Image“I believe that God has been working on me my whole life.  Every experience that I have had, both good and those that have been challenging, have led me to this point.  In Christ, I am a new creation that comes to the table with all of my past experiences and with my hope in Him for the future.  My prayer is that at Infinite Grace Fellowship, God would empower each of us to impact the lives of those in our community for the Kingdom of God and that the Good News would be spread far and wide both in word and in action to make disciples of Christ to then make more disciples of Christ.  We are going to be doing church differently and it is exciting!”

Christmas Invitation

Christmas Worship Invitation

I work with a lot of churches that are in the process of intentional revitalization.  This is often a strenuous exercise and commitment on the congregation that they have chosen to engage to become a vital congregation.  One of the core success principles is “connect with your ministry community”.

There are some churches that are experiencing success in reconnecting to the community, energizing spiritual formation, developing new styles of worship and infusing a new sense of purpose within the congregation.  This is exciting to see as pastors and congregations do a community asset map, congregational asset map, analyze Mission Insite demographics and engage in focus groups in the community.

I am also noticing another trend.  There are congregations who are working on revitalization but experiencing little success, in fact many of these congregations are stagnant or still in decline.  I have conducted and just completed a non scientific analysis and I have concluded that they have more administrative meetings than they have ministry gatherings.

The administrative tasks of committees are important to ordering the life of the church but ministry takes place in the small groups, community fellowships, serving the needs of those who live in our communities, worship, and sharing the Gospel with those who are far from God.  I fear that too many UMC pastors are well equipped as administrative managers but not transformative congregational leaders.  Administrative management is safe because we know what to expect but transformative ministry is sometimes messy and there are no road maps.

To accomplish the goals of the Call to Action and to revitalize congregations,  pastors must shift from a task management style of leadership to a visionary, transformative style of leadership.

  • Identify and attend leadership training opportunities
  • Streamline your administrative tasks.  Eliminate any unnecessary meetings
  • Reduce the number of people who are on the church council
  • Increase the number of leaders who participate in small groups
  • Ask the question, “how is this gathering going to move our congregation closer to achieving our mission and vision?”  (Non life transforming meetings are not a good use of a disciple’s time)
These are just a few things that I am watching revitalizing congregations do that are working.

Congregational Transformation has at least three pillars. It must be Spiritual, Systematic and Sensitive.

Spiritual transformation deals with our individual and shared community life. Personal spiritual transformation requires reaffirmation, recommitment and reclaiming your:

  • salvation through grace–
      • Romans 51 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
  • commitment to live your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ
    • Prayer Time – Time to talk and listen to God
    • Bible Study – Learning how to live as a follower of Christ as you participate in Living in Faith Everyday small group studies
    • Worship Celebrating God’s goodness in our lives
    • Service – Providing the needs of those in need
    • Sharing – Sharing your faith journey with pre Christians
    • Fellowshipping with other believers

Faith community transformation includes

  • Celebration of God’s Goodness in Worship
  • Community prayer times

Systematic transformation means that every ministry team and committee in the church is engaged in the process. The transformation includes the front office and how we provide administration. The transformation includes the worship ministry team and how they approach designing worship services around the ministry themes. Systematic transformation includes the choir and the types of music that will be sung. The trustees are being transformed as they make decisions that will ensure that our facilities are safe and prepared to house the ministries that are in existence and those that are in development. The church council will be experiencing transformation as they will be challenged to make decisions based on the churches mission, vision and values. Systematic transformation takes time, a lot of time. It will take 3-5 years for us to begin to see significant change. Staying the course will not be easy and true transformation is not a linear process. We may experience quick results in some areas and slower results in others with no predictive indicators about which one we will experience.

Sensitive transformation means that the leaders are sensitive to how the pace of change is affecting our lives together. Some people can absorb weekly changes to everything from the bulletin to the styles of music being chosen. These people usually like variety and diversity and would easily be bored with everything being the same all of the time. This segment of the population is small in comparison to the group of people who seek to experience stability in their congregational life. Nuances of change bring great anxiety because, “We’ve always done it this way”, “ We have been told that this is the right way, “ or “Why should anything change, we have done it this way successfully for 40 years.” These values that members share must be embraced as change takes place. Sensitive transformation acknowledges the fact that the church has developed a culture over many years. There needs to be several places for sacred listening so that the concerns of the congregants can be expressed without negative evaluations, unnecessary critique and personal attacks. There needs to be training and education that provides logical transitions from the established paradigms of church into the new paradigms.

Transformation is never easy but the rough edges can be smoothed out if the leaders share the plan that God has given you, assist the leaders to embrace the plan, communicate the plan constantly and if we care more about the people than the transformation.