The way you start a new position almost always determines how effective you will be and how you will finish. I have learned that in church revitalization the early days are among the most important. If you hope to survive and see real transformation there are some key steps you must take.
I hope you can learn from some of my experience – and mistakes.
How to survive in the early days of church revitalization:
Pace yourself. Think marathon more than sprint in church revitalization. There will be plenty to do and you’ll want to do all of it quickly. It’s suicide to think that you can.
Find a few easy wins – often called “low hanging fruit”. Concentrate on them first, build the respect and trust of people in the process and then schedule out the harder changes. Personally, I’ve never been able to concentrate on more than one or two of them per year.
Find a few supporters – even if outside the church. Critics will find you. You will not have to go looking for them. The reality is you will have upset some people if you try to change anything. The longer they have been the way they are now the harder it will be to convince them to do otherwise.
If you are not careful you will begin to take it personal. No matter how hard we try to keep it injuring us it still hurts. Therefore, you need a few people around you who will continue to cheer you on during the tough days and seasons. (I have sometimes had to look outside the church for these people. That’s okay too.)
Protect your family – and your family time. Church revitalization impacts the family as much as it impacts you. Of course, church revitalization always happens in established churches. That usually means they have lots of activity and programs – even if they are no longer effective. Many times they will expect the pastor to be at everything – and probably participate at some level. The activity can quickly consume your calendar.
Your family will often be on the losing end of your schedule. Make sure you protect what matters to you most and will be with you even after your role is finished at the church.
Set realistic expectations. I always tell leaders to lower their initial expectations to survive in the early days.
Go into church revitalizations with high aspirations, but low initial expectations. You can have lofty ideas and goals, but you’ll need to put some reality behind your plans. Change is harder than you think it will be. It takes longer than you hope it will. And it seldom looks exactly like we imagined it.
The more grounded you are and lead people to be the better chance you have of success. Plus, you will be less likely to disappoint yourself and others.
Don’t try to please everyone. When you try to you end up pleasing no one. Years ago I heard Rick Warren say that with every change you make you are choosing who will sit in your church the next week. I have learned that to be incredibly true.
Try to protect your heart when people don’t agree with you. I posted recently about the number one change needed in church revitalization. That applies here.
Granted, I’m not suggesting things have to be your way or that you don’t listen to people. That’s never good leadership and simply won’t work. But just know some people are simply not going to get on board. And that’s part of the process.
If you can survive in the early days of church revitalization you can likely see an established church thrive again. It’s hard, but worthy Kingdom work.
If you think if I can help you or your team I would be happy to talk with you. You find more about my experience here: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronedmondson/