How do you cut down on griping and divisiveness when a church is trying to change? Is it
possible to go through a process of death, then resurrection? How do you change when you
have few people and little resources?
More than 90 laity and clergy asked the Rev. Dr. John Myers and each other those
questions and more Jan. 28-29 during the New Church Development and Church Redevelopment
ministrys "The Turn Around Church" event.
The workshop was part of the ministrys annual program building meeting at the
Life Enrichment Center here and attended by members of the ministrys conference and
district committees, along with churches participating in the conferences pilot
Charles Courtoy, the ministrys executive director, said Myers was brought in to
give attendees "another viewpoint" on redevelopment as a pastor who helped a
congregation make significant changes and a consultant on church growth.
Before taking a yearlong sabbatical ending this June, Myers was pastor of Clay United
Methodist Church in South Bend, Ind., for nearly 13 years. While there, worship attendance
grew from 80 to 800 and membership from 350 to 900.
"Our goal and objective is to train our congregations to be evangelists,"
Myers said to participants. "There is a whole culture that doesnt know the
message of the Gospel."
Myers stressed that vision is "the key to revitalizing our ministries and turning
around our churches" and shared his 12 principles of a turn-around church. He related
many of his comments to the South Bend churchs experiences and gave attendees time
to share their own insights.
Dealing with members who cannot see the necessity of change or try to derail the
revitalization process was a major discussion point.
Myers suggested creating "the old environment within the new" to meet the
needs of members comfortable with the old culture. He also suggested hiring a consultant
if the church is divided between groups with equally strong visions.
Ultimately, he says, a church can expect to lose 30 percent of its members during major
change. "People and resources will leave, but God will provide the resources if we
are faithful to the vision," he said.
If money is an issue he suggested asking members to underwrite specific ministries.
Myers stressed that everything a church does should be done with excellence, the second
of his 12 principles.
"When they [unchurched] come to our churches, we have to put our best foot forward
for the sake of expressing the excellence of God," he said, adding that the principle
also applies to staffing. "Staff for excellence in ministry. Dont staff for
Myers suggests having one full-time secretary for every 100 worshippers and one
full-time secretary for every four professional staff people.
Through it all, Myers said members should always remember Gods will for their
church. "We have to train our minds to work for the purpose God places on our
hearts," he said. "We need to get out of the way and let God push the