3 Things I've Learned Revitalizing Churches
Recently, I was asked "What are some of the biggest lessons that you've learned doing what you do?". This was a great question and for me, it was really helpful to think back through all of the Churches we've served. Some really major things stuck out to me, but, I've tried to narrow down the three biggest takeaways I've had so far.
1. ONE SIZE CAN NOT FIT ALL
Our world is rich with people who are working to create systems and strategies that are "a one stop shop" for fixing problems. Many organizations use the same strategies that others in their community or someone they know, used - expecting to get the same results. Sadly, most often, they get no results at all or are disappointed in what they see come out of it.
Every organization is different. Yes, some aspects of organizations are similar, however, the unique and distinctive characteristics are what make each and every organization we work with, just a little different that the others. The problem is, we are using "one size fits all" solutions for unique and distinctive problems. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that each situation really is unique to its own situations, circumstances, opportunities and giftedness of the leaders and the people involved in the organization.
If you want solutions for your organization, stop taking advice from someone who just wants to tell you what they did for others and start talking to someone who wants to hear who you are, where you want to go and have them help you create custom solutions for YOUR ORGANIZATION!
2. 3 MONTHS OF DOING IT RIGHT, WON'T MAKE 20 YEARS OF DOING IT WRONG DISAPPEAR
We all want the quick fix, don't we? Our tire goes flat, we use the quick fix spray or tell the mechanic "just plug the hole!". Fast food is our best friend because we didn't have time to prepare something for lunch or dinner. We take medications to knock out the major headache we are wrestling with. All of these scream of "the quick fix".
The reality is, every symptom we experience is caused by something deeper, a root cause. Did you know that you have to lose nearly 40% function to a body part before your body starts to tell you "SOMETHING IS WRONG!" by giving you a symptom? That's crazy, right? We've lost 40% function before we ever even knew we had a problem.
Many organizations suffer for years, seeing the same problems occur over and over again. They treat them with the same medications or quick fixes, but get frustrated when the problem comes back. You can't lost 20 years of weight that you've gained by working out and eating properly for only 3 months - the same is true for our organizations. We can't simply start getting it right for 3 months and expect the last 20 years of doing it wrong to just disappear. That's exactly what leaders and Pastors I encounter expect though - it's just not going to happen.
Like with our health, when you deal with the root cause of your issues, you take proactive and consistent steps to improve those issues. Almost always, it takes an outside voice or opinion to show you where the real problems are and to help you create specific solutions for you to address them. Then, if it's not too late, over time, you will see health begin to re-emerge.
3. YOU CAN'T JUST TWEAK A DIRTY DIAPER
I have a 15 month old son and one of my least favorite things to do in the world is to change his nasty, stinking, dirty diapers. I gag - yep, that's me, I'm the dad, holding his nose, trying not to throw up on his son, as he changes the diaper.
What I've seen a ton is that Churches don't REALLY want to change, they just want to tweak. I can promise you, as with a dirty diaper on my son, you can't just tweak something that awful - you have to change the whole thing!
Have you ever heard of the old saying - "putting lipstick on a pig". That's what many organizations do. They try to just do a paint job or restart a dated program with a new name. They aren't really interested in real change, so, they give the appearance of effort, but just enough to not upset the big givers.
If that last part stung a little, it's because you know, deep down, it's right on the money! (pardon the pun)
This is typically where all of the major push back comes. "You don't need to change the name of the Church", "My grandaddy's name is on the plaque on that pew, you can't just take it out and replace it with cushioned chairs", or one of my all time favorites - "I know that tree blocks the entire front of the building, including the new Church sign we just spent $15,000 on, but we planted that there 25 years and you can't take it down".
If you genuinely want to see Revitalization happen, you can't just tweak a few things and expect it all just fall into place. It will be hard, some people will be upset and your Church may still shut it's doors, but, wouldn't you much rather die trying than just trying not to die?
Nehemiah Chapter 2 says "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start the rebuilding...".
Work like it depends on you, believe that it depends on God!