Paul Borden is the Executive Minister of Growing Healthy Churches, formerly American Baptist Churches of the West. This region of 220 congregations saw over 70% of their churches transformed and is now focusing on congregational reproduction through out the United States and around the world. Paul has been very helpful here in North Alabama in renewal. This week I continue with some of Paul’s thoughts on church change.
6. There are only two valid reasons for denominations to exist. One is to help congregations transform and the second is to help them reproduce. Denominations play other key managerial and administrative roles. But if the mission is not prominent in terms of how resources are expended in our nation and in nations around the world, then denominations have no right to exist.
7. Most pastors are unwilling as well as incapable of leading the kind of systemic change that is demonstrated in the story. This is why they need help to both know what to do and to have someone stand with them as they do it. The bottom line is all about leadership and pastors being willing to be or act like leaders who risk their jobs if necessary.
8. The cost is terrible until one achieves the change. After the change comes, the pastor finally gets to lead ministry in ways that all pastors imagined they would when they entered seminary. However, the biggest cost to leading change is usually borne by the pastor and the pastor’s family.
9. There is a major difference between creating change that lead to systemic change and leading systemic change. However, the more pre-systemic change that is implemented the easier it will be to lead systemic change. Pastors, particularly those who do not have outside help may need to make small, incremental changes for one to five years before leading systemic change. However, once systemic change is initiated, the pastor has only from one to two years to make it happen. It may then take another three to five years to make sure the congregation does not go back to old ways of behaving.
10. Congregations who say they want change mean something different from what most pastors think. What congregations mean by wanting change is that they want more people in the church and more money in the budget as long as the culture of the congregations does not change and they can still be in control of how things are done. The biggest cost to any change is getting the congregation out of the hands of those who have been running the congregation for years. However, when such happens we have seen awesome results.
--From Transforming Power – Stories from Transformational Leaders for Encouragement and Inspiration. Complied and Edited by Hugh Ballou, Discipleship Resources, P.O. Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37203-0003
William H. Willimon