5 Change Killers in Your Church

Gabe Kolstad here again today.  I’m a multi-time Advanced Coaching Alumni with Nelson and Senior Pastor of Westside Community Church in Beaverton, Oregon.

It’s great to be back with you again this week to talk about making changes in our churches.  Personally I get very excited about this subject.

It fires me up to think about where we’re headed and how God wants us to get there.  Leaders will always be working to create positive changes & momentum in the church; that’s what we’re called to do.

The very fact that we’re leaders means we have to chart the course and make bold steps toward the destiny God has designed for us.

The problem is…it doesn’t always work.  Change is a scary proposition for most people, and so it’s not always received with the enthusiasm we envision.

Today I’m going to clarify why change is so hard for churches, and a few things we can do to make it easier:

1. Unbridled Tradition.

Tradition is great – it’s one of the things all of us look forward to in our lives.  Vacation traditions, family traditions, holiday traditions.  No matter what your personality you find comfort and meaning in the few things that don’t change in your life.  Everybody does.

The problem with tradition in churches is when programs and practices become an end in themselves rather than a means to an end.

If the Great Commission and the Great Commandment are our marching orders and our goal is to reach & grow people, then our focus has to be on the mission. not on the means.

Question: Are there traditions, programs, silos, or sacred cows holding your church back from impact?  

If so, are you willing to shift the emphasis to the mission and off of the means?

2. Dysfunctional Structure.

Just like our physical bodies need a structure (skeleton), so our churches need structure.  Structures are the people & processes you use and the way you organize them.

The best structures for creating positive change are the ones where decisions can be made quickly, trust is built through flowing communication, and authority comes with responsibility.

Whenever there’s frustration on your team it’s wise to ask whether the structure is creating problems.  Fixing structural problems is one of the quickest ways to gain momentum and raise morale.

How’s your structure?

3. Unresolved Conflict.

Jesus made it clear that unity in the Body of Christ is a non-negotiable.  It’s intended to be the hallmark of Christianity in the world.

The truth is, teams with unresolved conflict cannot make significant progress until the problems are addressed and the conflicts are dealt with in a healthy way.

More on this in an upcoming post.

4. Lack of Faith.  

Years ago, Rick Warren did a study on the 100 fastest growing churches in America.  He was looking for the common leadership characteristics in the leaders of these effective churches.

What he discovered is that each leader was a very unique, with the exception of one quality: Great faith.

Both the task and the challenges of church leadership are outrageous, and they require a leader who has the faith to believe that God will prevail.

What are you believing about yourself and your church?

5. Fuzzy Vision.

If you’ve been following Nelson for long you’ve probably heard him say, “People say no to what’s confusing.”  How true that is.

If the vision for our churches is foggy, the buy-in will be minimal.  What people are looking for in life is a purpose, a clear & burning opportunity to connect their lives with something greater and more enduring.  And when a leader clarifies a clear & compelling vision and asks people to sign on, they do.

Personally this is the most difficult part of leadership for me, but it’s also where I see the greatest payoffs for the work I put in.

A good vision answers the question, “What will it be like when we get there?”

How can you help answer this question for your team & church?

Until next time,


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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

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