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How to Successfully Make Controversial Changes in the Church

Oct 20, 2016 9:00:00 AM

How to Successfully Make Controversial Changes in the Church

Change is a difficult thing to accept for a lot of people. People are creatures of habit. I know this first hand because every Sunday growing up we sat on the same side of the church—almost in the same pew.

People don’t tend to enjoy when their habits or traditions are abruptly uprooted—especially at church. Bring in a screen or two. Change the carpet. Change service times. Offer a different worship style. Update the bulletin. 

Many of these changes may create grumbles, conflicts, and possibly people may even leave the church—although I pray that no minor conflict, such as changing the bulletin, would ever lead to the latter outcome.

Making the change

As communicators we need to tread carefully when making big changes. I’m not saying that we should walk on eggshells and not make the changes, but we must respect those that worship at the churches we work for and advance with thoughtfulness and preparation.

In this post I’d like to address some points that your church should consider when implementing changes to your church bulletin.

This might all begin when you see something new and exciting another church does with their bulletin and you want to implement that change today!  Those alterations could be a new layout, a design, a biweekly or monthly format, or a new size—or maybe even eliminating the bulletin altogether.

Before you even make changes, consider if those changes fit into the culture of your church. Take time to research, reflect, and talk with church staff to discuss the feasibility of the changes. Maybe they will have ideas on how to execute the changes and cause the fewest ripples or see an alternative, even better, solution.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Months before the changes are to occur you should continuously communicate what members should expect. Share the message via the current church bulletin, in emails and newsletters, and from the pulpit.

Leadership buy-in is crucial

Without it, any bulletin changes will not succeed. It is vital for your church to have the pastor(s) present the changes as positive ones for the church, to communicate the purposes behind said changes, and convey their own excitement for what’s ahead.

Along those same lines, all church staff must maintain a consistent message about the bulletin updates. After the changes are executed there may be individuals from the congregation that have questions or concerns and could possibly approach staff members. It is key that not only the pastor(s), but all staff communicate the purpose behind the changes and understand the strategy and purpose of the alterations.

Dealing with concerns

If there are church members that come to you with concerns actively listen to their comments, acknowledge them, and extend respect and grace to those voicing opinions. As stated above, convey the consistent message of the context and purpose behind the changes. Yet, stand firm and confident in the changes that you and your colleagues made.

Give the members time to adjust to the changes.

Please share your experiences if your church has had to make controversial changes. What were some tactics that worked? What were some that didn’t?

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Jenn Eickman

Written by Jenn Eickman

Jenn is the Director of Development at the Lutheran Student Center and Fairmount Coffee, as well as a freelance communicator who has worked with churches and nonprofits. After studying communications at Iowa State University, she received a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University. Jenn is passionate about sharing the love of Jesus Christ and continues to be in awe of how the Lord led her into the field of church communications. She enjoys having deep discussions, playing piano, reading, and knitting, along with rooting for the Iowa State Cyclones with her husband.

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