Easter reminds us of new life, and with Spring we not only see budding trees and blooming flowers, but also sense a busyness in the air and a tremendous amount of energy is expended from leadership teams.
We’re grateful for those who will say yes to Jesus, but there is often a decline that quickly follows.
In fact, there’s an old school saying that goes: “Spring bump to Summer Slump.”
But does it have to be that way?
Attendance (& engagement) usually surges in the Spring, then quickly returns to where it was and trends gently downward to Summer. Is that just the way it is, or do we unknowingly lead it that way because that’s how “it’s always been?”
What if we worked on a Spring strategy could lead to Summer strength? And prayerfully lead to something longer term that generates movement toward momentum.
This is a time for change, like none the church has seen for a few years. Could this Spring be an opportunity to realize ministry from now through the Summer in a more fruitful way? Could that lead to long term breakthroughs?
Care to think and imagine with me?
Consider these new (soon becoming not so new) realities:
- Attendance patterns are different now
- Culturally, there is increased interest in spirituality, yet less confidence in the church
- Habits have changed, and for many, church is now an option.
How should we respond to these realities?
How might we need to lead differently?
- Do we passively accept the new reality? That doesn’t seem to make sense.
- Do we resist the change? That’s like trying to stop time.
- Or is this a time for change-oriented conversations that lead to greater Kingdom momentum?
It’s dangerous when patterns of church leadership don’t change. Like being so busy now that we don’t have time to think about change, and by the end of Spring most churches are about the same as before Easter. Is there a better way?
Let me offer a set of 4 very practical questions that you and your leadership team can process toward a preferable long-term future.
4 Practical Questions:
There are really only 3 questions, but Easter is a great current example to engage the process, so I’ll make that question #1.
1) What is more important for Easter, your programming of the service or follow up of new guests and converts?
Most church leaders would say their strategic answer is follow up of guests and converts is more important than the actual Easter service. However, most of the effort and energy nearly always goes to the services.
Is this a case of passion overriding strategy?
Don’t get me wrong, we all want to honor God and serve people with excellence on Easter. But if your attendance after Easter is similar to your attendance before Easter, how important might your follow-up process be?
Yes. I know, both are important. But is that really true if we don’t have enough time or energy for both?
What if personal invitations for people to come and hear the message of Jesus, and the follow up of guests and converts is more important than the actual program of your Easter service? What would you change?
Would the outcomes be closer to what you pray for?
2) Where are you tempted to solve new problems with old solutions?
Creating and executing strategic change isn’t the problem, it’s the lack of time and abundance of pressure to maintain the present moment ministries.
The greater the pressure and the lower the margin, the more likely that leaders will attempt to solve new problems with old solutions.
This pattern is easy to see.
- We face a problem.
- We have little time.
- The pressure rises.
So, what do we do? We do what we know.
(Old solutions to new problems)
This is a significant part of why it’s so difficult to create and lead change, to rebuild the plane so to speak, while it’s in flight. But that’s a skill we must all learn, or we become quickly outdated.
There is a danger here, it is being so busy that we can’t see what needs to change.
Therefore, these two questions are important:
- What needs to change, and why?
- Where are you tempted to solve new problems with old solutions?
This leads us to the next, and even more practical, question.
3) What current systems and ministries are clearly in need of change?
This step begins with two key questions.
- What systems and ministries are working?
- What systems and ministries are not working?
The church is highly relational, and we sometimes evaluate the effectiveness of a ministry by asking if everyone is happy, not is anyone changing and growing?
If everyone is happy, we move on to “noisier” and more demanding problems.
To decide what is working or not working, start with a clear definition of the desired outcomes. And more strategically, the expected and prayed for outcomes in alignment with the amount of resources being invested.
That’s not “business” that is stewardship.
If you don’t evaluate ministries according to desired outcomes and degree of investment, it becomes a relational popularity contest, rather than assessing what creates more movement toward momentum.
Next, prioritize the changes.
It’s not necessarily the least effective ministry or system that should go to the top of the list. It’s the one that brings the greatest movement toward the vision.
In fact, sometimes the least effective systems or ministries should not be changed at all, they should be discontinued with full closure.
No one church can do every ministry. Therefore, gaining a sense of what God has in mind (His divine thumbprint) as a plan for your church is paramount. Including His definition of success.
4) What are your timeless truths and core beliefs and values that should never change?
The stabilizing factors in strategic change are your purpose & vision, culture, core beliefs and biblical values.
- Are these clear and written down?
- How well are they known, embraced and practiced?
These organizational and spiritual moorings provide a healthy sense of guardrails and guidelines to your decision-making process in leading strategic change.
Note: Strategic change isn’t merely something different, it is something better, that clearly and measurably creates movement toward vision-based momentum.
Strategy is temporary and truth is timeless, but your strategy needs to be clear, strong and worthy enough to carry truth forward in a relevant way.
This brief post is just the starting line of what is needed to bring change that makes a difference. It’s a tool to get conversation going around your leadership table.
My prayer is that it generates a helpful discussion among the leaders.
You take it from here.