MULTIPLICATION & “3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times”

Ed Stetzer, Twitter, 12/10/19.  
3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times.  
You can follow Ed Stetzer on Twitter: @edstetzer

TURNAROUND CHURCH & My new article published: 3 Ways Turnaround Pastors Can Overcome A Negative Mindset … in Themselves!

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 7/1/19.

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Younger people today are discovering churches best grow when focused upon creating community.

So rather than trying to be as good a preacher as a famous mega-pastor, spend your time developing community and commonality within the church. Create church-wide unity building events. And create a vision that all segments of your church can embrace and get behind. Research has found (Bruno Dyck and Fredricks Stark, Administrative Science Quarterly) that pastors who held unity events that united church around a common purpose, created a “community” that was attractive rather than a program or a pastor. So work on finding that mission that everybody in the church can get behind. And, spend as much time working on it as you do your sermons.

I can’t turn around a church because I’ve never done it before. 

This may be the second most common negative mindset. And, this stands to reason, because we are always intimated by what we have not yet experienced. But Paul, who had his own series of challenges, states, “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.” (1 Corinthians 7:17 MSG).

Today there is a growing number of good resources that can equip the pastor to turn around a church, so that prior experience, while helpful, is not mandatory.

Magazines like “Church Revitalizer” magazine and resources like Renovate Conferences offer church leaders the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by successful church turnaround leaders.

I allow each year a handful of potential turnaround coaches to shadow me and learn the turnaround coaching insights I’ve gained from doing this for 30 years and earning two doctorates on the subject (Fuller Theological Seminary). The shadowing program is called MissionalCoaches.com and dozens have graduated from this program and gone on to help turn around churches.

So while prior experience is helpful, the proliferation of good resources like this magazine and other sources means that having experience turning around a church is not a requisite to doing an effective job.

I can’t turn around a church because I don’t like the traditional way of doing things; and I want to do things in a new way.  

There is nothing wrong with innovative and contemporary forms of worship and ministry. But traditional forms of worship and ministry are also valid for the people who connect through those aesthetic forms. Because you don’t like their styles doesn’t mean God doesn’t use their traditional liturgical aesthetics to connect them to God.

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I learned this firsthand, growing up in a mega-church with traditional Gospel Quartet music. The Bill Gaither Trio were often guests at our church meetings. I grew up to associate their country-influenced Gospel music with my parents’ church. But that wasn’t my style. My parents loved it. And I love my parents and the Good News they instilled in me. But I yearned for a younger musical style, to which I and my friends could relate. African-American rhythm and blues and the resultant rock ‘n’ roll music resonated with me. But it also led me to see the church as culturally different from the aesthetics I enjoyed. Subsequently, I found little relevance in the church and into the world of rock ‘n’ roll I journeyed. Yet in that world, I found other young people who loved rock ‘n’ roll and also loved Jesus even more. As a result of their culturally relevant presentation of the Good News to me, I gave my life to Jesus and set upon a path of writing and leading contemporary worship. 

However, because I saw the church as captive to traditional and Gospel music, I developed an unhealthy aversion for older forms of music. That was until I met a beautiful Lutheran girl, who was much more spiritual than me. Yet to her the Lutheran hymns of her church had provided a spiritual strength and wisdom during her youth. She showed me that her music was just a different style than mine, but which for her was still relevant. She gave me an appreciation and love for classical music to this day. Subsequently I became a connoisseur of Charles Wesley and his great hymns.

Our family appreciates a healthy mix of both traditional music and contemporary music. My wife’s loving example of aesthetic flexibility led me to a more holistic life and allowed me to write several books on how to have both traditional and contemporary music in the same church.

Turnaround church leaders learn how to bring unity out of diversity.

Often a dying church will have one form of music and worship aesthetic. It may be a traditional form, it could be a gospel music form, or it could even be a contemporary form. What happens is a church offers only one liturgical aesthetic. And because people have come to connect with God through that particular style, they strongly resist any changes. Change means interfering with their communication with God.

But usually another generation or demographic will emerge that has a different musical appreciation and aesthetic style. And, they will usually go to a new church down the street that offers their liturgical aesthetic. The problem is that this new church down the street usually winds up being as homogeneous as the church that was left behind. What results is that our churches tend to focus on one liturgical aesthetic. Then they rise and die with that aesthetic.

Many turnaround church pastors undertake a strategy I call “1+1 +1 = 1” (“A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church” Abingdon Press). This means allowing traditional congregants to keep their historical way of worship while adding a new worship opportunity. This can be done by hosting a 20-minute pre-glow (pre-service) with a different style of music. Or it can be accomplished by hosting a post-glow (post-service) with 20 minutes of a different style of music. Eventually this can emerge into two worship opportunities. I’ve helped churches do this even when they were small, just a couple dozen people. 

The key is to move toward offering two or more liturgical expressions that can relate to both the existing church culture and the emerging culture of a neighborhood or community. Yet people often say, “You’re spitting the church part.” But you’re only allowing them to self-select the cultural expression of worship that they enjoy. And, the running of the church (e.g. its administration, mission, focus and health) should still be conducted by committees and boards made up of people from different cultures. I’ve often said, you learn more about a different culture by working on a committee with them, than by warming a pew next to them. It has been my experience as a missiologist that you gain more cultural understanding by strategizing, compromising, sharing and dialoguing in a committee setting than you do by simply sitting adjacent to them in chruch. 

So though a turnaround church leader will usually prefer their own worship style, they must be careful to not inadvertently prioritize their preferences over those of others. Instead, multiple worship expressions can be valid means to connect the different cultures in a church to God.  Even if you don’t enjoy their music, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn about it, understand it and help others connect with God through it. Subsequently, alongside a traditional worship expression you can create a second culturally distinct liturgical expression, that another generation or culture can connect with as well. Though everyone has their own preferred style of worship, a church turnaround leader will usually be the principle connector between the the different cultures God is sending to a church.

Download the entire article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Church Revitalizer Magazine July:Aug 2019 Overcome a Negative Mindset

You will find more about Church Revitalizer Magazine and how to subscribe here: http://renovateconference.org/magazine

BIO: Bob Whitesel DMIN PhD teaches “Church Revitalization” for Fuller Theo. Seminary’s DMin, which can be audited this fall (see the ad in this issue). Bob is an award-winning author/consultant on church health and growth. He been called “the key spokesperson on change theory in the church today” by a national magazine, co-founded an accredited seminary and leads one of the nation’s most respected church health consulting/coaching firms: www.ChurchHealth.net

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RENEWAL & 4 ways to renew your church #ChurchCentral @BobWhitesel

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., article published by Church Central, 3/1/17.

So what is wrong with wanting to create a new church with vibrancy, life, and energy in hopes that it will grow and survive? Well, there is nothing wrong with this aim. But if the aim to become a new organization is your primary focus, you will never become uncommonly new. Let me explain why. Here are four types of new:

1. Church newness 

Often church leaders think that creating a new church organizational structure will revitalize their church. Sometimes they do this by streamlining their hierarchy, simplifying their programs, firing or hiring staff, or merging a church with another congregation. The hope is that some organizational newness will foster a freshness that can revive the church. But if this is your strategy, you will fail at becoming a uncommon church.

Attempting to restructure the organization will not cultivate the supernatural community that God designed his church to be. New programs, staff, and structures will only survive until the next new thing emerges, and then the church will be antiquated (and common) again. Restructuring the church into something new, while laudable, cannot create a long-term uncommon church. This is because God desires that his church’s newness emerge from people, not structures.

2. Newcomer newness and transfer growth 

Still other congregations hope that improving their hospitality and assimilation of newcomers will create a new church. And, many helpful books can assist a church in better connecting newcomers to a congregation.1

But while connecting newcomers with a community of faith is an important task, it will not create the all-encompassing sense of newness that is needed to revive a common church. Newcomers certainly bring a sense of expectation, innovation, and camaraderie. But the fact is that in many churches the newcomers are refugees from other churches, visiting your church in hopes of something they are not getting at their previous congregation. In fact, there is a name for church growth that results from Christians church-shopping: transfer growth.2

While transfer growth is important since it helps ensure that Christians are getting plugged into a congregation, it does not create the kind of newness that an uncommon church needs. Donald McGavran said, “By transfer growth is meant the increase of certain congregations at the expense of others . . . But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.”3

For true newness to spread through a congregation, the supernatural newness that God intended is needed. This sense of newness arises from people in spiritual need being spiritually and physically transformed. Such newness pervades a congregation with a hope and a passion that no other newness can match.

3. Churchgoer newness 

Sometimes leaders pick up this book because deep down they want to see their church attendees changed. Leaders are often tired of the wrangling, petty grudges, and poor attitudes that many churchgoers exhibit. Thus, they say to themselves, “If I could only change the people in the church and make them new, that would then change the organization.”

Changing people’s attitudes is important. But churchgoer newness is not the vital type of newness that God intends to characterize the uncommon church. Another more never-ending newness is at the heart of God’s purpose for his church. There is an eternal newness that springs forth when humans receive supernatural power to change their lives for the good and begin afresh.

4. Newness for those in spiritual need 

This is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church. It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness). Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and from where supernatural newness comes.

In the previous articles we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring. Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated. Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L., and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness. They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, and be more loving, kind, and generous. But something deep inside of each of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions. The cure— the real, long-term cure—for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation. And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2.

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012). For further online notes: See Chapter 7 Complete Notes.

Church Central published Bob Whitesel’s latest article on four ways to renew a church. Whitesel, professor of missional leadership at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University is a respected researcher, author and speaker. As a Fellow with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, his article describes four things almost any church can do to begin the renewal process. You can find the article on the ChurchCentral.com main page. And, receive more information about Wesley Seminary and Whitesel’s courses on church renewal and growth at Wesley.Indwes.edu

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood #DWC #Kingswood2018

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

REVITALIZATION & Revitalizing Church Through an Outward Focus #EdStetzer

When members are personally evangelistic, churches can be revitalized

by Ed Stetzer, The Exchange, 2/23/16.

Church revitalization is a very real and important topic to many today because statistics indicate that the majority of churches are plateaued or declining. So, since the majority of churches are not growing, if you’re a church leader, pastor, or Christian leader reading this you’re probably in a church that needs revitalization.

Thom Rainer says:

Nine out of ten churches in North America are declining, or they are growing slower than the community in which they are located. Nine out of ten churches need revitalization.

Because of the large number of struggling churches, many people think we should focus on church planting. Others think we should look for new ways to fulfill the mission, such as in missional incarnational communities.

Both of these expressions are good and vital. But there are many churches that are simply in need of revitalization. I am a big proponent of revitalization. I have been involved in such projects as a pastor, and have researched and written about the process as well.

Why outward focus?

Various factors contribute to a transformational church. You can find some of those in the book Transformational Church. One of the things you will find in churches that are growing disciples and growing numerically is an emphasis on outward focus. It is so integral that outward focus should be a part of revitalizing a church.

When a congregation is engaging in ministry and mission it causes people to live not for themselves, but, to quote 2 Corinthians 5:15b (HCSB), “for the One who died for them and was raised,” they become again who God designed them to be. When a group of such people are gathered as God’s “called out” ones, they can revitalize a church…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/february/revitalization-part-1-outward-focus.html

CHANGE & First Aid for a Change Gone Bad

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, (Orlando, FL: Greater Orlando Baptist Assoc.), Jan-Feb. 2015, pp. 48-49, http://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/jan-feb-2015-the-church-revitalizer?e=0/12149636

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 or http://www.ChurchHealth.expert

Speaking Hashtags: #BreakForth16

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