Managing a Spiritualist Center

How to Manage Change in a Church
By:Tamara Warta

Churches have long been the center of community and family life for many individuals, and that aspect can play a large, influential role in one's life. When changes come--be it a leadership transition, shift in worship style or new facility space--there will always be people who struggle with something new and different. Whether you are a pastor or just a congregant, you can help manage change in a church and make it a positive experience rather than a frustrating one.

Dealing with change:

Bridge the gap between young and old.
Find ways to unite the young and the old within your church family. In order for a church to thrive, it must grow or at least maintain a certain level of attendance. As new generations enter adulthood, you also start to see the generational gap widen between those in their teens and 20s, and those who still cling to their hymnal from 50 years ago. Finding ways to bridge this divide will breathe new life into your church and make everyone welcome to change. Perhaps your church is using more media and technological arts in its services, and the elder generation is not hip to music videos and multimedia endeavors. Reach a compromise by keeping these clips short and sweet at first, intermingling traditional elements with new technology in every service. You can also have a "contemporary" and "traditional" service, allowing congregants to attend the one most suited to their personal worship style.

Go out of your way to make everyone feel welcome. As churches grow and evolve, they may change locations to fit the needs of their new congregation size. If your church has recently located, pull out all the stops to make even the founding members of the church feel as welcomed as a new guest. Organize a free family pancake breakfast before services, offer tours of the new building during the week, and think of a handful of other inexpensive events that will complement your specific church well. These may include a performing arts night, a prayer meeting, a "re-grand opening" celebration, or even a night where individuals are invited to come contribute ideas and discuss concerns about the new facility.

If you are remodeling your current church home, put a positive spin on the construction work going on around you. Invest in some classy-looking partitions to conceal as much of the work as possible, or consider routing church goers into an alternate building entrance so they are not distracted by the mess.

Embrace new leaders
Introduce any leadership changes in a positive light. If your current religious leader has (or is about to) leave the church either for personal or professional reasons, you are navigating through some difficult waters. A shift in leadership is one of the biggest and most controversial changes a church can go through, since many people grow attached to their pastor, priest or whoever the shepherd of the congregation has been.

If possible, bring in the new leader before the old one has left. Allow them to split a few services so that the congregation can grow accustomed to the new personality and style. Also, make both the old and new leaders available to the community they serve. Many people will have questions, and these warrant an answer in many circumstances.

Control gossip whenever you can. Nothing makes an evolving church fall faster than a gossiping tongue. Utilize your church leadership to really encourage attendees and help them to feel good about the changes about to take place. If anyone on this team hears negative talk, equip them with proper training on how to reroute the conversation or lovingly confront that person on the powerful impact of damaging words.

Never allow communication to be cut off
Maintain an open, honest forum of communication with the congregation. Use newsletters, email listservs, phone calls and Sunday morning bulletins to alert members of any church changes. Try to avoid "surprise" announcements or decisions, as this can leave a congregation blindsided and on guard, leaving them wondering if their feelings were ever taken into consideration. The better communication your leadership and staff have, the more it will trickle down into the congregation and help everyone feel good about changes that must be made.