This Sunday school season held a BIG change for my little church. A change that was carefully thought out, prayed over, and discussed. A change that meant rerouting the church van and reorganizing the whole Sunday schedule. A change that required two congregational meetings, the approval of the council, and the vote of church members. It wasn't easy and it wasn't quick, but it happened: our Sunday school hour moved from Sunday evenings to Sunday mornings!
If your church is considering a change, here are three things I learned that might help.
Pray before proceeding. Most changes in church are a long time in coming. Why? Because the church is a pillar of stability in a chaotic world. The routine might really need refreshing, but for many people what's familiar is what's comfortable. Even good change comes with growing pains, so seeking God's wisdom and direction and laying our motives before Christ is always the best way to begin.
Cast the vision with care. When you're convinced that a change could strengthen the ministry, and you see the many possibilities it would open up, you're ready to start casting the vision.
- Start with those who would be most directly affected--the teachers, the church leaders and pastor(s), and parents.
- Don't forget to talk with those members whose voices tend to rise above the rest. They may not have a vested interest in the change you're proposing, but when they speak up, everyone listens. So it's important that they hear about the potential change from you, and have the chance to offer you their advice.
- Anticipate the aspects of the change that would be most exciting and most intimidating for each person you talk with. As you share, start with what's exciting, and offer solutions for the potential problems you foresee.
- Share your ideas with humility, and ask for feedback. Be ready to reshape the vision many times as others catch on and offer their insights.
- Be patient. Trust the Lord's timing more than your own, and remember that change happens slowly. Even the smallest churches are made up of many people who have dozens of opinions and ideas about how best to lead and serve. When discouragement comes (and it will), refer back to step one and continue to pray for and wait on God's leading. If the proposed change will build up the community of faith, carry forward God's mission of redemption, and bring God praise and honor, then you can trust God to make it happen!
And if, for some mysterious reason, it doesn't happen, fight the urge to take it personally or to dole out blame. Instead, take heart in knowing that God's wisdom is higher than your own. And find humor in the fact that God's people (including even you) have always been a stubborn bunch. Some things never change.