by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Sometimes I truly believe us Christian-folk make Christianity far more difficult than it needs to be. WHY? One reason may be that humans often become frozen by either fear of the unknown or prideful in assuming they have all the answers to the bigger questions of life. Clearly, humanity finds itself trapped in a persistent emotional trap of THINKING TOO MUCH! To a great degree, Christianity is no different. The building blocks of the “Christian” mission is quite simple….do-able….even reasonable to expect. Because of the context of this belief, I want to make it “plain” about the foundational aspects of our journey of faith. It would be foolish to try and make you believe there are not hundreds of complex levels of how one could experience God through Christ; of this, there is no doubt. However, we are going to earnestly attempt for the next few paragraphs to simplify who we are, what we are called to become, and how we are connected to the God who called us into the loving and empowering arms of Christ.
So, here we go. Here is a clear….concise….and easy to understand roadmap to local church success.
Most people would recognize the acronym of E.S.P. as representing Extra Sensory Perception. However, in issues of growing both local congregations and the individual Christian alike, E.S.P. represents a different understanding of the higher levels of an effective Christian organizational development and sustainability. The three of categories of importance are:
Effective Communication Skills,
Shared Authority, and
Passionate Displays of Sincerity.
Without effective, shared, and passionate congregational leadership, people are not reached, assimilated, and cared for in the way God intends. Without this E.S.P. style of leadership, lives are not changed, needs are not met, and people are not mobilized into ministry. Without Christian E.S.P. leadership, mediocrity is accepted, goals are not pursued, and change is refused. Without Christian E.S.P. leadership, vision, and the Divine understanding of God’s direction will be grossly ignored.
If you or your church desire to create the practical commitment required when addressing the need for dramatic growth in areas such as; Christian Education Programs, Community Outreach, Small Group Ministries, or discipleship mentoring, then I would suggest gathering your current leadership for a couple of hours or more one day soon to have an open and honest conversation regarding the above concepts of Christian E.S.P.
Ask your current leadership to come to this meeting prayerfully planning to “honestly” evaluate the actual situation your particular corner of God’s vineyard finds itself. Then urgently and thoughtfully put together an evaluation plan of all existing ministries and set a firm date (3-6 months in the future) to gather again.
Whatever is practically valuable to the age group, educational realities, social assumptions, physical requirements, financial challenges, and spiritual goals of the actual parish your congregation resides within (5 minute drive/15 minute walk from the front door of the church) you are encouraged to lean on the “naked truth.” This naked TRUTH will be concerning the tangible outcomes “actually wanted” by the demographic associated with each ministry opportunity.
As you work through this evaluation process, MAKE SURE there are also non-members… community-based…”no dogs in the fight”….participants who are encouraged and empowered to fully invest in the discovery process as well as invited in the implementation of each ministry.
Here are the only categories to consider during this 3-6 months evaluation period.
- Identify the good, the uncomfortable, and the failures
- Offer the means and accountability to correct what is broken. If your team is not able or will to immediately and passionately fix it….no matter how long it has been in existence or whose grandmother initiated it…Get rid of WHY? Because it is simply not producing sustainable biblical based fruit.
- Because the vast majority of churches in the United States have limited funds to work with, celebrate, invest, and support significantly any missional program, discipleship process, and practical growth mechanism that is working well, and finally,
- Whatever is relative, important, and practically valuable to the age group, educational realities, social assumptions, physical requirements, financial challenges, and spiritual goals of the actual parish the congregation reside within (generally defined as a 10 minute drive/15 minute walk from the front door of the church) commit for the next 10 years to encourage and empowering that which needs to grow specifically within the existing and future body of members.
After you have determined what is hindering growth, after you have figured out where you are going to go, and how you are going to get there, you will need to have to provide an environment that supports a positive path to accomplish these goals. Here are 5 areas to start with in your congregation’s installment of both new spiritual atmosphere as well as a few tangible tools to deploy that new atmosphere. None of these areas of concentration are more important than any others. In fact, if they are all approached with equal value and effort you will witness great rewards for the kingdom of God.
PRAYER/VISION. In a Christian setting it is always important to lead change out of prayer and vision. Time spent in prayer is never wasted and leading out of a relationship with our Lord will ensure greater success. Share the big picture regularly. Call all levels of church leadership to join you in prayer. Don’t rush while God is given time to speak clearly!
COMMUNICATION. Multiple communication opportunities and delivery vehicles are necessary. A good assumptive rule to lean on is;
If you are trying to guide “church-folks” to do something of any significant value you will have to tell them the following rationales AT LEAST 6 times.
- What it is….
- Why it’s important….
- How others and themselves will be positive effected by the future course of action….
- What the Bible says about it… and
- Why God will be specifically served by what they will be working toward.
This takes time so give yourself enough lead time to get it accomplished. Involve they take ownership of the communication process. Always be willing to adjust your thinking and methods when a better or more efficient way offered.
RELATIONSHIPS. Trust is essential for leadership to be effective and transformation to be accomplished smoothly. You will not build effective and sustainable trust without strong relationships. Relationships take time to develop. Intentionally and strategically spend time getting to know current and potential leaders before our team attempts to implement the entire church through a transformation process. By doing this your will have the relationships needed to accomplish the task.
ASSESSMENT/PREPARATION. Do your homework. Research. Look at statistics. Talk with church and community leaders. Listen. Ask questions. Evaluate. Weigh options. Before heading down the road of change, be prepared for as many questions as you can anticipate. Expect questions and encourage them. This will pay big dividends.
BE FLEXIBLE/ADJUST. Adjustments are not unusual in the process of leading a change process. Be flexible. Keep moving forward in the change process while making any needed adjustments to the process. Again, being flexible and allowing needed adjustments offered by others may add extra time to the change, but they more often than not can be the very steps that make the desired change permanent and successful.
After you have identified your atmosphere priorities, consider answering the following questions when preparing to secure your congregation’s sustainable transformation.
DEMONSTRATE. In what way can you model the change that is desired and also how can the modeling of the transformation needed be demonstrated so that it will be both received and understood? In what way(s) can your leadership team model the change that is desired so the congregation will help to initiate and sustain each component of the transformation needed?
TEACH. Find several ways to teach the change that is desired to your leaders and/or members BEFORE any tangible change is installed into the environment of the congregation. By becoming thoroughly aware of the dynamics of the group you can then determine how you will teach them to understand the process and elements of the change? Don’t assume that if you will be able to instruct once or in one way or method. It will take a variety of opportunities in a variety of styles to place into the minds of the congregation anything of sustainable value. By preparing the way thoroughly…and not rushing the process…you will be able to teach the desired change in a variety of methods and venues so that it is reinforced and understood.
REWARD. How can you teach the change to your leaders and/or members? How can you reward those who implement the change? How can you reward those who have success with the change? How can you bring attention to progress in large venues? How can you reward progress privately?
Demonstrate It! Teach It! Reward It!
Simple and yet powerful!
- Identify Needs.
- Make plans to model, teach, and reward the tangible transformation needed and you will be successful….and
- God will be glorified!
Now that I have given you a clear direction and a few suggestions on how to accomplish E.S.P. —– go put this concept into practice and watch how your local congregation dramatically expands. By installing this sustainable growth process of E.S.P. you will be able to watch how your personal discipleship and evangelistic fervor expands, and most importantly you will watch how the congregation begins to assume successful outcomes will far outweigh the assumptions of failure.