Imagine closing a church you planted and pastored for 20 years.
Then starting a brand new church two weeks later.
It takes courage to navigate through change of this magnitude.
This was the journey of my good friend, Rob Mason.
Rob, with his wife Karen, planted and pastored a church in Perth for 20 years.
It was a remarkable church that achieved much over the course of those two decades.
However in recent times the church went through considerable pain and Rob and Karen found themselves with a church in crisis which ultimately led to major change.
I asked Rob to share how he navigated through his journey.
Navigate Through Change
In October 2014 C3 Church Beachway celebrated her 20th year anniversary.
What should have been one of our most rewarding moments in ministry was instead a day we felt deeply discouraged.
Beachway was hemorrhaging.
Over a period of about 18 months we had to leave a large facility and relinquish The Beach House, a thriving indoor play centre in Perth.
We also endured the threat of legal action and faced the possibility of bankruptcy.
During this turbulent time of relocating, we witnessed a dramatic decline in numbers.
The people who neither clients or customers, they are our friends.
After returning from leave in January 2015 we knew we were at a threshold of change.
We had a choice to make.
Do we choose the slow and painful death of allowing Beachway to continue to decline? Or do we choose the pain of radical and costly change?
We chose the pain of change.
Together we sensed God revealed a two-word strategy of change – Beachway restart. In other words, God was leading us to close Beachway and start a new church.
One of the triggers for change is a crisis.
Through a crisis God gets our attention. So what have we learnt about leading a church through change?
1. Consult widely
Over a couple of months we intentionally invited a number of skillful and seasoned leaders into our world to offer perspective.
Even the best leaders see situations imperfectly and incompletely (1 Corinthians 13:12).
John and Di Finkelde from Grow A Healthy Church were brilliant coaches during a time of vulnerability and when our emotional tank was low.
Over a number of sessions they listened, discerned and asked several searching questions that were instrumental in us moving forward with courage.
Our counsel is don’t navigate through change alone.
Consulting will offer you perspective.
Who can you invite to offer you perspective?
2. Communicate thoroughly
While consulting is about perspective, communication is all about credibility.
Over the past 20 years we have led the church through a number of significant changes.
What we have learnt is in order to take people with you and build credibility; your communication needs to be clear, consistent and transparent.
Over several weeks we methodically met with our Ministry and Finance Board, staff and other key leaders or stakeholders before emails were sent and announcements were made.
Communication is more than a presentation.
Communication involves listening – asking questions, validating peoples concerns and reassuring them that the change is necessary and positive.
One final lesson we’ve learnt about change and communication is silence doesn’t always equal agreement.
Communicate extensively and intentionally.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
A New Church
Rob and Karen are now pastoring C3 Church Cambridge in the western suburbs of Perth.
I can’t tell you how inspired I am by their fortitude and courage throughout this, at times, heart breaking ordeal.
There’s a lot to be said for faithful perseverance.
Well done, Rob and Karen.