THEOLOGY & A Biblical Theology of Change & Changing by Bob Whitesel PhD, excerpted from the book, “Preparing for Change Reaction.”

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

Below are links to what I believe is a holistic and biblically faithful theology of change. These theological suppositions emerged from my Ph.D. work at Fuller Theological Seminary, 2005-2007.

God is Unchanging In Four Areas

Change Reaction 4: If God doesn’t change, why should we?” Congregations are leery of church change … because they know God is unchanging in His character.

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 4 Unchanging

One of the most widely accepted Biblical understandings is that God does not change.  There are many passages that attest to this (some are listed in the Questions for Group Study at the end of this chapter).  But, let us focus on the three most popular.  However, first we must tackle an unusual, yet increasingly important word: immutable.

Immutable – What Does It Mean?

There is an curious, yet common word that describes God’s unchangeable character: immutable.  The term, widely used in theological circles, comes from combining two ancient words.  The Latin word, mutabilis carries the meaning of “changeable.”  When the Latin prefix im- is added, it negates the word that follows and elicits the meaning “not-changeable” or immutable.  Millard Erickson offers a concise definition.

“Divine immutability … by this is meant that although everything else in the universe appears to undergo change, God does not.  He is the unchanging eternal one.”

We shall see shortly that this definition may be lacking in precision.  However, it is interesting to note that computer programmers use the terms mutable and immutable as well.  In computer programming an immutable object is an object that cannot be modified once it is created.  And, a mutable object is one that can be modified once it is fashioned.  

Subsequently, because of an increasing use by software programmers and a continued use in theological circles, immutable is an increasingly helpful term for describing things that do not change.

3 Biblical Passages Stating That God Does Not Change… 

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 4 Unchanging

When God Changes

Change Reaction 5: “What does the Bible says about change?”

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 5 When God Changes

8-Types of Biblical Change

Theologians have pointed out that there are several types of change in the Bible.  I have codified them into a list of eight.  Let us describe each, and add a brief commentary.

  1. Change due to decline or deterioration.  This is the change we referred to in Chapter 3 as change in permanence or life.  In the previous chapter we saw that God does not change in His duration or eternalness.  However, humans do undergo this type of change, for as the writer of Psalm 102:3 says, his “days vanish like smoke.”
  2. Change in location, i.e. the movement from one place to another.  Millard Erickson comments, “Since God presumably is not … spatially located, the sense of change as movement from one place to another does not apply.”
  3. Changes in quality.  When the Old Testament Temple replaced the make-shift Tabernacle for Jewish worship, Exodus 25, 36 and 2 Chronicles 3 and 4 describe an enhancement in quality.  In a similar manner quality can lessen, for example when the Temple was rebuilt after its destruction by the Babylonians (see Haggai).  But, changes in quality do not apply to God, for the Scriptures depict God as being all-powerful (Genesis 18:14, Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26) and thus having more power would be impossible.
  4. Change due to growth or improvement.  The Bible states that God is all good (Exodus 34:6, 1 Chronicles 16:34) and thus improvement would be impossible.
  5. Change of knowledge means gaining knowledge that one that did possess before.  Again, because God is all knowing (1 Samuel 2:3, 1 Chronicles 28:9, John 16:30) additional or better knowledge is impossible.
  6. Change in beliefs “involves coming to hold different beliefs of attitudes.”  We saw in Chapter 3 that God is unchangeable in the essential nature of whom He is (Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) and that God’s will is unchangeable (James 1:18).  Thus God does not come to hold different beliefs nor attitudes.
  7. Relational change “involves not change in the thing itself, but in the relationship to another object or person.”  This is an interesting thought.  As we shall see shortly, the Biblical record tells us God does relate to us in different ways, depending upon our reactions to Him.  Note, God is not changing, but the relationship between Him and us does change.  Thus, this type of change is found in the Bible.
  8. Change by taking different action than previously.  We see many times in the Bible where God takes a different action than He did previously.  For example, when humans ask forgiveness, turn from their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior, God takes different action (salvation, John 6:23, 10:9) than He had previously warned (damnation, Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23; Revelation 21:8).

Looking at the varying types of change found in the Bible, it becomes clear that in most of these areas God does not change.  Now, let’s look at each of these 8-types of change and see how they relate to God’s unchangeableness in permanence, nature, will and character. 

God and the 8-Types of Biblical Change

Because God is unchangeable in His permanence and lifeGod Does Not Experience Type-1 Change: Change Due to Deterioration,

God is unchangeable in His permanence and life, was a conclusion we discovered in our previous chapter.  We noted that this indicates that God does not change in His or eternalness.  He does not “wear out like a garment” (Psalm 102:26), and though our “days vanish like smoke … your (God’s) years will never end” (Psalm 102:3, 27). 

Therefore, Type-1 Change does not apply to God, for He does not decline nor deteriorate. 

Congregations know that some church change has been good…especially when it increases a church’s effectiveness at sharing the Good News.

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 5 When God Changes

Unchanging Character … Changing Methods: The Pattern of Parenting

Change Reaction 6: Let’s not talk about change, I need a break.” Leaders are tired of administrative unproductiveness and disorder … and want a break from volunteering.  After all, isn’t church more than administration?

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 6 Unchanging Character Changing Methods.

God’s Pattern of Parenting

The bible is rife with the pattern of parenting as reflected in God’s relationship to His offspring.  Let us look at a few examples of God’s parenting principles and see what lessons they can engender for church leaders who are tackling church change.

God as Mother?

Though often overlooked, at times the Scriptures describe God as having the best attributes of both father and mother.  And since the attributes of a mother are often the most overlooked, let’s begin our inquiry with several motherly attributes of God. 

God has an enduring motherly relationship.  Isaiah 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

God comforts, as a mother comforts a child.  Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”

God yearns like a woman in childbirth, God yearns for the growth and maturity of His people.  Isaiah 42:14-15 says, “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools.”  Also, James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

To protect and nurture resistant offspring.  In Matthew 23:37 Jesus uses the imagery of a mother hen and her chicks, avowing, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

God as Father

Here Scriptures abound.  The following are just a few examples.  Many more scriptures will be discussed in the following section, “God as Parent.”

God loves us as a father loves his children.  1 John 3:1
 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!”

God is “Abba, Father.”  One of the most remarkable New Testament passages is Romans 8:15:  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  Another is Galatians 4:6 “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’.”  See also how Jesus uses the expression “abba” when referring to His heavenly in Mark 14:36.  The term abba is a Aramaic expression of endearment and familiarity customarily used by a very young child.  As such, it is usually the first word from a child’s mouth.  While some translate this “daddy,” this may still be too formal.  A better term might be “dada,” an expression connoting dependence, endearment, commencement and closeness.  This intimate, reliant and cherished term gives new insight to how God longs for us to return to Him and recapture that early father-child connection and love.

God must discipline us at times, as a loving father.  Solomon warns in Proverbs 3:11-12: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”  Also, Hebrews 12: 9-10 states, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”

Alister McGrath has said, “to speak of God as father is to say that the role of the father in ancient Israel allows us insights into the nature of God.”  Thus, from the above we can catch a glimpse into God’s loving, preserving, just and devoted nature.

God as Father and Mother

Sometimes God appears in the role of both parents.  For example, in Psalm 27:10 we see, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” 

In Moses’ song of adoration (Deuteronomy 32) he characterizes God’s love toward His children as that of a paternal eagle, hovering over its young and protecting them.  The tasks outlined, hovering over the young, catching them and carrying them describes female eagle attributes, but at times can also describe male eagles.  Thus, both roles can be inferred.  The full passage reads, “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.  Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions” Deuteronomy 32:10-11.

And in Deuteronomy 32:18 both maternal and paternal roles of God are described in the same sentence: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” 

Sallie McFaque gives a helpful summation of God as father and mother stating “God as mother does not mean that God is mother (or father).  We imagine God as both mother and father, but we realize how inadequate these and any other metaphors are to express the creative love of God …. Nevertheless, we speak of this love in language that is familiar and dear to us, the language of mother and fathers who give us life, from whose bodies we come, and upon whose care we depend.”

And thus God’s parental love is so deep, it is almost unfathomable in magnitude, scale and reach.  There is little surprise that both motherhood and fatherhood expressions are needed to describe such love.  Ephesians 3:17-19 puts it this way, “. . . And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Yet, fatherhood certainly occurs with more frequency in Biblical passages.  This may be due to the patriarchal culture of ancient times.  However, that in such highly patriarchal times the writers of the Scriptures would not flinch at describing God’s motherly attributes, indicates that God has no opposition to using the best attributes of fatherhood … and motherhood to describe His character.

And, fatherhood and motherhood can be defined in various ways depending upon the relationship.  For example, fatherhood can describe the establishing a household, the headship of that household, and of the provision, care and feeding of that household.  As we saw above, motherhood can describe birthing, nurturing, cherishing, etc.

However, to keep this present study from becoming too lengthy, let us look at how the fatherhood and motherhood of God relates to parenting.  And, in the process let us see if this doesn’t offer some strategic guidelines for dealing with change in churches.

God as Parent …

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 6 Unchanging Character Changing Methods.


GROUP EXIT & My video intro re. how to change a church w/o losing members

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/26/17.

This is another video introduction I’ve recorded for my colleagues, students and clients regarding how to prevent group exit. Students may find this video helpful in understanding their homework on the topic.

More notes that can help the learner watching this presentation are available at the link below:

And, see this link for more material on group exit and how to prevent it:

keywords: LEAD 600 545 Staying Power group exit Dyke and Starke Go Slow, build consensus and succeed Preparing for Change Reaction

3-STRand LEADERSHIP & A video introduction & tools to discover your mix of 3 leadership traits.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/25/17.

3-STRand Leadership (Strategic-Tactical-Relational traits) is a meta-model of leadership I have adapted/applied to ministry leadership. Formerly I labeled this STO Leadership for strategic-tactical-operational, the terms used by military leaders. Most leadership colleagues/students find the concept of 3-STRand Leadership (Strategic-Tactical-Relational) very helpful.  For a brief introduction …

A) Take at these introductory videos:

B) Read this short explanation of the three traits of leaders: Strategic-Tactical-Relational here:

C) Read about the different names authors have used interchangeably with Strategic-Tactical-Relational here:

D) Then read the “Questions and Answers at 3-STRand Leadership” at this link:

E) Finally, take the questionnaire yourself to find which is your dominant and sub-dominant leadership traits. The questionnaire is available FREE here:

LEAD 600 LEAD600 STO GCRN #Kingswood2018 3-STRand STRand #ThinkTankOH #TTIN #ThinkTankIN #STRand #3-STRand STR STRand 3-STRand

3-STRand Leadership & Alternative Names for Strategic, Tactical & Relational Leadership Styles

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007). The designation operational has been updated to relational for clarity.

Strategic Leadership Characteristics:

Strategic leadership is “future directed,”[i]” strategic leaders often want people to move forward, and thus they are the first to start moving in new directions. Historian Martin Marty said they “are extremely sensitive to where people are, but are not content to leave them there.”[ii]

Other names for strategic leaders are:

  1. Visionaries (George Barna,[iii] Leith Anderson[iv] and Phil Miglioratti[v]).
  2. Role 1 Leaders (Phil Miglioratti[vi]).
  3. “Top management” (John Wimber, Eddie Gibbs[vii]).
  4. “Strong, authoritative, directive pastoral leadership” (Wagner[viii]).
  5. Upper-level Management (John Kotter[ix]).
  6. Sodality leadership, which is described as “vision setter, goal setter, strong leader, visionary, upper management” (Ralph Winter[x]).

Tactical Leadership Characteristics:

Tactical leadership is an integrated skill. The tactical leader weds the past, the present and the future to move the church ahead. The tactical leader grasps the strategic leader’s vision of the future, but the tactical leader enjoys integrating these future plans into the ongoing and present life of the church. Tactical leaders also relish the planning process. They set timelines and allocate duties. They are delgators in the truest sense of the word. They should not be confused with relational leaders who do the work themselves. The tactical leader delegates fully, but then carefully evaluates the results.

And thus, tactical leaders are often pen and pencil (or stylus and PDA) people, who make copious notes as strategic leader expounds upon the future. Tactical leaders create spreadsheets, flowcharts, diagrams and designate work teams. Tactical leaders know who to bring big long-term projects down into easy, doable steps.

Thus, tactical leaders are the needed go-between to connect strategic leaders who grasp the big-picture, and relational leaders who get things done. Everyone appreciates tactical leaders, but regrettably they are usually outnumbered in our churches by strategic leaders and relational leaders. Thus, the organization suffers.

Other names for tactical leaders are:

  1. Administrators (Phil Miglioratti[i]).
  2. Role Two Leaders (Phil Miglioratti [ii]).
  3. Middle-level management (Martin Butler and Robert Herman[iii]).
  4. “Middle management” (John Wimber/Eddie Gibbs[iv] and John Kotter[v]).
  5. “Enables others to achieve goals” (Richard Hutcheson[vi]).
  6. Problem solvers (Gary Yukl[vii]).
  7. Modality leadership, which is described as “enabler, team builder, ally, implementer” (Ralph Winter).[viii]

Relational (sometimes called Operational) Leadership Characteristics:

Relational leaders have the knowledge, skill, relational abilities and dedication to get a job done. Once the parameters are defined and they see how their task fits into the bigger-picture (they are helped in this by the tactical leader), the relational leader can accomplish almost anything. Anthropologist Margaret Mead observed, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” [i] And, thus the contribution of the relational leader is critical to the change process.

Relational leaders often love their job so much, that they do not see themselves “moving out” of this role in the foreseeable future.[ii]

But, if the relational leader does not have the go-between of a tactical leader, the strategic leader’s vision may be too imprecise to motivate the relational leader. Thus, we see once again while all three types of leadership are needed, but it is the glue that the go-between tactical leader provides that helps the relational leader move the strategic leader’s vision forward.

Other names for relational leaders are:

  1. Workers (Phil Miglioratti[iii]).
  2. Role Three Leaders (Phil Miglioratti[iv]).
  3. Foremen (John Wimber, Eddie Gibbs[v]).

Download the chapter here: book-bw-excerpt-cr-change-reaction-chpt-2-sto-leaders-dr-whitesel

Strategic Leadership Footnotes

[i] Popular attestation,

[ii] Phil Miglioratti, “Putting Your Laymen When They Will Do the Most Good,” op. cit., p. 146

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] ibid.

[v] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., pp. 380, 381.

Tactical Leadership Footnotes

[i] Phil Miglioratti, “Putting Your Laymen When They Will Do the Most Good,” op. cit., p. 146

[ii] ibid.

[iii] D. Martin Butler and Robert D. Herman, “Effective Ministerial Leadership,” Nonprofit Management and Leadership (1999), 9:229-239.

[iv] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., pp. 380, 382-383.

[v] John Kotter, A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management, op. cit.. Kotter muddies the water a bit, by making a imprecise distinction between leadership and management. Kotter would agree with this author, that there are strategic leaders and tactical leaders. However, Kotter calls what strategic leaders do: “leadership.” And he labels what tactical leaders do as: “management.” While it is laudable that Kotter is trying to help distinguish between strategic and tactical leadership, the widespread use of the terms “leadership” and “management” probably mean they are too popular to now be more narrowly defined. Thus, Kotter’s goal is good, to distinguish between strategic and tactical leaders, but his terminology is probably too imprecise.

[vi] Richard Hutcheson, J., The Wheel Within the Wheel: Confronting the Management Crisis of the Pluralistic Church (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), p. 54.

[vii] Gary Yukl, Managerial Practices Survey (Albany, New York: Gary Yukl and Man Associates, 1990).

[viii] C. Peter Wagner, Leading Your Church to Growth, op. cit., pp. 141-165.

Relational Leadership Footnotes

[i] H. Ozbekhan, “Toward a General Theory of Planning,” in E. Jantsch, ed., Perspective in Planning (Paris, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1969), p. 151.

[ii] Martin Marty, “Lutheran Scholar ‘Sprinkles Methodist Advice,” in The United Methodist Reporter (Dallas, Texas: 1986), March 28.

[iii] Christian pollster George Barna correctly emphasizes that for a strategic leader, a clear vision of the future is important. And, Barna in his popular book, The Power of Vision (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992, p. 28, 38-39) describes a vision as “ a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.” Yet, the popularity of Barna’s definition may have clouded the picture, as strategically-orientated pastors latched on to this definition, which lacks the complimentary emphasis that it is tactical leadership that will get you there.

[iv] Leith Anderson, Dying for Change (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany Publishing House, 1990), pp. 177-178.

[v] Phil Miglioratti, “Putting Your Laymen When They Will Do the Most Good,” The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook (Pasadena, Calif.: Church Growth Press, 1979), p. 146.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing House, 1981), pp. 380, 383-385.

[viii] C. Peter Wagner, Leading Your Church to Growth (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1984), p. 73-74.

[ix] John Kotter, A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1990).

[x] C. Peter Wagner, Leading Your Church to Growth, op. cit., pp. 141-165.

Speaking hashtags: #STO.  3-STRand   STRand   #ThinkTankOH  #TTOH   #3-STR #3-STRand. #TTIN

CHANGE BOUNDARIES & To Create Change That Unifies, You Need a Statement of Boundaries

Excerpted from ©Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church, Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 133-149.

A Statement of Change Boundaries (SCB) is a description of the boundaries across which change in a local church will not go beyond. The SCB depicts the limits, borders and boundaries of principles and actions across which congregants mutually agree that change should not cross. This exercise is critical for allying fears of reticent congregants, as well as ensuring that change does not fundamentally alter a church’s nature, will or character.

Not only principles are listed, but also examples of actions which cross congregational boundaries. Thus, an SCB has the following characteristics.

  1. Some parts of the statement are evolving and some are not.
  • Not changing: Principles of the church (i.e. nature, will and character) and theology should not change.
  • Changing: Actions will change due to changes in relationships (Type-7 change) or because different action is warranted (Type-8 change).
  1. The SCB is regularly reviewed before any major change is implemented to ensure that changes do not cross predefined boundaries.
  2. The SCB is published regularity to help define the character, personality and direction of the congregation.
  3. The SCB is less than one page, single-spaced (approximately 350 words per page), with one additional page (again 350 words) of examples.
  4. The SCB is consulted whenever a potentially divisive change is considered. In such circumstances, the following action is taken:
  • The change is seen to be consistent with the SCB.
  • Or if the change crosses a boundary of the SCB the following is undertaken.
  1. Discussion is opened to consider changes in the SCB. (This would follow the format outlined later in this chapter under STEP 6.)
  2. If the change is deemed to be beyond the boundaries the congregation has currently adopted, then the change is not implemented.

8-Steps To Creating a Statement of Change Boundaries

STEP 1: Do Your Homework

Denominational Theology and Traditions

Churches have personalities and theologies based upon denominational and local histories, perspectives and convictions. To craft a Statement of Change Boundaries first requires a consultation of the denominational statement of faith. These are the basic values that undergird the network of churches to which a congregation may belong.[i] Reading and understanding each of the points in a statement of faith is a critical beginning place for understanding boundaries.

For example, a non-instrumental Church of Christ may want to ensure that musical boundaries include the denominational preference for non-instrumental worship. In these congregations, worship is conduced by voices only without musical accompaniment. This is an important distinctive for churches of this denomination, and they may wish to include a statement in their SBC that changes in worship will not cross the non-instrumental boundary into instrumental forms.

In addition, there is little that could prevent a non-instrumental congregation from having Modern Worship or even Postmodern Worship with voice accompaniment only. I have witnessed in many youthful Organic Congregations engaging and compelling worship services where instruments were eschewed in lieu of a cappella praise.

Unique Characteristics of Your Congregation

Each congregation has unique giftings[ii] that should be reflected in its Statement of Change Boundaries.[iii] Here are some examples of unique characteristics that can be found in individual congregations:

  • Some churches are uniquely gifted in music.
  • Other congregations are noted for the oratory of their speakers and teachers.
  • Churches may have unique giftings such as an emphasis upon supporting missionaries and mission programs.
  • Other congregations may have a multigenerational, multiracial, and/or multiethnic composition.
  • Often churches are known for the ministries they provide for the community, such as one or more of the following:
    • A thrift shop,
    • A food pantry,
    • A 12-step program,
    • Support for a specific community program, such as Habitat for Humanity, United Way, special educational programs, etc.,
    • A teen ministry,
    • A daycare program,
    • A preschool,
  • And churches are known for the ministries they provide for the community and congregation, such as:
    • Ministry to youth,
    • A choir,
    • A women’s ministry,
    • A men’s ministry,
    • Young Adult ministry,
    • Small groups,
    • Sunday School classes,
    • A primary and/or secondary school,

For example, a church that has a highly active Stephen Ministry program will want to ensure that this is reflected in their change boundaries. Stephen Ministry[iv] is a training program that empowers and trains volunteers within the congregation to “provide one-to-one Christian care to hurting people in and around your congregation.”[v] This program, which is highly valued and effective should be reflected in the Statement of Change Boundaries.

If a program like Stephen Ministries was not reflected in the SBC, conflict and clashes could erupt over new ideas. For example, in a church with a vibrant Stephen Ministry, a change in the church’s charter to require that all hospital visitation be conducted by ordained clergy might cross a boundary stating “we will no nothing that undermines, weakens or destabilizes our church’s Stephen Ministry.” Stephen Ministries are often highly involved in hospital visitation, and taking away this duty would severely undercut the program in many churches. When support of the Stephen Ministry is reflected in a Statement of Change Boundaries, conflicting ideas become less divisive, for those pushing for change can readily see that it goes against one of the unique characteristics of this congregation. And, this story actually happened (but unfortunately a SCB was not in place, and conflict ensured). It has been my experience that SCBs help communicate throughout a congregation those things that the church feels are important. And, as a result changes that undermine a unique congregational focus are usually not pursued.

A final example might help. A client church felt deeply that its choir, though now somewhat decimated by old age, was still a viable strength of the congregation. In fact, the community knew of this church primarily because of its gifted choir, even though they were waning in numbers. And thus, the choir leader, whose first name was Varner, was an icon in the area. Varner had led choir camps for many years at a nearby religious retreat center, and he had personally led dozens of adult choir tours to Europe. To the community and to this church, the choir director and the choir were a core competency.

A new pastor was assigned to this congregation, and he set out to attract the many Baby Boomers who lived in this area. Since there was only one Sunday worship service, and the choir took up a good portion of that service, the pastor decided that the choir should be replaced by a modern worship team. “They (the choir) only number 18 people,” the pastor recalled. “And, people have been asking for contemporary music for years.” As a result, and against this consultant’s advice, the pastor ended the choir program and replaced it with a worship team. The choir leader took me aside at my next visit and complained about the introduction of what he called “radio music.” Akin to music he heard (only in fleeting moments) on the radio, Varner was aghast that the pastor would end such an important program. Also aghast were the choir, the community and many congregants who enjoyed the choir-emphasis at the one service. As a result, many of the status quo discontinued their attendance and their support. But they did not leave the church, but rather waited in the background until either the pastor might be gone or he had made a misstep.

Several months, two pastoral missteps and much tension later, the choir was reconstituted. This time, more participants swelled its ranks, almost in protest of the pastor’s erstwhile decision. “It would have been easier if I had some indication of how much the spirit of that choir was still alive in this church,” the pastor confided. He had in the inaugural enthusiasm of his tenure overlooked the choir ministry as a unique gift of this church. He would never do so again. And thus, in this scenario a SCB could have been helpful. The SCB could have alerted a new pastor to a historical and anointed musical ministry that distinguished this church, and as such the pastor could have observed a boundary that he dared not naively cross.

STEP 2: Create An Example

Congregants often need an example of a SCB to unleash their creative juices. Examples provide a structure, a configuration and a demarcation of what you are proposing. However, this example should be just that … a model or pattern, but not a final SCB.

Download the rest of the instructions for creating Change Boundaries here: book-whitesel-excerpt-change-reaction-chpt-7-change-boundaries


[i] If a church does not belong to a denomination, then it is usually helpful to consult the statement of faith of a comparable church and/or its denomination. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure in even new and/or non-affiliated churches, that there is an awareness of historical creeds and vital elements of orthodoxy.

[ii] Saying that a local congregation has unique giftings does not indicate that these giftings are limited to only one congregation. By unique giftings I mean those congregational strengths that the Holy Spirit has empowered the congregation to contribute to the local ministry matrix. As such, these giftings will be noticed by people outside of the congregation as well as within the congregation as unique gifts of this congregation to the Lord and to the community.

[iii] Unique giftings that churches may possess are sometimes called core competencies. Core competencies are skills and attributes in which a church is uniquely gifted and which are recognized as such by the church and the community. Thus, core competencies are those things an organization does well and possess four traits: they are valuable, rare, costly to imitate, and non-substitutable. Another way to say this is that “core competencies distinguish a company competitively and reflect its personality” (Michael A. Hitt, R. Duane Ireland, and Robert E. Hoskisson, Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalization, 4th ed., Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Publishing, 2001, p. 113). For more information about core competencies, see Hitt, et. al..

[iv] For information about Stephen Ministries, visit their website:

[v], 2007. A fuller definition is, “in Stephen Ministry congregations, lay caregivers (called Stephen Ministers) provide one-to-one Christian care to the bereaved, hospitalized, terminally ill, separated, divorced, unemployed, relocated, and others facing a crisis or life challenge. Stephen Ministry helps pastors and congregations provide quality caring ministry for as long as people need it” (Introduction to Stephen Ministry,, 2007).

Speaking hashtags: #NewDirectionChurch

WORSHIP & Reasons Why Blending Worship May Not Be An Effective Evangelistic Strategy

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/24/15.

A student once tendered the following query.

“You really believe that three services are necessary to reach the three different generations? I understand a little difference in order to reach a different group, but three seems a little over the top…. Our church currently has two services. One is praise and worship, and one is Traditional. These two services have come with pros and cons at our church. It has expanded the ministry and allowed us to reach some new people. It also has created some division among some who don’t like the other service or feel the two services are actually driving the two groups further apart instead of together.  Personally, I am a proponent of a well blended service. Ideally this brings generations together in the same service and teaches them both about compromise when it comes to music styles. I will say for this to work the musicians and music leaders must be good and do a good job of blending the music. Music hopefully is a tool to lead us to worship, that is why I don’t get hung up on styles. I have a problem with those that think only one style is the correct way to worship.”

These are good, and common questions.  And, here are my answers.

Hello ___student_name___;

You queried, “You really believe that three services are necessary to reach the three different generations?”  Yes, I do.  However, variations of this exist so let me give you some general parameters.

Some churches will have a traditional (reaching older adults who want stability in their increasingly unstable lives), blended (really a Christian variation that can seem culturally confusing to unchurched people), contemporary (upbeat with a backbeat) and modern (more engagement and improvisation, see my case-study book: Inside the Organic Church, 2006).

You noted that this has “allowed us to reach some new people.”  That is good news!  And, wait until you read Chip Arn’s book, How to Start New Service (a textbook for this course) and you will see that his research supports your conclusion: more variation in service styles has been proven numerically to reach more people for Christ!

But, I also think you can see that each of these worship expressions are stylistically different enough to require separate venues, or a sizable segment will not relate and not worship.  While your desire to mature people by “teaching them to compromise” is a laudable goal (and one with which I wholehearted agree), the worship service man not be the best venue for this.  You see, if you have only a blended service you will lose some of the babes-in-Christ because they may not be ready for adult food.   Romans 15:1ff is as good summation of the writer’s argument that for salvation sake, we must try not to put roadblocks (if they are culturally inspired and morally neutral) in the path of young believers.

Thus, if your goal is to reach the unchurched and introduce them to Christ, you will need to get them into an environment where they are not uncomfortable or perplexed by the culturally-derived aesthetics.  You won’t want to leave them there. But, you will want them to be able to start there, in a place where they are more culturally comfortable.  This is what a missionary does, they take the Good News and put it cultural aesthetics (and worship styles) of a society.

Since my purpose is to introduce them into an encounter with God, it makes sense to present the encounter in the most relevant (to them) way possible.

Many people note that this creates division.  And, it does.  But I am not sure that worship is the best venue for unity.  One young man I asked about this responded to me “you can’t create unity in worship, the seats face the wrong way.”

That is why I agree with you that we need to foster compromise.  I wrote two books about this: Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church (Abingdon Press, 2010) and Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

But, to create this unity I am not sure worship is the best venue, for it is a place of spiritual encounter.  Thus, you will notice in my books that I strongly emphasize that we supplement varied worship venues with new community spaces where people can gather after church and talk about the same message they heard in the different culturally stylistic venues.  Therefore unity experiences and venues, where people can fellowship and get to know each other, must be created.  It means not trying to create this in worship, for there it can rob us of our heavenward focus.  But rather it means creating unity experiences and opportunities; and offer as many each week as we offer worship experiences.

EVALUATION & Websites for Tracking Ministry Objectives

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/2/15.

I’ve asked my students to help me create a list of helpful websites or software programs that can help track the numbers in a church or ministry.  Such tools can be especially helpful if they let you track participation in small groups as a percentage of overall attendance (this would allow you to track “maturation growth” or what is also called “growth in maturity” Acts 2:42)

Below are a few sites that can help with data gathering. They will probably invigorate tactical leaders (those who lead by numerical analysis) and will make life easier for strategic leaders (those who lead by vision) and operational leaders (those who lead by relationships).(1)

Automated Church Systems:

Life Church in Edmond, OK (This church you may remember was an example of a church with healthy growth which I profiled in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Congregation (2004).

More to come …

(1) If you can’t remember the distinctions between Strategic-Tactical-Operational leadership see Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change in Your Church (The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 31-46).  You can also take a test to discover your leadership traits on pp. 46-47 of the book or click here: