Effectively Communicating Change – Tips From The Mission Field
Considering a significant shift in how your church does, well, church, for the foreseeable future? Regardless of what you decide, you’ll need to communicate that well. Pastor Zac Minton knows a thing or two about communicating change in 2020. As lead pastor at The Rock Church in Spokane, WA, and church planter/trainer with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), he led his church community through such a shift earlier in the year. Now several months in, Zac shared with the Firm Foundations team how he successfully navigated and communicated that change to leaders, church members, and potential guests.
Mindset and purpose
Communicating change this significant requires focused, intentional communication. Two things will help you guide others through the planned changes.
One of those is the purpose and vision God has called your church to live out. For Zac, that was leaning into small groups further and establishing several house churches. Started in 2018, the people of The Rock Church gathered on Sundays and in homes for small groups. As a part of the church culture and purpose, Zac led his church to form house churches because they knew and saw how “in small groups… that’s where discipleship happens, rather than on a Sunday.” Called “Sunday Gatherings,” he utilized the structure already there, made tweaks, and modified with an eye on the end goal: reaching new people for Christ and creating disciples.
That doesn’t mean Zac didn’t have to wrestle with the decision in his mind. Raised in Arkansas and serving as a lead pastor for 15 years, the shift to house churches goes against everything he knows. However, in retraining his brain, Zac drew upon his time as a missionary. “After my experiences in Africa, Mexico, and East Asia, I can’t say these (house churches) aren’t churches.”
For your church, you’ll want to look back to your purpose. Pull out the goals, mission statements, vision casting, etc. What impact did you see your church having on people? If you can look at the options available, rather than what’s gone, you can see new opportunities and new ways to serve and connect with people.
Zac acknowledges that no matter how you lead, people will want to come back to the building. That there will be commentary. Through a clear vision and purpose, you can offset the negativity by staying focused on what God is doing to bring Him Glory through your church during this season.
Communicating with church leaders
Once you make the decision, it’s time to start communicating change to church leaders who will help you fulfill this new vision.
First, approach your communication with that same positive mindset that God is at work. While acknowledging the challenges of doing church differently, Zac framed meeting those challenges with hope. “Accept that this is what God’s given us, and we’re going to rock it.”
Second, Zac encourages having face-to-face conversations rather than phone, email, or text. Speaking in person allows space to process the change, and for you to present your vision in a way that speaks personally to them.
Third, once you get someone on board, bring them along for the next conversation. Not only does it help to show others are involved, having someone else speak trains-up other leaders in the church and allows them to share why they have bought in.
With the change, your leaders need clear communication on how to lead. Share what’s the same. Knowing what they can still do is just as important as what will be different.
When sharing what will be different, be clear about what’s required versus what’s recommended. For Zac, he provides recommended guidelines on how to lead and host a house church. Leaders have the freedom to follow those recommendations or change as they see fit.
For house church leader support and discipleship, Zac keeps communication open. He notes from his own experience that being persistent helps. If you can’t connect the first time, keep emailing and texting for those regular check-ins. Church pastors speak with house church leaders in person or over video conference to talk about how things are going. What’s going well? What needs to be changed? If things aren’t going well, is the leader following those recommended guidelines for leading? Through clear communication and regular feedback, pastors and house church leaders can collectively guide members of the church body.
Communicating change to the congregation and community
You’ve got your team ready – now comes telling the church body.
Speak honestly and transparently
For many, church gathering differently will feel wrong. After prayerfully working through your worries, Zac recommends speaking honestly and transparently.
Saying what you feel, that, “no one wants to get together more than WE DO,” acknowledges the situation and addresses concerns. It also heads off any commentary that pastoral leadership doesn’t want the job of, well, leading.
Communicating the benefits of multiple participation options helps keep the church involved. At The Rock Church, leaders encourage people to sign-up for a Sunday Gathering of their choice, or they receive a group assignment. They can also attend the worship service “live” – an option for those who strongly dislike using technology to view the worship service. While following state restrictions, this provides those who genuinely need to be in the building a way to participate in worship.
The focus lies with the choice of how to participate. Church attendees can gather in a group of their choice, through group assignment, or in the building. These options help keep people involved because the option of not participating is less obvious. The question becomes, “how do I choose to participate?” rather than “do I participate?”
Active participation language
Church on a screen does not mean the people should sit still! A part of any church culture is what happens after service is over. To encourage people to engage actively, Zac notes that they intentionally swapped out passive text.
“Instead of, ‘where are you watching?’ we say, ‘where are you attending?’ all across the board.” Whether on the website, on social media, or digital connect cards, this intentional wording helps shape the mindset for those viewing. Members and first-time guests are all a part of the service as they participate in Sunday Gatherings across the area.
Communicate with clarity and purpose
No matter what you decide, people desire leaders to speak with clarity and authenticity. When you can keep your eyes on the calling God has placed upon your heart for your church, you can succeed in communicating change to people and guide them through a truly challenging time.
If this time has created a need for strategic communication changes, call on the team at Firm Foundations. With free 60-minute consultations, you’re a phone call away from taking a step towards reaching, engaging, and retaining more people through better communication. Scroll down to contact the team or read more here.
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