Last week on vacation I was with celebrity Chef Regina Charboneau in Natchez, Mississippi, learning how to make appetizers for a 50-year “high school reunion” planning session in my home. Pursuing change and growth in our personal lives is a non-negotiable as well – no matter our age.
It has been almost a year since I transitioned out of local church ministry where I had served in some capacity for 45 years. The last 38 of those years had been as lead pastor at Ginghamsburg Church. Change is inevitable. I am writing this while preparing to organize a group meeting in our home this evening for the purpose of planning our 2019 fifty-year high school class reunion. Fifty years! How did I get to be 66 so soon?
One of the most frequently asked questions that I have encountered this past year as a ministry coach to other church leaders is how I was able to stay in the same United Methodist Church for almost four decades. Pastor Rachel Billups (Campus Pastor of Ginghamsburg’s Tipp City Campus) made this observation: “Mike, over the years you have been a champion of change. You have redefined yourself and your leadership season after season.”
Change is critical for the health and success of any organization. It has been a year since I blogged about my six reasons why change is non-negotiable. But if even for my own benefit, they are worth repeating here.
C - CONSTANT - Change is constant. Jesus himself reminds us that you can’t put new wine into old wineskins. Organizations that fail to change die. Have you noticed the change that has hit the retail industry due to the impact of the internet and Amazon? Consider the last 10 years:
2007 MACY’S $20.6 Billion sales----------------2017 $9 Billion
2007 JCPENNY $18.3 Billion sales-------------2017 $1.9 Billion
2007 SEARS $22.4 Billion sales-----------------2017 $1.3 Billion
Sears just announced this week that it is closing 72 more of its unprofitable stores.
Online worship has become a critical necessity in our online world at Ginghamsburg Church. The online worship pastor who is now part of our staff was not even in our strategic plan five years ago.
H - HEART - Identify the heart of the mission that never changes. The core values. The DNA of the mission. At Ginghamsburg Church that core mission is embedded in Jesus' mission statement that he read in his hometown synagogue found in Isaiah 61. To bring good news to the poor and set oppressed people free. To reach the lost and to rebuild broken places. To change the world one life at a time.
A - AUTHENTICITY - Keep it real. Make sure that the change is authentic to the nature of the mission. Never change just for change sake. Beware of short-term fads and gimmicks. Keep the long-term goals in mind. I have witnessed the long-term failure of short-term thinking that resulted in overburdened debt and leadership burnout in some very promising young leaders.
N - NAME THE WHY - The leader must always name the reasons why change is absolutely essential to the success of the mission. Change is often met with resistance because the reason for change is not articulated in contagious alignment with the mission. In 1980 Ginghamsburg’s little two-room country church was filled to overflow in the one worship service that the church had held at the same time since 1876. I explained that we had to start a second worship celebration. Was I met with resistance? You bet I was. But I clearly articulated that Jesus’ mission was our mission and preached about the good shepherd and the ninety-nine and one. If there were ninety-nine safely in the house and one lost on the outside, the good shepherd’s mission is always focused on the one on the outside. We went to a second worship time and soon after added a third.
G - GREAT - I read an excellent article in the May 2017 issue of INC. entitled, “Escape the Mediocrity of ‘Good Enough.’” Good is the enemy of great. God is a God of excellence. Jesus saved a wedding reception by turning water into wine. And in the judgment of the wine connoisseurs that were present, Jesus’ wine beat the good wine that was served first. Never settle for just good enough. I’m always looking for ways to reflect the excellence of God, without neglecting grace in everything we do.
E - EXPERTS - Delegate, delegate, delegate. Ginghamsburg Church was one of the early pioneers in media ministry. While working on my doctoral program in the 1980’s, I discovered that people’s learning patterns were changing. A study that came out of one of our local universities revealed that the average college graduate only read one and a half books a year. People were learning to depend more on alternative media outlets (seeing vs. reading). Just a few years later we would experience the explosion of the internet revolution and its impact on learning styles. I am not a tech savvy kind of guy. Fortunately, in the mid-1990’s, I stumbled onto two creative young men (Jason Moore and Len Wilson), who joined our staff and put Ginghamsburg on the map as a pioneer in media ministry. There are experts who can lead you into God’s next, sitting in your church just waiting to be asked!
Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus and global church ambassador for Ginghamsburg Church, served for nearly four decades as the lead pastor and chief dreamer of Ginghamsburg and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike is also the founder and chief strategist of Passionate Churches, LLC, which specializes in developing pastors, church staff and church lay leaders through coaching, training, consulting and facilitation services. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.