Monday, October 23, 2017

Embracing Change in Your Church

Proverbs 3:5-6 (CSB) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.

In my ministry I serve a lot of struggling churches. Most reach out to me because some problem or difficulty has upset their equilibrium and they need assistance getting things back on track. Though they often call for help about the specific challenge that has interfered with the status quo, it does not take long before they reveal some systemic problem, or a series of problems, that led to the event in question. They have often already come to the realization that the specific issue they are calling about is really just a symptom of bigger issues. And those bigger issues are what they actually want help with.

When they reach out to my ministry for help, the vast majority of these churches approach the process with an open mind and respond in cautious but positive ways about how to make changes that will put them back on a course toward spiritual health and organizational vitality. But some are determined, before the process even begins, that they are not going to change, no matter what. Such churches are doomed to fail. 

When churches ask for help but have already decided they do not want to change, what they really want is money, or other resources, that will allow them to continue in their ineffectiveness. They want someone else to pay the bills so they can keep doing what they have always done, even though it no longer works as effectively as it once did. This is a sad situation. Such churches seldom like my suggestions.

Any ministry, even one as large as the one I lead, has limits. Though I try to say yes as often as I can and meet with and consult with as many churches as I can, there are only so many hours in a week and only so many resource we can devote to any specific situation. Sometimes I have to say no to a well deserving church that wants to do things better. You can imagine the internal dilemma I face when a church that does not want to solve issues makes demands on my time and financial resources after they have made it clear they do not intend to make the changes needed to become healthier. Those are hard weeks.

Recently I was trying to help a church that was on the  brink of closure. Their problems were many but the short version is the pastor thought he had to personally oversee every ministry and make every decision, and his congregation was quite willing to let him do it. When I suggested it was time to delegate and let others assist him in leadership, it was clear that was not going to happen. Instead, they just wanted me to find money to help them have a full time pastor for a congregation of less than 20 people. You can imagine how the conversation went when I suggested a congregation of less than 20 might not need a full time pastor. I showed them scriptures about each person using their spiritual gifts to make a church strong, instead of just letting the pastor  do everything. I shared stories of other churches in similar situations as theirs who had expanded their leadership and we're doing better. I even offered certain training programs to them at a reduced cost. None of it interested them. They just wanted someone else to pay the bill so they could keep doing what they have always done. When I declined, they declared that I did not have a heart for the small church. Anyone who knows me knows quite the opposite is true. But alas, such is the life of a denominational servant.

In order to stay healthy, every organization has to undergo change. That does not mean we must compromise our theological beliefs. But it does mean we have change the way we function, the way we relate to each other, they way we serve the surrounding community, or perhaps he way we handle our funds, in order to remain vibrant. When churches, para-church ministries, or denominational organizations and agencies fail to accept change as part of their organizational lives, failure is inevitable. The time has come to embrace change, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Lord, give us the wisdom to see when, what and who must change for our ministries to move forward in positive ways. Amen.


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


  1. This touches on the same subject:

  2. Every day is a day of change. Nothing is ever static. (The only thing that does not change is God and His Word.) No matter how much we want it to be. Things grow old. New things begin. The demographics of a community and even a nation change. Look in the mirror than pull out and old photo album. Look at your phone; is it connected to the wall with a rotary dial. Look in the driveway. Yes things change. And yet the draw of nostalgia is strong. As we become older it becomes almost irresistible because of our fond memories of what we perceive as simpler times. When I start going down that road I try to remember the riots, war, collage unrest and pollution of the 1960's, or the gas shortages, hostages, disco and cars of the 1970's. It helps to keep me balanced. Can we embrace all the changes of the modern era? Of course not! My children, and grandchildren can do things with tec. that are a complete mystery to me. And yet we need to be ale to change our delivery systems and management styles. So that the old old story does not become just one more nostalgic memory. So I encourage you; take a look at where you are and where the Lord wants you to be. You may have to leave the 49 Ford at home and take the Preius.