Planning for Church Health…
Last week at General Synod in Pella, Iowa, the General Secretary Tom De Vries raised the four word question that can devastate any family vacation: Are we there yet? He reminded us that the repetition of those simple and ordinary words can destroy the joy of the journey. The RCA is on a new journey ofTransformed and Transforming that provides new vision and direction for our denomination for the next 15 years. T & T has been launched, denominational staff decisions have been made, resources have been allocated and congregations and classes have been challenged to engage the journey. So far we have only completed in a literal sense about 6.67 percent of the journey. The overall and ongoing picture for the RCA moving forward is to become a thriving, missional and multiracial denomination. To accomplish this vision will require complete dependence upon the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our own personal lives and in the lives of people engaged in ministry and mission in churches and communities.
The task before us as a denomination, as pastors and church leaders is huge. If research and anecdotal evidence is accurate, it is estimated that 9 out every 10 churches in America are growing at a slower pace than their community. From what I read in books and blogs there is overwhelming feedback that the spiritual health of churches and pastors is of great concern. So if Transformed and Transforming is going to be our focus for the next 15 years, how do we transform the churches in the 90 percent that are not growing into 10 percent that are? Thom Rainer in his blog, “Four Keys to Planning for Church Health” suggests that it won’t be an easy task but it can be done. This is what he writes to challenge pastors:
“Accepting responsibility – First, pastors have to accept their responsibilities as leaders. Pastors are not in their roles simply because of giftedness or desire—though both of those things are important. First and foremost, pastors exist in their roles because God has ordained they be there. Their role as a leader is a commission and an assignment from the God of the universe. We will not see transformation in local churches until pastors recognize their crucial role in leading the church to transformation. God doesn’t give us church leaders so that they alone will do the work of the church. He gives us leaders to equip the body to do ministry. Pastors say they want to equip the saints for the work of ministry, but do they really accomplish this? Our research says no. And it’s not even close.
Knowing where to go – More than half of all pastors we surveyed have no intentional plan for discipling all ages in their church. Even more distressing is that the number is smallest when researchers ask about children and youth. So not only are we not involving our adults in ministry, we are failing to train the next generation. So how does the body of Christ remedy this? Here are four ways to start:
1. Create a plan. Pastors are planners. It’s what they do. They lay out in-depth and intentional plans for so many things done in the lives of our churches. But, pastors, does your church have a plan to encourage the spiritual growth of members?
2. Create buy-in from the congregation. One of the most effective ways to create buy-in is to walk through this plan using collective input. Create informed, effective and involved advocates out of church members, not followers.
3. Create a culture of disciple-making. Every church has a culture. Unfortunately, too many give too little thought to the culture of their church. Culture creation happens as churches and their leaders constantly repeat, in both word and deed, the desired behaviors intended to be primary in the new culture.
4. Stay faithful to the plan. As the leader of the church, a pastor must believe in and champion the church above everyone else. I say this to each pastor reading this: More than anyone else you are the gatekeeper of your church’s culture and intended destination. Don’t develop a plan or process that you are not committed to; once you have developed it, sell out to it.
A plan for growth – Churches need a plan for growth. They need to know how to get from where they are to where God intends for them to be. But the problem is most churches don’t know where they currently are. Not only does a plan not exist, many churches haven’t assessed their current situation. That’s why assessments are vital. We love to measure in the church. In my denomination, we have long said that the typical measurements are “budgets, baptisms and buildings.” But I’m not convinced those are the best measurements for us to be concerned with. I would suggest that, while measuring worship attendance is important, measuring group attendance and service engagement are possibly even more important. Your barometers may be different. Regardless of what you see as significant, the question is: How will you get to where you want to go?”
We are on a 15 year journey that will be characterized by continuous and ongoing change – a scary thought. What will cultivating transformation look like for you and me personally? Are we willing to be courageous leaders and accept and grow in our responsibilities and roles? Will we complete the assignment that the God of the universe has called us to? Will be champions in making disciples and Christ followers who live and look like Jesus? Will the decisions we make and actions we take expand the reign of God in our communities and world? Will our spiritual journeys center around loving and embracing all people who are loved by Jesus and for whom He died for on the cross? Are we willing to play full out and live into our calling and capacity as a leader to follow God’s agenda and bring Him all the glory?
Wayne Van Regenmorter
24: Wisconsin Classis Servant Team Meeting/First Reformed Church/Cedar Grove, WI
25: Coaching; Conference Calls
26: Meeting/Camp Manitoqua/Frankfort, IL; Meeting/Bourbonnais, IL
29: Sunday Worship
30 – July 6: Vacation
Wayne’s contact information:
10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281