Fixing It

Some of our churches looking for new pastors are seeking a leader who will fix them.  Sooner or later they will be disappointed.

Your pastor cannot fix you or your church. Neither can your therapist, your parents, or your fairy godmother.  The rich member who has seemingly endless resources can’t fix it either.  Money can move mountains but often it’s just a band aid.

In some cases, your internist/oncologist/cardiologist/etc. can fix certain parts of you.  The same is true for your dentist, your car mechanic, your pest control specialist and your banker.  And this is so frustrating because we like to push a button and have our problem go away.  (Thank you re-booting.)

Becoming a Faithful 21st Century Church requires a culture shift, not a fix. We are setting everybody up for failure if we refuse to accept this.  Adaptive change is harder than technical change.  You know this.

So here is a tip from my Transitional Ministry Training from last week.  (Note: please take this training if you love your church. There might be additional workshops in summer 2019. Get on their mailing list.)

Before we can move forward, we need to know who we are now.  Not who we were yesterday. (The Church with 100 people in our choir!  The Church with 4 pastors!  The Church with 250 kids in Sunday School!)  Not who we wish we were.  (So friendly!  Open to diversity!  Okay with having one worship service!)

How do we figure out who we are now?  Scott Lumsden suggests these questions be asked to everybody in the congregation from the pillars to the prepubescents.

  1. Three words that describe our church are:
  2. An important characteristic about our church is:
  3. An important event in the life of our church is:
  4. A time when we were most tested was:
  5. The thing I most appreciate about our church is:
  6. The thing I most appreciate about being Presbyterian is:
  7. Something that’s never made sense to me about our church is:
  8. One thing I’ve always wondered about us is:
  9. Three things we must continue to do are:
  10. Three things we could stop doing are:*

*These are Scott Lumsden’s questions.  He gets all the credit.

Answering those ten questions is the first step in figuring out a congregation’s identity.  For the second and third steps, you’ll need to attend the training I referenced above.

We are not only not going to fix our congregations painlessly.  We are not going “to fix them” at all.  We are going to:

  1. Let them die.
  2. Teach them how to transition.

It’s really hard.  Really hard.  But I have so much hope because . . . The Holy Spirit.  The Big Decision we need to make today is: Do we want to be a faithful 21st Century Church or not?


Image is an assortment of multi-bit screwdrivers.  They can screw things but that’s about all.


4 responses to “Fixing It

  1. It’s unfortunate the next training is over Ash Wednesday. Maybe a summer one will work. I can’t see a future schedule from the website. Do you know if there is one scheduled after March?


  2. None of the above is going to matter one iota if we continue to be a 91.6% white church. Pretty simple isn’t it?


  3. I foresee a very weird day when I ask the question: Do you want to transition (change, transform) or die? I have a hard time getting them to talk about what they are now instead of what they once were or would like to be. (Actually, they can’t deal with the “what we’d like to be” question. It’s always prefaced with “Well, we used to . . .”)
    Saving this.


  4. A question about #6: We’re a federated congregation–one Presbyterian and one Lutheran congregation that came together for worship, fellowship, and ministry. What would be a good substitute: “I am glad to be part of [my church] because,” “I am glad to be (Lutheran)(Presbyterian) . . .”, “I’m glad to be both Lutheran and Presbyterian . . .”, “I’m glad to be joined with (Lutherans)(Presbyterians)”, or something else?


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