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10 Keys to Managing Change in a Church

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Leading through change can be difficult. Leading a church through change can be near impossible. Churches in particular have a tendency to resist change because they get trapped by the comfort of past success, practices and traditions. It takes an incredible amount of wisdom, the art of timing, and plain old courage and grit.

Many churches I talk with want different results; they actually want to see more people meet Jesus and follow Jesus this year than last year. Unfortunately, they just aren’t willing to change, let go of old tactics and take a different approach.

Recently I had a conversation with a church staff team that is courageously leading their church through change. Here are a couple of things that came out of the conversation.

1. No Change is Perfectly Executed

No matter how well-planned change is, how good it looks on paper, or how much sense it makes in your head it’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to go. There is going to be a surprise. Something is going to take more or less time, cost more or less money, or be more or less difficult than you planned. Point is, work hard, plan your work, work your plan and then be flexible.

2. Communication is Key

During change management, communicating the right message to the right audience at the right time is essential and can take a lot of time. There are multiple audiences to communicate with including the church staff, the church board, lay leadership, volunteers, and the congregation to name a few. Some churches due to their polity and structures have even more groups to get on board.

3. Everyone Carries 2 Buckets Around with Them

Everyone carries around 2 buckets with them, a bucket of water and a bucket of gasoline. One fuels change the other puts it out. Water fuels change because it douses the fire of resistance. Gasoline puts change out because it fuels the fire of resistance. Anytime your staff listens to complaining and says, “I understand how you would feel that way” without redirecting them it pours gasoline on the situation and validates the complaint.

4. What about Me?

Most people are fine with change as long as it doesn’t affect them. One thing you can do to get on the solution side of positively leading through change is simply think those thoughts ahead of time. What are people going to embrace or reject about the change you’re trying to implement based on how it’s going to affect them (real or perceived), then address those pressure points.

5. It isn’t Easy

You know all those church conferences, books and blogs you read full of stories about how some pastor just turned things around at their church, “Jesus just paved the way.” Yea, it’s never really that easy. Change is hard, it takes time, and requires grit and courage. It is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who tells you any different hasn’t actually had to lead through change before.

6. The Ripple Effect

Change has a ripple effect that you often don’t seen until much later. It’s almost like painting one wall of a house you move into. It leads to another wall and another. And of course, then you need to change the flooring, the faucets, the cabinets, etc. Then it’s time to start on the outside of the house…ugh. Bottom line…change has a ripple effect.

7. The Minority can have a Majority Voice

In a season of change a small group of people can have a loud voice and make it seem like everyone is against you. The silent majority is typically with you and those who are positive about it rarely say they’re positive about it. It’s the negative few that always bark the loudest.

8. Lead Different with Different People

Remember what you read above? That communication is key in a season of change? Well it’s also key to remember that you don’t communicate to and lead every group of the same way. Anyone who has more than 1 kid knows you don’t parent every kid the same way…so why would you try to lead every group the same way?

9. Small Change can Reveal Big Issues

One small seemingly harmless change can tell you something about your church. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen church leaders try to change something that seemed small and innocent to them not to realize that they were stepping on a landmine that blew up. Make sure you truly understand not just what you’re changing things to become or how you’re going to change them but what it is your actually changing and why.

10. Training vs Challenging

Sometimes people don’t have the right information and they don’t understand why they should get on board with the change. Other times people don’t want to jump on board with the change because they have their own agenda.  Either way it can appear that people are digging their heals in and fighting you on the change you’re trying to make. What you’ve got to do as the leader is find out if they’re fighting due to ignorance or obstinace. You train ignorance and you challenge obstinance.

Interested in learning more about leading through change at your church? Check out these helpful articles.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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3 Pressure Points Facing Millennial Church Leaders

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I recently had the opportunity to spend some significant time with 10 talented young millennial church leaders and had a blast! If these leaders are any indication of what the future leaders of the church look like then rest assured, the church is in great hands.

That being said there were a couple of pressure points that came up over and over again in the conversations from different angles.

#1 Anxiety about the Future

It was interesting to listen to these young church leaders discuss their work. They really are passionate and committed to the ministry God has called them to. But they’re also anxious about it. Their ambition to move the ball down the court, help the ministry progress, and get things accomplished can keep them from enjoying and receiving the blessings of the very ministry God has given to them. I also picked up on a longing for a future bigger and better role and ministry at the expense of missing the fruit of what’s been given to them today. I’d encourage young leaders to be faithful to whatever God has put in front of you today and let Him be concerned about where He puts you and what He gives you tomorrow.

#2 Relaxing Today

Many of these young leaders referred to the inability to “turn it off.” Anyone who is deeply and personally connected to his or her work can relate to the difficulty of coming home from work and not thinking about work. Being present is essential to health in life and relationships. “Bringing work home with you,” can be a recipe to undermine your most important relationships. I’d encourage young leaders to learn to take your weekly days off, scheduling your time off that you have coming to you each year, and put the cell phone down when you’re with your family. If you don’t learn what fuels you, fills you, and then schedule those things into your life you’ll end up in some kind of a crisis in your 40’s or 50’s that you could have avoided.

#3 Workload Confusion

It was also intriguing to hear the weight with which they carried the ministry they are involved with. Many young church leaders really do feel as though they are really busy and that one day when they are in a more important role with a more important title, have more authority and more people working for them that ministry and work will be easier. While I agree that many of them are working hard, I think many are confused about hard work. The weight of and the busyness of doing ministry is a very real thing, but not compared to the weight of leading ministry. I’d encourage young leaders to enjoy the season of ministry they are in, learn as much as they possibly can, and not long for greater responsibility too much because you might get it. And when you do, you may discover that with greater responsibility, more staff, and a more important title comes more pressure than you’re feeling today.


Posted in Staffing

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How to Draft the Best Players for your Church Staff Team

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I love football (if you know much about me you know that I have an unhealthy obsession with Florida Gator Football) and I love watching the draft. I actually DVR’d the first 3 rounds…and watched them. I caught the highlights of the other 4 rounds on social media. It’s fun to root for kids you’ve seen play college ball, it’s fun to cheer on the home NFL team, and it’s fun to try and figure out the strategy of it all.

Selecting new players for your team can make your break your team. Get the right people and there is an infusion of new talent, new ideas, fresh eyes, and a new well of experiences to go to. One new hire can literally improve the performance of the entire team. But hire the wrong people…well that can literally set the ministry at your church back years. The good news is that people will tell you who they are during the process…you just need to listen to them and believe them. Stop hoping for them and seeing all of the potential in them and look for reality. Here’s a couple of tips that will help you along the way.

1. Turn on the Tape

Great teams turn on the tape. They don’t draft for potential they draft for production. What have they actually done? What results have they produced?

2. Interviews

Don’t do interviews alone, do them together as a team so everyone hears the same things and then debrief it later together without the candidate in the room. Ask them about past real life situations and see why they acted they way they did and what the results were. Then give them some hypotheticals that they may encounter in the role you’re looking at them for.

3. Dig Deep

Do your due diligence. Don’t just settle for the references they give you. No candidate is going to give you references that speak poorly of them. Dig. Talk to at least 2 past or current supervisors, 2 peers and 2 subordinates. And then ask them who else you should be talking to about the candidate. And don’t forget background and credit checks!

4. Fit the Scheme

You’ll notice that a lot of talent was passed up in the recent NFL Draft. While there are a lot of reasons a team may pass on a talented player, one of them is fit. Do they fit the team, the culture, the role, your approach, and where you’re going?

5. Improve the Locker Room

What will their impact be like on the team? You want to bring people in that are going to positively impact the whole team not just play their position well.

6. Best Available Player

Are they the best available player? Sometimes teams pass up great talent that would be a fantastic fit on their team because they’re waiting on the perfect candidate who isn’t available.

Want more help figuring out how to build a great hiring process and hire the right people at your church? Check out these 10 Articles that will Help your Church Make Better Hires!


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Why I’m the Lid to Growth at my Church

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One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that it’s usually the Sr. Leadership Team of a church that is the ultimate lid to growth. Many of them don’t see it and most of them wouldn’t agree with what I’m saying, but it’s true. Whether or not the Sr. Leadership Team of a church is willing to let go of authority, ministry decision making, and truly empower and lead through others can make or break a church.

Early in our multisite journey at Sun Valley we hadn’t developed the Campus Pastor role or team yet. So, like in most growing organizations, that meant double duty. I was serving as the Campus Pastor at our original location and serving as the Executive Pastor at the same time. I love leading teams and coaching church staff members, so it was really a fun season. But before long it became apparent that if I didn’t let go of leading the Lead Team on our original campus I would become the lid to growth at Sun Valley. I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to provide the church what it needed. So as much as I loved leading with that team, I had to let go of that team and build a Team of Campus Pastors to lead the campuses through.

Over time as we added more campuses and we expanded our Executive Team another point of tension came along. Again, I had to let go of leading a team that I loved leading with. I had to let someone else lead the Campus Pastors so I could provide leadership to the Executive Team and Central Service Team at the church. I had to give up something I loved, leading with a great team of Campus Pastors, for something else that I loved even more, seeing the whole church continue to take ground and move forward.

I failed to mention that along the way I also had to let go of teaching. For years I was on the Teaching Team at Sun Valley and taught about 20% of the time at our weekend worship services. I’m more of a leader that can communicate than I am a communicator that can lead if that makes any sense and we have some absolutely fantastic communicators on the team. For the church to grow what was needed from me was more strategic leadership and less teaching. And so once again I found myself letting go of something that I love for something else that I love even more.

This same scenario has played its way out in different ways over and over again the past 20 years of ministry. The secret of leadership that no one ever tells you is that the higher you go in leadership the more you lose. There’s no going up without giving up. But if you’re made for it, it’s worth it.

Every time I’ve given up my personal preference for what’s best for the church instead of what’s best for me the church has grown. And every time I’ve been reluctant to do the same, the church has been held back. When I do what I do best, the one thing where I bring the greatest value to the church, the church takes ground and I find fulfillment. When I do what’s best for the church not only does the church win, but I win too. When I don’t, I’m embarrassed to say it, but I hold the church back from everything Jesus has dreamed up for it to be.

And I imagine the same is true of you.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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What to do when you find yourself Doing Everything

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Have you ever felt like you were working as hard as you possibly could and still at the end of the day were left with a pile of work that didn’t get done? Ever feel like everyone was coming to you for you to weigh in on every decision that needed to be made? Ever feel like what you thought was just going to be a busy season has turned into a normal way of work?

Pain points like this can be a gift because pain is an indicator that something is wrong and needs to change. The good news is things can change. When you experience this kind of pain it’s time to ask yourself the following questions:

Have I Hit a Capacity Lid?

The first question to ask is, “What am I doing that is contributing to this?” Great leaders always start with themselves, not others. They take personal ownership for where they are and how they got there. Is there a new skill you need to learn or a new approach you need to take? Do you need to increase your capacity and break through that lid?

What Needs to Change?

Do you need to learn to delegate more tasks to others? Do you need to empower others to make decisions and build strategies that get the team to designed outcomes? Are you doing too much as a high level generalist and it’s time to narrow your focus and allow other specialists to do a better job at what you were doing an okay job at? In other words, often times this kind of ongoing experience can be an indicator that it’s time for a growing church to restructure.

What Does the Church Need from Me?

Where do you bring the most value to the church? Where do your gifts, abilities, and experiences advance the vision the most? Are you contributing greatly in that area? The thing that most people don’t realize is that as the church grows the church actually needs something different from its leaders along the way, not all that dissimilar to parenting.

What Do I Want to Do?

Of all the things you find yourself doing right now, what do you want to keep doing? What would you give away to others to do if you could? Is what you’re doing right now moving you closer to the vision or further away? And do you want to go where that vision is leading you?


Posted in Leadership, Staffing
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