Friday, May 09, 2008

Real change starts with little movements

There is a great temptation in churches to try to bring about change from the top down. The thinking is, the leadership decided this, go out and tell people, and they will do it. However, while some might go for such marching orders, most will not. Human nature kicks in and many will naturally resist.

How then, do you bring about change in a congregation? Change happens primarily from a gound up, grassroots movement. While it is great to have all or most of those in leadership "on board," there merely needs to be enough support from the top to not kill change movements.

Missional leaders can start change movements in the following way:
1. Start to raise awareness of the missional concept through preaching, teaching, and most especially, through individual conversations.
2. Begin to work with a small group of individuals who really "get the concept." This group of individuals who are Innovators and first adopters may constitute 10% of the congregation.
3. Start some missional outreaches with the Innovators. Sell these as being "experiments" if there is resistance from others.
4. Begin to expand the circle of missional adopters to key leaders who have the influence with others who are less innovative. (Often the innovators are at the fringe of the official power circle.) These Influence Brokers will be able to spread the concept through their relational channels.

After these steps are taken, people will generally be able to see the success of the experimental missional outreaches and will hear the support of the Influence Brokers. This will lead to full scale adoption by most of the leadership and congregation. However, there is a danger now that the movement--which was once fluid and dynamic--will become institutionalized, as the leadership seeks to "get this under control." If this happens, then the entire process must start all over.

What causes such resistance to new ideas and positive change in a church? How have you seen this overcome?


Anonymous said...

James- I appreciate you sharing your thoughts about being a missional church. I respect the fact that you live what you teach others to do. You not only put together strategies and discuss resources, you are about the mission of saving people each day.

I have seen many churches struggle to pay the bills. Struggle to find quality leaders. Struggle to be organized. They want to hold onto what worked 50 years ago. They see some safety and security in "not rocking the boat." Many good Christians don't give themselves "permission" to rethink ways to minister,etc..

Look at Paul- wowza. He wasn't the guy that I would pick to be a leader. Would elders in today's churches have approved of Jesus' actions? Spending time with tax collectors, prostitutes???

Matt B

James said...


Thank you for your encouragement! Living a life that is in line with our words is a challenge. I am so thankful for people like you who have taken up the missional call in their daily lives.

As to your question about Jesus and elders--if you throw Jesus into just about any church today, he would cause an uproar. This is the guy that overturned tables and hung out with all of the wrong people. Have wen fall into the mindset of those whom Jesus chastised the most, the religious leaders of his day?

Anonymous said...

One of the moments that shocked me the most growing up was in 1998 or thereabouts. We had a program called "Pioneer Clubs" (similar to Kawanis or lite Boyscouts) at our church every Wednesday night, and it had been running for about 5 years. Initially it was very popular and lots of kids from the community came, but by 1998 it had dwindled to almost nothing.

A meeting was held and it was suggested that we stop Pioneer Clubs. One of the parents was extremely upset and said, "But we have always done Pioneer Clubs, and we will continue to do so!" This program, let me remind you, wasn't 50 years old. It was 5. I was even one of the kids targeted by the program, and even I thought it was over and done with.

You should talk about the TOTC problem, too. (That's "Think of the Children".) That's where you use children as an excuse to do anything. It's typically used to infringe upon First Amendment rights, but I know it's used to get in the way of progress, too: "This missional program will take parents away from their children!" "This missional program takes children away from their Bible classes!", etc. etc.

What was Jesus very first miracle? Serving alcohol to drunk people (John 2). Surely whatever we do in his name can't be as controversial as that!