. 

Her boss the administrative pastor came in to her office and explained to her that she wasn’t developing into what the church needed. Sarah felt blindsided, because the administrator had not worked with her to help her learn her job or improve on doing it better.

The end result was that in this church turnaround situation Sarah was fired with little consideration for her financial and emotional fallout. In the 18 months she had developed many friends among the staff and they empathized with Sarah, perceiving the leaders’ actions to have had failed to exemplify Christlike actions. The end result was that the church went into further decline. Instead of a turnaround church … the lack of ethical character in the leader resulted in at downward church.

Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Ethical Character of Planter (Church Revitalizer) and here: https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/2018_april_may_cr_magazine_final_adb6f267542cdb

LEVEL 5 & An Overview of @EdStetzer ‘s Steps to a Level 5 Church #Exponential

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/26/16.

The following in an overview of my colleague Ed Stetzer’s keynote at Exponential 16.  He sees the need for churches to visualize moving beyond reproducing to multiplying congregations.  Parallel to Jim Collins’ insights on Level 5 Leadership (which is more collaborative and visionary, see Helen Lee’s interview with Collins), Stetzer sees Level 5 churches as developing out of six practices:

  1. Remind people we evangelize because we were evangelized.
  2. Teach people how normal evangelism should be.
  3. Utilize different approaches.
  4. Celebrate and share the stories of members who have met Christ.
  5. Make sure the leaders are cheerleaders for evangelism.
  6. Teach the gospel well and consistently.

These are churches that attain 50% conversion growth.  More more details see Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im’s book Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow: Practices, Barriers, and an Ecosystem (Nashville: LifeWay, 2016).

I came to the same conclusion in “Cure for the Common Church” seeing the “4th cure” as “N.E.W.” or a “Focus on Conversion” (you can download the chapter here).  In healthy churches the average congregant knows how to share their faith and steps to salvation with their friends and acquaintances.  I suggest healthy churches yearly have a 5-week sermon series on the “Four Spiritual Laws” with a fifth Sunday for a call to commitment.

Below is how I explained this in an article for Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.  Read the entire article here.

Focus 4: NEW. By this I mean cultivating an environment in your church where people’s lives are changed into new lives. There’s an excitement in a church when people expect to be changed there. Today when people need to a changed from an abusive life, addiction, depraved habits and/or self-centeredness they usually go to a psychologist, self-help group or read a self-help book. All of these are helpful tools. But I believe the most helpful and God-ordained tool is the Church. The Church is the place in a community where people should know that you go if you need to be changed. This is because there is supernatural power to change people whenever two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20).

Tool 4 to focus on NEW: Everyone learns a GOSPEL presentation. Every attendee should be equipped with a tool to share the Good News. The Four Spiritual Laws, The Four Steps to Peace with God, The Romans Road or another plan of salvation are the most important tool with which you can equip each congregant. Attendees should be trained in their youth, in their Sunday schools and during a yearly preaching series. Then they will be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, (1 Peter 3:15). A good tool to encourage this is a five-week sermon series every year, where each week focuses on one of The Four Spiritual Laws or The Four Steps to Peace with God. Then on the fifth week extend a call to meet Christ. If a yearly part of your preaching calendar, this sermon series can equip, reinforce and remind congregants how to share the wonderful opportunity and blessing of a new life in Christ.

SYSTEM 1 of 7Systems.church: COMMUNICATION & How It Results in Visibility (The 1st in the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” Series)

7.1 systems yellow

This is first (1st) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

You can read the original article in The Church Revitalizer magazine here. Or scroll down further for the entire updated article.

Download the article here … ARTICLE Church Revitalizer Magazine – Turning Around An Invisible Church 16.4

ARTICLE ©Whitesel Ch. Revitalizer April May 2016 Church Visibility (part 1) copy.jpg

COMMUNICATION SYSTEM & How It Results in Visibility (The 1st in the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” Series)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/1/16 (words 1,100)

Before we begin to turnaround or grow into a healthy church, we need to know what we are turning or growing it toward.

The best source for what a healthy and growing church looks like is Hartford Seminary’s exhaustive and reliable: “American Congregations Study” (available free at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org). I will explain how to address each of what I call “The 7Systems.church of a Growing Church” in this series.

The First is Visibility – The Result of a healthy COMMUNICATION SYSTEM.

We must first understand how to overcome the average church’s invisibility. Plateaued churches don’t change very much and as a result they often get ignored and overlooked by non-churchgoers. I found that even newly planted churches start becoming invisible to the community after about 18 months. Visibility can be remedied by being in a visible location in a growing community. But, what if you aren’t in a growing community? What if you aren’t in a visible location?

I have helped hundreds of churches become visible again, even when they were not in a growing community. To make a church visible again in any community involves three areas: physical visibility, social media visibility, member visibility.

Physical Visibility

Physical visibility means the community sees the physical assets and structures of the church. We have long known that churches in visible locations grow faster and larger than churches in less visible locales. When people over and over again notice a church structure, signage, steeple, etc. it can remind them of their spiritual need. And, when a spiritual need pulls them towards a church, they are most likely to attend the one they’ve noticed. This can be challenging in a turnaround scenario. However, I have helped many, many churches increase their physical visibility and here are some options to consider.

Merging with a more visible church. By joining together with a church in a more visible location you can address the invisibility threat. Read Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird’s book “Better Together” to see how to make mergers work. Moving to a different location and selling your current facility. My experience has been that this often results in the church having a less usable facility. There may be fewer Sunday School rooms, less sanctuary space and even less parking. But if the trade-off is that the church has a greater visibility in the community, then the church can begin to grow toward health.

Building a new facility. Though challenging in revitalization situations, new facilities are cheaper to build than their traditional and Medieval-looking forerunners. When turnaround churches have money to build they usually consider erecting a gymnasium or a fellowship hall to reach out. But, it may be better to build a smaller multipurpose facility in a more visible location.

Social Media Visibility.

In 25+ years consulting churches, I have found that in all churches there are positive things going on that only people going to the church know about. Thus, you want to create social media opportunities for congregants to share with their friends, acquaintances and non-churchgoers some of the exciting things going on.

In the past, churches advertised largely in the Yellow Pages and newspapers. Though Yellow Pages have disappeared (and newspapers may not be far behind) in their place have risen other media channels through which you should be advertising.

Website: It doesn’t need to be professional, but it does need to be informative and geared toward non-churchgoers. WordPress and others offer free templates through which an inexperienced creator can make an informative website. Previously the church secretary was in charge of the weekly bulletins and perhaps a regular newsletter. In the turnaround church, that person learns new skills to communicate via a web presence.

Facebook page: Another requisite media presence, your members can share about the positive things going on in the church. Twitter, etc: Telling about positive things going on in a church via a Twitter account with “hash tags” (#) identifying your church, allows people to easily find postings about the life of a congregation. A church Instagram account can give opportunities for members to share pictures about the positive things happening at congregational life. Other media avenues are sure to arise and mature Christian leaders should pray about and discuss the usefulness of each.

Email: Because there’s so much spam filling email boxes today, it’s best to steer away from emailing people in the community. Emailing congregants to keep them aware of what is going on is fine, but a general blast to the community doesn’t work.

Get the Church a Personalized Web Address, _____(church

name)_____.church: A little-known fact is that you can purchase the extension “.church” and add your church name for an easy to remember web address. The extension “.church” can be purchased through any online Domain Service (but once they’re gone, it’s forever gone so check today).

Member Visibility: Encourage congregants to be proud of what God has accomplished through their church and let people know they are a member. When your congregants are cited in community events, awards, etc. be sure to ask them to include that they are a member of the church. Explain that this is a way to let their light shine, because the community of Christ is a part of their spiritual formation and community impact. Shirts with the church’s name on them, bumper stickers, vinyl

decals, etc. have always been a way to increase congregant visibility. However, it’s always important to remind congregants they should at all times be Christlike, forgiving and humble (and never more so than when displaying something that boldly mentions Christ’s family).

Let the community see the church in worship, praise and service. A YouTube channel of church events can help non-churchgoers see the community of Christ in action. And, a video of worship and ministry should be a primary feature on your website, giving a 30-second glimpse of the excitement of being part of Christ’s community.

Invite the community to participate in praise/worship and food in a neutral location. This can be in a park or in a neutral auditorium. When we take our worship and praise to neutral locations, we give non-churchgoers an opportunity to see the life and anointing of Christ’s body in a familiar environment. While being careful not to invade their space, we also foster communication when a meal is open to all. Jesus’ example of table fellowship broke down walls between his detractors and his disciples, and serves as a model for increasing church visibility today.

Yes, there are ways to help make a church visible again. And, these suggestions are just the tip-of-the-iceberg. For more on the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” and how to make churches visible again, attend my once-a-year consultant training at the Nov. 1, Renovate ‘16 Pre-conference in Orlando.

In the next article in this series, I will delve into ideas that foster the second mark of a growing church as revealed in Hartford Seminary’s “American Congregations 2015” survey.

Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., is a award-winning writer and sought-after consultant on church growth. Founding professor of Wesley Seminary at IWU, he has held his “Annual 1-Day Church Consultant Training” as a Pre-Conference to Renovate in Orlando.

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology  #Renovate16  #StLiz  #Renovate16 #7Systems.church

TURNAROUND & My 4 Tools to Refocus a Turnaround #ChurchRevitalizerMagazine

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.

My latest magazine article in an overview of my 4 field-tested tools that can “refocus” a church from maintenance to mission. Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Ch. Revitalizer Mag Refocus- Focus On These 4 Things to a Turnaround. Read the entire magazine here (full article follows):

REFOCUS: 4 Tools to Refocus a Turnaround

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., Professor of Missional Leadership & Founding Professor, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.

Joe was a local lawyer and his wife a stockbroker. They had attended our church for six months during which we had had experienced a rapid turnaround and growth. I knew he had been interested in joining the church but I was unprepared for his question. “What is the church’s focus?” Joe stated bluntly. “We’ve seen a lot of growth. We’ve seen a lot of programs. So what is the focus? Kathy and I want to know that before we decide if it’s our focus too.”

Joe’s question set me on a quest where I simplified this into four foci and four tools for keeping them central. Though I wrote an entire book about these foci titled, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health below is a brief overview.

Focus 1: OUT. In Jesus’s ministry we see a ongoing emphasis on reaching out to nonreligious people and people in need (e.g. Luke 6:31-33). But churches quickly become inwardly focused, looking more after their own needs than the needs of those outside their church.

Tool 1 to Focus OUT: ASK. Get your administrative board and staff to go out on a Saturday morning walk through the church neighborhood and areas from which you draw your congregants. Tell them to ask people they meet this simple question: “What could a church like ours do to meet needs of people in this community?” Don’t ask them what you can do to meet their personal needs. That is too personal. Rather ask them to tell you about community needs. Usually they will tell you about their own needs. Then go back to the church and compile a list of needs. Pick out a couple needs that your church is equipped or is beginning to be equipped to address. Then reallocate funds and volunteers to meet those needs. I advise churches to do this twice a year. This keeps leaders listening for needs in the community. One church board member said, “I now work that question subtly into my conversations all year long. I find a lot of interesting needs in this community that way. And it helps me be a better board member because I can help the church focus on meeting needs outside the church.”

Focus 2: SMALL. It was in small gatherings that Jesus accomplished most of his discipleship (e.g. Matt., 4:18-22, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:13). Small groups are where people grow together in intimacy and reliance. Even when there is change in church leadership, small group attendees will remain with the church because their friends are still there. Yet most churches have only a token emphasis on and oversight of small groups. If we look at the “method” behind John Wesley and the Methodist Movement we see that getting people into small “Bible study groups” was the key.

Tool 2 to focus Small: BIBLE Studies w/ navigators, not teachers.  I will use the term “Bible study group” to distinguish them from “Bible teaching groups.” The latter oftentimes, but not of course always, emphasize “teaching” rather than study. They are where the teacher becomes the figurehead and is looked up to as the expert. These groups sometimes mimic church services, with an “expert” preaching the group. This works against dialogue and openness. It creates an audience not group dialogue and accountability. And, it reduplicates the legitimate teaching roles of the pastoral staff. No wonder so many church splits come from “teaching groups” where the teacher and not the Word of God is the focus. Therefore I encourage groups to carefully ensure the Word of God is the focus. I prefer, like John Wesley did, to let the Bible be the teacher. This still requires a mature Christian who serves as a sort of “Biblical navigator” for the group, bringing commentaries and Bible handbooks to help people dig into the Word. But these groups are groups that investigate biblical topics each week by everyone digging into the Bible and seeing what the Bible says. This makes people depended upon the Word rather than a novice-preacher.

Focus 3: LEARNERS. Often in church as we try to grow attendance, or we measure baptisms, finances and/or conversions. All of these are helpful metrics but not as important as the metric Jesus gave us, in Matthew 28:18-20. Here Jesus uses four verbs on His Great Commission: go, make disciples, teach and baptize. In the Greek it is clear that three of these are participles, which mean that they modify another more central verb. The central verb is “make disciples” and the Greek literally means “make learners.” Thus, the verse indicates that by going, teaching and baptizing we reach the goal of our commission: which is make learners.

Tool 3 to focus on Learners: Measure STUDENTS of the Word. Thus, in a turnaround our focus should be on helping people learn, rather than focusing on increasing attendance, money or even conversions. Acts 2:47 reminds us, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” So conversion is God’s job. But, helping people become learners, according to Matthew 28:18-20 is our job. It follows that we should measure things like how many people are in the Sunday school and how many people go to regular Bible study in your church. These are a better indicators if people are becoming learners that by simply counting how many are sitting in the pew or writing a check.

Focus 4: NEW. By this I mean cultivating an environment in your church where people’s lives are changed into new lives. There’s an excitement in a church when people expect to be changed there. Today when people need to a changed from an abusive life, addiction, depraved habits and/or self-centeredness they usually go to a psychologist, self-help group or read a self-help book. All of these are helpful tools. But I believe the most helpful and God-ordained tool is the Church. The Church is the place in a community where people should know that you go if you need to be changed. This is because there is supernatural power to change people whenever two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20).

Tool 4 to focus on NEW: Everyone learns a GOSPEL presentation. Every attendee should be equipped with a tool to share the Good News. The Four Spiritual Laws, The Four Steps to Peace with God, The Romans Road or another plan of salvation are the most important tool with which you can equip each congregant. Attendees should be trained in their youth, in their Sunday schools and during a yearly preaching series. Then they will be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, (1 Peter 3:15). A good tool to encourage this is a five-week sermon series every year, where each week focuses on one of The Four Spiritual Laws or The Four Steps to Peace with God. Then on the fifth week extend a call to meet Christ. If a yearly part of your preaching calendar, this sermon series can equip, reinforce and remind congregants how to share the wonderful opportunity and blessing of a new life in Christ.

Speaking Hashtags: #SalvationCenterTX #FlintFirst #StLiz #Renovate16

CHANGE & First Aid for a Change Gone Bad #BobWhitesel #ChurchRevitalizerMagazine

(Thanks to my friend Dr. Keith Drury who suggested I write an article on this.)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, (Orlando, FL: Greater Orlando Baptist Assoc.), Jan-Feb. 2015, pp. 48-49, available at this link.

7 Steps To Recovering From a Church Revitalization Misstep

As an active church-revitalization consultant of 20+ years, I knew “church change” was understudied. This drove me to Fuller Seminary to earn my third degree there: a Ph.D. with a focus on church change. A resultant book, Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change in Your Church, was awarded co-resource of the year by a national magazine. And, people often come up at conferences and tell me how helpful it is.

But people also come up and say,” What do I do now that I made a bad change?! How do I get out of that?!”

I realized leaders are often too stressed when everything is going wrong to find the answer in the book. So, I decided to set out in this article an overview of the “7 Steps to Recovering from Bad Change.”

Step 1: Take a breath. Once you realize a change is bad, your natural inclination is to rush in and halt the change … or plunge forward more earnestly. Both actions will usually doom the change, because you have “two emerging camps.” One camp we will call the change proponents and the other camp we will call the status quo.

On the one hand, change proponents (people pushing for the change) are excited about the change and stopping it abruptly will alienate them. And on the other hand the status quo (people who want to keep things the way they are) will step up their resistance if they feel you are ham-fistedly moving forward.

But, you may ask, “What’s wrong with alienating the status quo? They aren’t the future. Go ahead, let them leave.” That might be an option if they would actually leave, but research indicates the status quo will likely not leave the church. If change polarizes, research shows change proponents will leave, not the status quo. Then you are stuck with an angry status quo (not something many pastors can survive). So from the very beginning of this process, you have to figure out how to move forward while living with both the status quo and the change proponents.

So instead of stopping abruptly or driving forward, tell everyone you are going to talk to people about the change and take some time to pray about it. Tell them that though the change will continue, it will do so more slowly and you are praying to find consensus. This gives the status quo a chance to see you are aware things aren’t quite going well. The change proponents will also be pleased that you understand the change is causing division.

Step 2: Talk to the naysayers. Research confirms that you must go to those who are against the change and listen to them. Don’t act immediately on any of their suggestions, this is just a “fact finding” visit. People against the change usually just want to be heard. They care for the church too! They just want to ensure that your change does not take away something that is important to them.

Pastors seem to have a hard time with this step. In my consultative practice, it seems many pastors exhibit conflict-avoidance behavior. Unfortunately, this will usually doom a church into warring factions unless the pastor takes up the role of moderator: bringing disparate people together in mission.

Step 3: Bring together the status quo and the change proponents. The pastor can be the moderator, but must not appear to take sides (even if they have in the past). Again, research cited in the book shows that when two sides get together they can come up with a “hybrid-plan” that works for both sides and works better than a plan with input from only one side.

Step 4: Apologize for not getting more input. You are not apologizing for the change, but for the data gathering beforehand. Everyone could do more data gathering. But, maybe you are thinking, “Hey, I shouldn’t have to apologize. I’m the leader.” Or maybe even “Why should I apologize, it was their idea?” And yes, the change may have been thrust upon you or you may have felt that they hired you to bring about change. But, as Jim Collins found when researching why healthy companies fall, it is often because leaders develop hubris that they make bad decisions. Hubris means a pride and ambition based upon education, social status, professional status or experience. Collins found the best leaders are ready to say, “I may have made a misstep here.”

Step 5: Implement the hybrid-plan. This may be the easiest step. Still snags will develop. But, because you got the two sides talking to one another in Step 3, it is easier now to get them back together to work out challenges.   A key here is that the pastor does not get between the two sides, or else both sides will take pot-shots at the pastor. Let them work out and adjust their hybrid plan together. You can be the coach, but for success they must be the players.

Step 6: Evaluate. This is a key step, that is often neglected. Evaluation adjusts strategies and increases impact. And, if you are going to adjust your strategies it is good to have both the status quo and change proponents doing the adjusting. So, just like in Steps 3 and 5, get together the two sides (after a month or so, sooner is better) and ask them to talk about what is working and what is not. Ask them to adjust their hybrid-plan.

Step 7: Bathe the whole process in prayer and listen to God. Both sides should be encouraged to pray, since the status quo and the change proponents, really in their hearts want the same thing: a church that is healthy and growing. Remember, when Jesus prayed for those that would follow Him down through history He prayed for our unity and for impact, praying “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

Bio: Bob Whitesel is nationally-recognized church revitalization consultant, who holds a Ph.D. from Fuller Seminary on church change and has been called by a national magazine “the chief spokesperson on change theory in the church today.” In addition to consulting he serves as founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and their professor of Missional Leadership.

For more details on the “7 Steps” or information on church revitalization and growth consultations with Dr. Whitesel, visit http://www.BobWhitesel.com