Pastor DJ Harry
5 Critical Considerations Before Any Ministry Change
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
I have been involved in local church ministry all of my life. My parents are missionaries. My first calling occupation was a Christian school teacher at a wonderful ministry in Columbia, SC. Then 2005, the Lord transitioned me into pastoral ministry where I served for 10 years as an assistant pastor and now I’m in my fifth year as a senior pastor. Throughout those years and diverse ministry changes, I have seen ministry change take place often within the local church. Some of the changes were absolutely necessary. Many of them were really preferential changes that were made merely to fit the personality of the next pastor or ministry leader. That didn’t make the changes wrong. In fact, changes within a ministry is something that should be expected.
May I let you in on a little secret? Most congregations don’t like change! I know…you are thinking that they are just stuck in their ways or only want to do things the way they “have always been done.” Do you realize they were done that way on purpose? It is possible that there are very good reasons why things have been done in a particular manner. In fact, it is entirely plausible that you are actually the one navigating the ministry in a direction that is not best for your congregation….and you haven’t stopped to even consider that possibility.
CONSIDER THESE 5 THOUGHTS…
If you are a pastor or ministry leader looking to make changes in your church or ministry, I would ask you to consider these five truths before making those ministry wide changes.
1.First, realize that the ministry or policy that you are so desperate to change was implemented for a reason. It is possible that the particular reason may be gone at this point; times have changed or people have moved on. Or possibly, you simply don’t understand the reasons. One of the greatest qualities of a true leader is recognizing simply because you don’t understand something…doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, the challenge for us is to seek out why a ministry or policy was put in place and see if maybe we have it implementing it the wrong way.
2.Second, remember that every ministry or policy was someone else’s best attempt to solve a problem. Now you may be sitting back at this point and thinking that the “previous guy” created more problems than were solved. Sadly that may be the case. However, in many circumstances the person that you are following after sees your response to their ministry and can be deeply hurt by the way you choose to make changes. It is an act of calloused leadership to say that it doesn’t matter if people will be hurt in the process.
setting an example…
3.The third point, while very simple, it’s often hard for us to comprehend. In 15 to 20 years someone will be judging how you have organized the ministry; you are now setting the precedent for how ministry change will be dealt with at your church in the future. If your tone is harsh and judgmental, you are training your church to be harsh and judgmental when it comes time for you to leave and be replaced.
4.The fourth thing consideration is probably the most difficult because of our own sense of pride. It’s conceivable that the changes you are implementing will actually create more problems than the current situation. It is often hard for us to see past our own thoughts and ideas. We will set our mind on a particular path and will never consider that down the road the consequences of our choices may create more problems then currently exist. It takes great humility to step back and realize that though a church or ministry within a church may be broken, sometimes our solutions can actually make things worse.
remember your people…
5.The final thought and I would like you to consider is that while there are many wrong ways to organize a church or to structure ministries, there are also many right ways. Only one of those right ways is your way and all of the rest represent other ideas that are being presented within your local church body or possibly even policies and procedures that were put in place by previous church leadership. Just because something is not how you would organize it from scratch does not mean that it is best to scratch it and re-organize in an established church. Remember God called you to minister to the people and congregation of people and not a set of policies or procedures. In an attempt to run things how you want it to be run it is possible to create pain and hurt that is nearly irrepairable within ministry.
HOW DO WE MAKE CHANGES?
Do you have changes in the ministry that need to be made?
First, spent time in prayer. Not should we pray for the path that God wants us to take, but we should pray that God will grant compassion and understanding towards the people within your church… because changes affect people.
Second be patient. Be very careful to only make changes that your influence will allow. It takes time for your congregation to trust you as their pastor. Recognize that there are very few changes in a church that really need to happen in the first year or two. Most changes that we think must take place are actually preferences that we ought to set aside so that we can minister to the people God has called us to.
Third, seek godly wisdom. No, not godly wisdom from other pastors or godly wisdom from Facebook! Talk to your people. Trust the spiritual leadership within your church and make sure you have a proper pulse of your congregation before ever making long-term changes.
Fourth, seek the wisdom of those who have led your ministry before you. If you don’t understand why a ministry was organized in a particular manner, ask the people that organized. Why is it so difficult for us as pastors to get on the phone and talk to previous church leader ship? Be willing to humble yourself and recognize that God has used other men to build up your church and their wisdom and insight is valuable to you. If you don’t have a good relationship with the former pastors at your church, it is your responsibility to reach out and to begin growing that friendship. I realize that in some cases that is not possible. In most cases, however, I believe our pride is the key inhibitor from building those relationships. If I could add, before ever making major ministry changes recognize that it’s possible that there are aspects of ministry that you do not understand yet. The policy or procedure you are seeking to change may need to come after you have a better understanding of your people and the intricacies of your local ministry.
(consider listening to this podcast episode about ways to honor older pastors)
YOU MAY BE THE ONE TO CHANGE!
Finally, get ready to make the change. … and I’m not talking about the ministry change in your church! I actually believe that many of the things we want to change within our ministries will become less of a priority for us when we recognize that God may really be wanting to change us.
Pastor DJ Harry