Transitioning through the change well

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Thoughtfully shifting 20th century missions practices to a 21st century paradigm

If you are a pastor, staff member or even a volunteer at a church, chances are you have inherited a few things that might be in need of updating. Whether it’s the archaic marquee out front, the tattered felt-lined offering plates, or the roster of missionaries your church has committed to supporting.

While I can’t tell you what to do with the sign or of the offering plates, I can give you some sound advice on how to handle your missions commitments.

No one will dispute that the world around us has changed quickly, and the way the Church does 21st century missions needs to adapt. But what do you do with the years of missions traditions and monthly-support missionary commitments you need to honor? How do you move to a strategic missions mindset without burning bridges?Hoskins Family Photo via OneHope Archives

 (Hoskins Family Photo via OneHope Archive)

I grew up on the mission field, my parents ministering via the 20th century missions mindset—that era of giving and support funded my parent’s vision for serving the Lord. That’s the way it worked then. But this is now.

The good news is, my parents have lived through the change, continued their ministry and come out on the other side no worse for the wear. In fact, if you asked them, I think making the changes in how they do ministry has strengthened their mission and expanded their reach. So believe me when I say that it is possible to make the change without damaging relationships or impeding ministry.

When coaching churches through transitioning, I like to use the illustration of a pier. When it’s time to replace a pier, engineers don’t tear down the original, and then start building a new one in its place. Instead, they will choose a strategic spot a few hundred feet away to begin building a parallel structure.

Before any building occurs, there is extensive research, careful planning and discussion that takes place to ensure that there is understanding and agreement from all parties before the plans are drawn up to move forward. During the building process, there is a plethora of signage communicating the impending change(s), a timeline, and suggested routes or detours during construction. When the new pier is complete, the transition begins.

The same thoughtful strategy can apply as you develop a relevant missions strategy, communicate it to all parties involved, architect, then implement and transition.

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