From Survival to Revival
From Stagnation to Re-Creation

What I see today is many religious organizations in the state of survival. The congregation may have become accustomed to doing whatever they think they need to do to survive. It seems that pastors come and go, and the congregation stays put. The ones left as the search for the new pastor is underway do what is needed to be done to keep the church afloat. They may have lost their vision for the future or never really had a clear plan.

When the new pastor does come on board, they hope to begin the rebuilding mode. If there have been many pastors that have come and gone, for whatever reason, the congregation is seldom really ready to build a glorious future church community. Trust will be a hard-won battle for the new person and which direction to begin the re-building process may be challenging.

First the new person will have to find ways to encourage the old guard to become servant leaders. This may involve a paradigm shift, strategic planning sessions, or possibly removing some from the discussion if they see no need to change. Remember the fight or flight syndrome often takes over at this point. Some will leave, others will fight every different idea, and some will see a future that serves everyone.

We have not done a very good job at teaching people within the church the difference between leadership in the corporate world and leadership in a non-profit or religious world. In a volunteer leadership organization, we forget that job titles need to come with written expectations, term limits, and accountability.

I have seen many organizations place people in positions with no training or instruction. An idea may be to teach and instruct everyone in the congregation what it takes for smooth operation. Why keep the information secret to only a few? Who knows, awesome leaders may arise from this process and the inevitable changes may not be so hard to overcome.

When we do not build leaders, we stagnate and wither away. Without a vision, the people will die.

Questions from a Frustrated Pastor:

  1. How do I get the Leadership to understand the need to lead?
    Bring as many of the congregation together and explain what leadership in the church means at the present time. Explain the roles and expectations of each position. If this is uncomfortable, invite someone outside of the congregation to do the explanation or instruction.
  2. How do I teach delegation?
    Pastors, it is not your job or function to do everything. Walk the talk. People do what people see. Your main challenge is to find the best person to do every task.
  3. How do I encourage members to volunteer and follow through?
    Follow through is always a learned character trait. The use of expectations and a job orientation is a great start. Encouraging volunteers starts with building leaders who know, understand, and live the principles and values of the organization.
  4. How do I reach those who have always been there, done the work, lead without recognition and are just tired and worn out?
    Why not recognize everyone in the congregation for doing the herculean job of keeping the organization going? Celebrate the accomplishments! Reach out to the tired and worn out and ask for their help in teaching at the next get together.
  5. How do I encourage existing and new congregation members to get involved?
    Have another leader build a recruitment team armed with all the information about the tasks, time commitments, and personal involvement. Put together a talents and passions list. Teach by the each one teach one philosophy and allow and encourage the new guy try some new ideas.
  6. How do I answer, “I’ve been there, got all the t-shirts and it is someone else’s turn”, attitude?
    No matter what our age and stage is, we all can do something. As strong backs weaken, hands still work. There is a wealth of information from experienced workers. Find out what their passions are, what they like to do, what they want to do, what they did well, and what they never want to do ever again. People are the greatest resource.

Remember to start with a plan that includes dates, who is in charge, and the congregation’s input and ideas.