Most churches need a turnaround! Odds are, your church needs one, too. By that, I mean, we all need to experience renewed life and health in our church families. The sad thing is that many ignore the need for revitalization until it’s too late. In Revelation 3:1-2, this startling warning is given to the church at Sardis, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains which is about to die…” Turnaround is a commitment to “strengthen what remains” realizing that if we don’t, we will die.
Turnaround starts with a reality check — facing the truth about our situation. Unfortunately, certain misgivings and apprehensions keep a church from admitting their need for a turnaround. Much of the angst comes from myths that surround Turnaround. Here are a few myths that I’ve observed congregations falsely believe.
Myth #1 The pastor is the only key. While the pastor is crucial to leading and casting the vision, he is not the only one needed. The congregation must be willing to work together and make the needed changes. Undue pressure is placed on the pastor to “make things happen.” Ultimately, Turnaround is God working through all of us to make His church what He wants it to be.
Myth #2 There is a program to follow. Turnaround starts with the heart, not with a method. The old saying goes like this: “Methods are many. Principles are few. Methods may vary, principles never do.” Programs won’t change a church. It’s the culture that needs to change. Church turnaround is about changing the heart of the culture, not adding programs.
Myth #3 It will happen quickly. The fact is, it won’t. Gary McIntosh says revitalization takes from five to twelve years, and even longer in dire circumstances. We may long for a quick fix, but it takes time and patience to see lasting change. Frankly, we give up too soon! Both pastors and congregations need the persistence to stay and work together. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to “not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up!” (Galatians 6:9-10).
Myth #4 Its all about growing numerically. Often, attendance is the least important factor in defining a church’s health. Turnaround is not about getting bigger but getting better. We call it “turnaround” because change is needed. It is more than getting a crowd, it about becoming a healthier church. If you and your congregation are not ready for change and lots of it, you’re not ready for a turnaround.
Myth #5 Everyone will be on board. Turnaround gets sidelined because we try to please everyone. When change comes, sadly, some people will get upset. My recommendation is to love everyone but move forward with those who want to move forward. Don’t fight the old guard. One pastor commented that there is “health in the pastor to let people go.” Clinging on to people may be the wrong thing to do. He went on to say, “In my soul, this is going to be okay.”
Myth #6 Turnaround is a style change. Turnaround is not that simple. Someone said, that “singing Chris Tomlin songs to guitar and drums, instead of Charles Wesley hymns to organ and piano is not a turnaround. No matter how spiky the worship leader’s hair is.” Yes, it may be changing your music or ministries, but real turnaround puts everything that’s outside the core biblical principles up for grabs. It’s about attitudes and the willingness to change.
BEFORE YOU GO
So those are some of the myths I’ve come across. What do you think? What other “tales” do you know about Turnaround churches?
The truth about Turnaround is that it’s scary! Change makes all of us feel anxious. But to continue down failing paths is to continue to fail! Our task is to lead boldly but compassionately, to dream new dreams, and make space for God to do new things. Let’s not hang on so tightly to our memories of the past, precious though they are, that we miss the new thing God wants to do in our midst!
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
3 Comments Add yours
Good article. Getting involved in the small community we lived in was fun. What a joy it is when we see life spring from our local churches!
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“Real turnaround puts everything that’s outside the core biblical principles up for grabs. It’s about attitudes and the willingness to change.”
“Turnaround gets sidelined because we try to please everyone. When change comes, sadly, some people will get upset. My recommendation is to love everyone but move forward with those who want to move forward. Don’t fight the old guard. One pastor commented that there is “health in the pastor to let people go.” Clinging on to people may be the wrong thing to do. He went on to say, “In my soul, this is going to be okay.”
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Yes, these are all true Myths. Yet they play out in real life as being true!
Nearly all of these lead to a Pastor at a minimum being questioned as to his leadership ability, people feeling like we need a new direction or change of direction. Or that he is not a good fit for the church. Most often ending with the Pastor moving on rather than a joint effort in persistence to see things through.
I admit that it is difficult at best to determine when any or all of these things should result in a change of Pastoral leadership. And who makes this determination? If Gary McIntosh is correct in saying “revitalization takes from five to twelve years, and even longer in dire circumstances.” then I think that often change in Pastoral leadership happens too quickly and too often.
Another myth is that if we just get a younger pastor new people, i.e. younger people will come. Recently in a conversation with a younger pastor who came to a congregation that had that thinking shared that this is a myth. A younger pastor may be a part of a strategy to bring about change but it is just one part of the strategy. He shared that he was needing to help his people see this.
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