We are working through an article by Scott Thomas on replanting an existing church, that is, renewing a church so that it grows and matures as a church plant does.
2. Church Leadership
a. Identify the top three or four lay leaders of the church.
i. What will each of their roles be in leading change?
ii. What resource or encouragement do they need to more effectively help guide the ship?
iii. Do they fully understand the vision for replanting a missional church?
iv. How could they lead organized groups of men as you work through this process of change? See the Disciples’ model below and try to identify at least the six key positions of leadership:
Top Leader 1 Leader Leader Leader
Top Leader 2 Sub-leader Sub-Leader Sub-Leader
Top Leader 3 Sub-leader Sub-Leader Sub-Leader
Remember that we’re talking about replanting an existing church. In Churches of Christ, this means the elders have to be firmly on board with such an effort. There’s no going around the elders.
If the members or the preacher want to initiate a replanting effort, they have to work with the elders. And it may be that the first step is to ask the elders to study the scriptures with them — to learn about grace and the Spirit and mission. Because until the elders understand these things biblically — that is, until they escape our traditional legalism — any replanting effort would be futile.
However, if the elders are on board, it’s time to take a close look at the leadership structure within the congregation —
* Do you have the right staff? Do you need to retrain or appoint a different song leader? Is the preacher the right man for such an effort? Does he need to be re-instructed? Replaced? (Of course, any staff member who is let go should be treated generously.)
* Do you have the right men in place as elders? Does the church need to ordain additional elders? Does the church need to lovingly ask a man to step aside?
* Most churches have their various ministries headed by deacons. Do you have the right ministries and the right people leading them?
I’d strongly urge any church attempting something as difficult as a replant to appoint based on gifts and talents, not gender, fertility, and marital status. There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible that says programs must be headed by deacons, and there’s a lot that says God gives gifts to the people he wants to have them and to use them.
And I’d kill the deacons meetings, especially if you have “at large” deacons who have no ministry responsibility. There’s no such office in the Bible, and why does a man not doing ministry get a say?
On the other hand, it may well be prudent to have regular meetings of those who actually lead the ministries, including the women who lead ministries. We often pretend that the ladies Bible class, the nursery, or the ladies’ clothes closet aren’t “ministries” because they are run by women — but they are ministries and they shouldn’t be ignored. Over half your members are women, and they should have a voice.
* Are the leaders on board with the effort? Are they equipped to lead their ministry in its part of the replanting effort? What training do they need?
Every church has a different personality. In some churches, it’s enough that the elders are on board. They carry enough respect that the church will follow their lead. In other churches, the congregation is a bit self-willed and will need considerable persuasion. Therefore, the leadership must carefully consider how they will involve the church in the transition.
Consider worship. It’s a hot button issue in the Churches of Christ. Bring in a guitar and drum kit, and many churches will split. And yet some churches have pulled it off and stayed together through patient instruction and by being a truly loving community (people who love each other won’t leave before having heard the other side out).
On the other hand, some churches split because the membership feels they weren’t sufficiently involved in the decision. There’s a huge difference between taking time to ask the church to decide which way to go versus deciding which way to go and only then taking time to persuade the church. The correct approach, I think, is to equip the church with the tools they need to make good decisions — starting with a deep understanding of grace — and then let the church decide.
It’s always a mistake, I think, when the leadership gets too far ahead of the congregation in their understanding of the scriptures. I know a church where the elders spent over a year studying the role of women, and having finished, were astonished to learn that the congregation didn’t agree with them after a three-week sermon series. Of course, they didn’t agree! They hadn’t read the books or attended the classes.
And so, study as a community. Sort it out through the small groups and Sunday school classes. I mean, if you start with the assumption that you don’t trust the congregation to read the Bible aright, you are headed into trouble. Rather, teach them how to read and study for themselves, and then trust your community to discern God’s will together.