Book Review – Small Church Essentials 5

Some folks thrive on change; others dread it.  The reality is that change happens however we might feel about it.  The type and effects of change depend greatly on how we choose to respond to the situation at hand.

Karl Vaters uses the image of a leaky roof in the latest chapter of Small Church Essentials; telling the story of someone who has gotten used to water coming in the house when it rains, and who also doesn’t see the urgency of fixing it when the sun is shining.   While doing the work to fix the problem involves change; it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to recognize that a leaky roof is only going to cause more problems over time.  Change happens either way – we just get to choose how much work it’s going to be in the end.

In his last chapter, and in the last post, Vaters examined the difference between ‘stuck’ and ‘strategic’, and exploring what it means to pursue health as a small congregation.  Now, he has advice that is directed perhaps more specifically to clergy leaders, but which I’d argue is important for anyone in leadership to understand as we work together for the kind of healthy change and growth God desires for us.

In that vein, I’m going to highlight a few of the key points he makes, without going into a tremendous amount of detail; we will soon have copies of this book available to check out at Memorial Baptist Church, or else look up Small Church Essentials by Karl Vater online if you want to order a copy for yourself.

  1. Tackle big issues immediately following a crisis.  When the going gets tough, and we’re aware of the need, lean prayerfully (not fearfully!) into it.
  2. Deal with problems and face our pain quickly, most of them won’t have time to become big crises.
  3. Always seek feedback on how to make good things better, and do preventative maintenance on the rest.
  4. Be wise about the pace of change (this is a bit of an art form); too fast will lose people, and too slow will also lose people [and miss the purpose of the change]
  5. Be aware of the health level of the church.  Some of the challenging outward tasks that need to be undertaken in a strategic small church will be damaging in a wounded or unhealthy church (he uses the image of trying to run on a broken leg).
    • He uses the same ‘breathing in’ / ‘breathing out’ image for balance for our church lives that we’ve talked about here; describing the core activities which fill us up in order to pour out God’s love and message:
      1. Breathing In: Worship / Fellowship / Discipleship
      2. Breathing Out: Discipleship / Ministry / Evangelism  (Discipleship being a bridge between the two)
  6. Change, not surprise.  – Vaters rightly emphasizes the need for clear communication, especially with leaders, and with the whole congregation.  Part of that communication is to give people time to process important decisions: don’t ask for an important decision on the same day it’s introduced.

I’m going to stop there, because the next thing he starts talking about is decluttering – and that deserves a conversation all of its own…

Which of these elements resonate the most strongly with you?  Where do you see places we can improve and build on?