How to Lead Your Church through the Wilderness of Change - Episode 26

There is a place where any great opportunity for change can die. It's a no man's land, a wilderness, filled with temptations and riddled with the bones of past failures.  How do you avoid such? Today, we cover just that.
So about four episodes back, episode number 22, we started looking at how to lead change. At, first we considered two simple questions that will help your board or congregation consider changes.
Then we began to look at Dr. William Bridges ideas on change and transition. Dr. Bridges, in his book, Managing Transitions, teaches that all changes go through three stages of transition – An ending, the neutral zone, and the new beginning.
If this is the first episode you are listening to on change leadership, I suggest you go back to episode 22 and work up to this one.
In episode 24 we finished our work on how to end something. Today we will look at that phase between ending the old thing and starting the new – the area called the neutral zone.
I do not know anything about Dr. Bridges spiritual background. But in his book, Managing Transitions, he does use the Exodus as an example of these three phases.
You know the story – The Jews leave Egypt. They Jews wander in the wilderness for 40 years. The Jews cross over the river Jordan and begin a new thing in the land of promise. There was an ending, and eventually a beginning. But in the middle, those 40 years of wandering, we find the neutral zone.
There are some changes that do not require a neutral zone. You want to change the carpets. You go to Carpet World, pick a color, set up the install date, and step back. A few weeks later you have new carpet.
Some changes though require much more. They require a great deal of thought and work before you start something new. And managing the handover, the neutral zone, is essential. I will give you 4 things you must do while you are in the neutral zone, before you start the new thing.
I also, want to share some cautions, things you must be aware of as you wander through the neutral zone. And I will share these cautions first.
Here are 3 cautions, warnings, about the time between ending something and starting something new.
  1. People are more apt to leave during this period of time.
Dr. Bridges shares that in the business world during the period of time between the old thing and the new, employees are more apt to quit, come in late, or miss more time.
In the church world, I suspect that people are more apt to leave.  Why is that? The familiar is now gone, but nothing new is in its place. They feel like nothing is happening. They sense a lull in the action or movement of the church. So they leave.
In a few minutes, when I go through the 4 things you must do during the period, pay much attention to the idea of presenting the vision. The reason you must present the vision of this change is to keep people engaged, in place, and focused on the near future.
  1. There will be a strong pull to return back to what you had before.
Remember, the Exodus. After they got out into the wilderness, what did the people cry out for? They wanted to go back to Egypt. Numbers 14:4 says, "And they said to each other, 'We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'" When you are in the Neutral zone, people will try to reset the old thing. They will try to drag you back to Egypt.
“Things were much better when we had Sunday School...let’s go back to that.” Things were much better when our music was traditional....when our name was first Baptist.....when we had AWANA....when we....” You get the idea. Whatever the change, they will cry out for someone to lead them back to what they had before.
  1. The Neutral Zone will satisfy, and you will be tempted to make this no man’s land the new thing.
I don’t want to take this illustration too far, but remember Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh stayed on the other side of Jordan. You, your leadership, and your congregation will falter while you are in the neutral zone because you will begin to believe that you have fully accomplished the change. You will shut the process down and be content stay there.
In the past, I have fallen to this temptation and I have allowed some valuable changes to die in the neutral zone. A large reason was the temptation to stay in this secure wilderness of the neutral zone. Another reason is that I did not fully articulate what the change was to be.
Here is a great question to ask yourself and your team when tempted to make the neutral zone the new idea – What must be true for this change to be successful? If you can answer this question – and I would encourage you to answer this in writing with great detail – when you waver you will look at this question - What must be true for this change to be successful – and its answer and you will know that you are not there yet and to keep on rowing.

Now let’s explore what you must do while you are in the neutral zone.
  1. You must build teams that will oversee this change as it transitions from the old thing to the new thing. I feel it is essential that you have more than yourself managing this change. And the bigger, or the more important the change, the more you need to invest great thought and great intention in team construction.
Let me share what worked well for me in team construction.
Keep your teams lean, but also make them large enough to get a cross section of ideas and skills.
About two years ago, I had been at the church for approximately 10 years. The pastor I preceded had been at the church for 31 years. I wanted to take the church through was a change of vision and direction.
Here’s what I did when I constructed my team.
I personally recruited all of the members. I did not place an add in the bulletin asking for volunteers to be on the team. I picked them and individually invited them.
How did I come up with the list? Before I approached anyone to ask them to join, I went through the entire list of members and regular attenders. I divided this list into two groups. Those that were at the church before I arrived and those who had started attending after I arrived.
I then sorted these two groups by age and gender. The church where I pastor is traditional in who it allows to function as an elder and a deacon. We only use men. For this project, I wanted to make sure women had a voice.
Once I identified when people arrived, their gender, and their age – I did my best to balance the 12 member team – young/old, male/female, here before/here after.
But there was one final filter.  I did not want a bunch of “yes people” but I did want people who were teachable. So, if someone fit all the above requirements but did not have a teachable spirit, they were eliminated.
  1. I think the next thing you must do during the neutral zone period is to identify who will have ownership or a part in the new beginning. Once they are identified, you need to include them in the transition management that your team is doing. It could be they are already on the transition team. If not, bring them on. If they are going to be a part of the new beginning they need to be a part of the transition.
What will the team be doing during the neutral zone period? They will be planning the who, when, where, and what of the new beginning. Using or old example – changing from Sunday School to Small groups, this team will be identifying the leaders, they will be making decisions on curriculum, the nights of the week, whether the groups are open or closed, training requirements for leaders....on and on.
So you need to identify and bring on board everyone who will have a role or ownership in this new beginning. They must be involved with the team that is managing the transition.
  1. One a regular basis you need to put the vision of the new thing before your congregation. Remember earlier I warned you that people will leave or want to return to the old ways. This will happen while you are between the old and the new. To prevent or at least manage that, you need to be communicating the vision for the new beginning.
The Center for Creative Leadership website they listed 9 tips on how you should communicate your vision. I will give you the first 5. And I will mash up 4 and 5 so it will be just one tip
On the show notes, I will have a link to the article if you wish to read the other 4.
  • Tell a story.
When you put things in story form, you give life to your vision. Dr. Brene’ Brown says “Stories are data with soul.”
Use words that paint a picture. Use people and future activities as characters and events in this story. We recently built a new lobby and new bathrooms. I would tell the ladies about the new clean well-lit bathroom.
I would tell the story that Roger will no longer have to climb those dangerous steps to come to church because the new lobby will have an elevator. Sure you will share the costs, and the square footage, and the time – but people will not react to that nor will they remember that.
I learned the power of stories years ago when I preached a sermon. In the sermon I exegeted the passage, I parsed the Greek, I shared all the theological truths that I could share. And in the midst of all that, I shared a story of a three-legged dog.
At the end of the service, I stood in the back to shake hands as I always do. And what did the people talk about, what did they share with me. Not the exegesis, not the Greek, not the theology. No, they wanted to talk about the three-legged dog. They asked questions of the dog, they shared their own stories about three-legged dogs.
Cast the vision in story form and the people will respond to it. Put the story in the future tense and use members of you congregation as characters.
  • Perfect your elevator speech.
An elevator speech is a short speech you can give during a typical elevator ride. In other words, you need a way to share the vision in only one minute or less.
You will probably not share this on an elevator, but you may share it at the start of a SS class or while standing in line at a church fellowship. So have short version.
And this short version should trumpet the negatives if we do not change and the positives of how this change will fix the current problems.
  • Use multiple forms of media.
In a past episode, I told you to use every communication channel you have. Now I am telling you, the more ways you can communicate this vision the better.
The lobby project came alive  for the people when I showed them a 3-d mock up and a video moving the viewer through the projected lobby, the people got very excited.
  • You need to share this vision one-on-one especially with key players, stakeholders, and key supporters in your church.
Sounds like your schmoozing. And you are. There are people in every church who people come to and respect. They have official leadership positions – elder, deacon, trustee – and unofficial – the church busy body, the church know it all. You need to take the time to communicate this vision with these people. And you need to do it one-on-one.
How often should you share the vision. If you do the above 4 steps you will be sharing the vision all the time. But I would not let 3 Sundays go by before I present the vision again.
  1. The final thing you need to do while you are in the neutral zone is that you need to manage.
If you are like me you already hate this step. I would much rather teach and preach. But with changes, you must put on your manager hat and manage this change.
You need to manage the transition team. You need to manage the key leaders that will be owning the new thing. And you need to manage presenting of the vision.
You need to be hands on, no laissez-faire laid back style will probably not work. Sorry for that news. You need to manage the journey through the neutral zone.
So, we considered phase two of change – every transition has three parts – the ending, the neutral zone and the beginning of the new thing. Today we looked a the neutral zone.
I covered the three hazards found in the neutral zone
  1. People are more apt to leave.
  2. People will want to return to the former ways.
  3. You will be tempted to remain in the neutral zone and called it change.
Then we covered the four things you must do the complete the neutral zone
  1. You must build a transition management team.
  2. You must identifiy the owners of the new beginning and get them involved.
  3. You must regularly communicate the vision.
  4. You must closely manage the process through the neutral zone.

This is Mark Jones and you have been listening to episode 26 of Coaching Christian Leaders. If you have benefitted from this podcast, please leave a review on iTunes or wherever you listen.
If you are about to go through a major change I strongly suggest you read Dr. William Bridge’s book Managing Transitions. I will have a link in the show notes.
Finally, if you feel that coaching would help you, that is something I provide one-to-one and with groups. You can contact me at for more information.
Thanks and I will speak with you soon.


Managing Transitions, by William Bridges
The Center for Creative Leadership -

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How To Rebound From Sin and Failure - Episode 25

Can you ever recover from failure and sin? Will God ever use you again? Or are you stuck on the sidelines, never to serve again? Pastor Bill Baldwin answers these questions.
Currently, Bill is the Senior Pastor of Harvest Church in Albemarle, North Carolina. He is also the author of the book, Rebound: Rising From Failure Back to Purpose and Destiny.

Bill Shared

  • His Testimony 1:10
  • The inspiration for his book, Rebound: Rising from Failure Back to Purpose and Destiny. 3:35
  • The purpose and the intended reader of Rebound 9:55
  • Why people feel as if God has abandoned them 13:45
  • How we should understand God’s love when we sin and fail 18:30
  • The right way to understand repentance 21:35
  • His C.H.R.I.S.T. outline  26:55
  • Some simple steps to experience rebound 31:45
  • His counsel for the person who cannot forgive himself. 38:44

Closing Thoughts

Please share this episode, especially with those struggling with failure. Also, give the gift of Bill's book, Rebound: Rising from Failure Back to Purpose and Destiny.
If you have enjoyed this podcast, please review the podcast at iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen.
Coaching Christian Leaders is an extension of the coaching I provide. I am a trained Christian Leadership coach. I help Christian leaders build healthy ministries. Feel free to contact me at for more information about the coaching.
Also, join one of the Christian Leader Masterminds I facilitate. These masterminds are free - no cost to you - but seats are limited to only six participants. Visit the website for more information or email me at

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How to Communicate Change to Your Congregation - Episode 24

How to Communicate Change to Your Congregation
This year, 2019, we are focusing our efforts on how to lead change. In episode 23 we addressed in part how to end something.
Dr. William Bridges in his book Managing Transitions tells us that change begins when you first end something. Ending the current thing is part of starting something new.
Dr. Bridges separates change from a transition. When you when you decide to change something, say your service times, that is just a change. A transition is a process of ending the former service times and then adopting the new service times.
A transition is made up of three phases – An ending (the current thing must end), the neutral zone, and the new beginning.
In the last episode, we focused on the ending phase.  I covered 5 questions to help you end something. Here again, are those questions.
  1. What is actually ending?
  2. Who is losing what?
  3. What are the secondary changes your change will cause?
  4. How will people react emotionally to this change?
  5. Is this change something the church stands for or is known for?
If you have not listened to episode 23, I strongly encourage you to listen to that episode either before you listen to this one, or immediately after you listen to this one. Episodes 23 and 24 need to be considered together.
We are moving forward from these questions but we are still in the ending phase. Today, I want to share with three additional steps you must consider as you end something.
The first thing to consider is how often and what you will communicate to the congregation and to any boards or teams associated with the change. This communication begins prior to the ending and continues all through the transition.
Let’s focus on the congregation first. My rule of thumb is to communicate with the congregation every time there is a significant change or every 21 days. Whichever comes first.  Feel free to modify that 21-day rule down to 14 days. I have found with my congregation, that they get nervous about change, so every 14 days or with every change, whichever happens first, is the modified rule of thumb. But definitely, no more than 21 days between updates.
How should you communicate with the congregation? You should use every communication channel you normally use. In my situation, that would be me or a team leader speaking from the platform on Sunday morning and putting a similar announcement in the bulletin.
If you have a monitor in the lobby that scrolls announcements, it should also be there. If you publish a newsletter, it must also be there.
Every time you make a change, or at least every 21 days, you must share this with the congregation using every communication channel you normally use.
What do you tell the congregation? You tell them everything they need to know and everything they already know.
You as the leader can determine what they need to know. But a church is not the CIA. The CIA withholds information for good reasons. Less is better. But you are a church. And a church is both an organization and a family. So, in my opinion, More is better. It is better to err on giving too much than too little.
So, what do you tell the congregation? You tell them everything they need to know and everything they already know.
What do I mean by the last part, “everything they already know”?
Even if they can figure it out, or get the knowledge from somewhere else, you must still inform them using all channels. Here is an example.
The church where I serve as pastor recently built a new lobby. To me the process was obvious.
  • The contractors dug a hole.
  • Later they poured footers
  • After that up went the walls
  • And every week or so after that, the crew finished another part of the new lobby.
Every Sunday and every Wednesday evening, the congregation came to church and with their own eyes saw the progress.
But over time they began to complain. “We want to know what’s going on. You need to keep us informed.”
So from then on, I informed them of the progress and the setbacks. Every week or two I gave an update.
With the congregation, you need to tell them what they need to know and tell them what they already know. Use every communication channel you have. The more you share, the less they will complain and the more they will support the project.
But it’s not just the congregation you report to. You must keep your board and any team that is part of this project informed.
With boards and teams, they need to know about every change and every milestone you cross. And they should be notified as often as these things occur. I believe you can keep team communication to weekly. But hold nothing back.
With your board and teams, you should take advantage of the technology of today. Email, text, maybe a project management app like Trello or Asana, to keep them up to date.
Most church boards or leadership teams are staffed with volunteers. It is not unusual for a board to meet once per month. That’s too long between updates when going through a transition. So use email, texting, or a project management app to keep the team up to date.
Remember, it is this group that you first sold on the change. You went into this project with their support. You need to communicate often in order to keep their support.
I also find that congregation members go to board members for updates and to voice their concerns. The more the board or team knows the better they can handle these moments.
How far in advance do you start communicating this change with the congregation? How far in advance is dependent upon the scope of the change. The bigger the change, the farther out you begin to communicate. But what that number is – six months, 90 days, - that should depend on you, your church, and the project.
The important thing is to communicate in general once the decision to change has been made. Communicate in specifics only after you have mapped out all aspects of the change.  Once you know the who, when, where, and what, then begin the process as described above.
Number two,
When you are ending something in order to start something new, you need to be very clear about what is ending and what is not.
You need to put this in writing. You need to communicate these precise words from the platform and over every communication channel. Be very specific.
In the last episode, we used the example of ending Sunday in order to start small groups. Maybe the statement to communicate would be:
“The first Sunday in May, May 1st will be the final time we will have Sunday School. Come one last time to study the Bible together. Immediately after Sunday School, we will have a 15-minute reception to honor our Sunday School Superintendent and our teachers. Donuts, Juice, and Coffee will be served.
The following Monday evening will be the official kick-off for small groups. .......”
Put dates, names, times, milestones, everything that the people need to know, in print, and communicate it clearly.
Why do you need to communicate exactly what is ending and what is not?
Because if you are not clear on what is ending and what is not ending, someone will try to keep on doing it. There is always resistance to change. To eliminate that resistance, you must communicate clearly what is and what is not ending.
Number three. When you end something, if appropriate, celebrate the ending.
Several years back, we had to tear down the original church to make room for the changes to the current building. This former church went back to 1900. It had not been used as a church since about 1950 and was in sad shape.
It took some leadership and salesmanship to get the congregation to agree to knock it down. But finally, all parties agreed. Before the wrecking ball arrived we had a special service. We gathered beside the former church. Some of the older members shared their memories of the building – salvations, baptisms, weddings. We asked God to bless the future that the raising of this building would create. And a week later, I grabbed about 30 bricks out of the pile, before it all went to the dump and made these bricks available to any who wanted them.
When we start something new, we cut ribbons, we invite a special speaker, we have dinners. But when we end something, often it is done quietly.
I believe, when it is appropriate, we should end something with as much celebration as when we would start something.
So when appropriate, celebrate the ending.
Let’s conclude this episode by creating some coaching questions that you can use with your transition team.
  1. What are we going to communicate to the congregation about this change?
  2. When will we begin to share information about the change with the congregation?
  3. How often will we update the congregation?
  4. What channels of communication will we use?
  5. Who will be responsible for each channel?
  6. What is the specific wording on what will end and what will not end?
  7. Who will deliver this specific communication to the church?
  8. How will we celebrate the ending?
  9. What token or memento can we give to the church members to celebrate the ending?
  10. Who will lead this celebration?
  11. Who will we recognize at this celebration and who else will participate?
These are some great questions to lead your team through this phase of the change. I will have them in the show notes and in the near future, I will provide a handout you can download.
That concludes the first phase of how to lead a change. You lead a change by first ending something.
If you have benefited from this episode or the podcast in general, please review the podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen.
Also, remember what I shared with you at the start of this episode. I am opening up another mastermind. If you want more information, please email me at for more information.
I believe every Bible preaching, God-honoring church can be healthy, regardless of size. To that end, I help pastors, especially pastors of small churches, build healthy churches. How do I do that? I do it through coaching.
Every pastor needs a coach. So let’s talk and see if I am the right coach for you. Go to to book your complimentary coaching session or just email me at
In the next episode, we will take a break from the subject of leading change and speak with Pastor Bill Baldwin. Bill is the author of book Rebound: Rising from Failure Back to Purpose and Destiny. I truly enjoyed my conversation with Bill and I think very highly of him and his book. So I know you will get a lot out of this conversation.
This is Mark Jones. I will speak to you soon.

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Five Coaching Questions To Help You End a Ministry - Episode 23

In the last episode, episode 22, we began to learn how to lead change.  All leaders must have a clear idea of how to take their organization through change. This ability to lead change is essential.
The good news is ability is something we can learn. And the steps that I will be covering with you can be applied to big changes or small changes.
As I said in the last episode, I greatly value the work of Dr. William Bridges. Dr. Bridges wrote several books on change, both on personal change and organizational change. If you see change on the horizon for your church or ministry, I suggest you read Managing Transitions, by Dr. William Bridges. I will have a link to this book in the show notes.
Dr. Bridges differentiates between change and transition. Change is just that, change. You say we are going to change the carpet. That’s the change. A transition is the process of removing the old carpet and getting new.
According to Dr. Bridges, transition involves three phases. All transitions begin with an ending. That’s phase one. They then move into phase two, called the neutral zone. And the final stage is the new beginning.
The mistake we often make is moving instantly into the new beginning. We fail to take the church through the first stage, the ending, and the second stage the neutral zone. This jump to the new beginning is why you have failed in the past, failed at starting and sustaining the change.
Today we will focus on phase one, the ending.
When you make a change, the current thing must end before the new thing begins.
What I will do today, is take you through the early part of the ending and give you a series of coaching questions that will help you and your team end the thing you are changing.
I recently asked pastors what are examples of changes churches go through. In about 90 seconds these 10 pastors came up with 17 changes churches face. I won’t go through all 17, but you can imagine, the list ran from Polity changes to Service time changes. Changes in worship style to change in leadership.
For today, I will use the example of a change in discipleship. Our example, we will change from Sunday School to Small Groups. But the questions I will give you will apply to any change. I suggest you write these questions down as we go.
So if you have decided to change your church from a Sunday School model to a small group model, what are the steps of transition? Here are some coaching questions for you and your team.
Question number One “What is actually ending?
In our example, Small Groups are beginning, but Sunday School is ending. I know that Small Groups is the new thing, the goal of this change, but our focus must be on what is ending.  Before you start the great new idea, you must identify what is ending.
I think the first question is easy to answer and will only take a moment, but the follow-on questions will take some thought.
Here is the follow-on question.
Question number two:  “Who is losing what?
In our example, the question sounds like this, Who is losing what when we end Sunday School?
Here are some answers to that:
The Sunday School superintendent and the teachers are no longer needed. They lose their opportunity for service. They lose their position. They lose some meaning in their lives. They lose the Sunday School room where they’ve taught for the past 15 years. They lose access to the kids they are teaching.
And on and on you can go. You need to write out all of this.
Here’s some more - Those that attend Sunday School lose the instruction they were receiving. They lose the fellowship they were part of. They might lose a position, such as prayer captain, or the person who took the role, or the person who brought the snacks...
As you take your church through a transition to a change, you need to answer these questions
1. What is actually ending?
2. Who is losing what?
Now we are moving quickly through this, but I want you to understand that when you initiate a change and begin to take your church through this transition, these questions demand time and thought.
You should go into detail with your answers. Use names and positions when appropriate. “Bruce will no longer teach the young adults. Linda will have to let go of her 4-5-year-old class.” These names are people and these people will respond to this ending in predictable ways, based on their personalities. By answering question number two, Who is losing what, you will be better prepared to take your church through this transition.
Next question to ask is:
What are the secondary changes your change will probably cause?
Think of it this way. Your change is the first domino in a line of dominoes. When you make your change, ending Sunday School, your domino knocks over another domino. And that domino knocks over another.
So ask, What are the secondary changes your change will probably cause?
When you change from Sunday School to small groups, there will be secondary changes that will occur.  The church custodian’s responsibilities and hours will change because he is no longer cleaning classrooms. That may affect his income if he is an hourly employee. Or it may free him up to focus on something else.
  • Training for small group leaders will need to be developed.
  • The church secretary will have to coordinate with leadership so that the new schedule can be printed.
  • The former SS rooms will now be used as...
You need to identify these before you tip over that first domino. Before you announce, “Hey were shifting to small groups!” you need to answer these questions.  Brainstorm. Get the leadership involved. And if anything, over plan.
The first coaching questions you need to ask before you announce or begin the change are:
  1. What is actually ending?
  2. Who is losing what?
  3. What are the secondary changes that your change will probably cause?
Next, you need to anticipate the emotional reactions to your ending.
Here are some, but I am certain you could have guessed this list: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Sadness, Resentment, Fear, Worry.
Robert McGee in his workbook The Search for Significance says “Emotions express themselves through actions.”
What are the actions you will probably witness? Impatience, Hostility, Rudeness, Blaming, and even Departure.
People have come to the church where I am the pastor because of a change at their previous church. And I am certain that people have left my church because of change. They reacted emotionally. This emotion led to action or actions; one of which was departure.
So the question is How will people react emotionally to this change?
Again, dive deep. Consider people. You will miss some. You will not guess every response. But if you ask, “How will Amy respond emotionally when we do away with her six-grade girls class? If you know Amy, you can anticipate her emotions.
So the questions are:
  1. What is actually ending?
  2. Who is losing what?
  3. What are the secondary changes this change will cause?
  4. How will people react emotionally to this change?
Finally, a question you should ask before you go too far down the road is this:
Is this change something that the church stands for?
In the last episode, I gave you two questions to share with your board or your congregation.
The first question was, What can we never change? And the second one was, What should we change? Or reworded to, What do we need to do to improve?
But the first question, What can never change? Is linked to the question, Is this change something that the church stands for?
I said in the last episode, that I believe the only unchangeable thing is the gospel. The local church is called upon to defend and protect the gospel. But everything else can be changed. But there will be things, other than the gospel, that will be considered unchangeable.
When you ask your leadership or congregation, What should never change? They will answer with things that the church stands for; things that the church is known for.
Back to our example. You feel certain that a small group approach to discipleship is essential. You determine that the future of the church is linked to moving to small groups.
So you begin the process of ending Sunday School in order to transition into small groups. But here’s the problem. Your church is known for its Sunday School ministry.
In the past, you hired education pastors. You spent large sums on the building to support Sunday School. You have a bus ministry that brings in community kids for Sunday School. When you begin to end Sunday School, you are killing off something the church is known for. You are ending something on the Do not Change List.
You can change something on the Do not Change List. You can kill off something your church is known for. What you need to understand is this - if you kill something the church is known for the pushback will be multiplied by some number – 10 – 100- 1000. And you and your team must prepare for that.
Also, you will have to decide whether to end this thing immediately or end it slowly – one blow or death by a thousand cuts?
My advice – kill it once and for all. End it immediately. Do I always do that? Sadly no. Sometimes it is much easier to allow it to die slowly.
I will spend more time on this idea – immediate end or slow death – in a future episode.
So here are the questions one more time.
  1. What is actually ending?
  2. Who is losing what?
  3. What are the secondary changes your change will cause?
  4. How will people react emotionally to this change?
  5. Is this change something the church stands for or is known for?
All these questions are listed in the show notes. Go to and look for episode number 23. I am also developing some worksheets with these questions. I will let you know in a future episode how to get these worksheets.
In the next episode, we will continue to look at how to end something. We are not finished with this phase of transition. So start looking for episode 24
This is Mark Jones. If you have enjoyed listening to Coaching Christian Leaders please review the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Google podcasts or where ever you listen. Also, please visit the website, for more information. There you can listen to past episodes and learn more about the coaching I provide and the masterminds I facilitate. I would love to help you develop a healthy church or ministry.
Thanks, I will speak to you soon.


Managing Transitions, by Dr. William Bridges

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How To Lead Change - Episode 22

There will come a time, probably sooner than later, that you will need to make a change. You will need to change something at your church. Over the next few episodes, we will look at how you can lead your church through change.
The principles I will cover apply to big changes as well as small. Obviously, changing your worship music is a bigger change than changing your carpet color. But the steps are the same.
Now, Over the past 12 years, I have taken the church I pastor through several changes. And I foresee more changes in the immediate future.
I’m not going to tell you what I need to change but I will share this fact – I believe everything but one thing is open to change
Listen to 1 Timothy 3:15b
“the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
I understand those words this way. The local church is the protector, the fortress of the truth, of the Gospel. The gospel never changes. The truth found in God’s word never changes. And the local church is called upon to protect that truth in its local context.
So the truth cannot be changed. But anything else is open to change.
Now let’s get into it. Today, I want to give you an overview of what change looks like and in the weeks to come, I will go into greater detail on the steps.
Dr. William Bridges has written extensively about change – personal and as an organization.
If you are going to take your church through change you need to at least read his book, Managing Transitions. I will have a link to this book in the show notes.
Dr. Bridges has identified three phases of transition or change. Dr. Bridges uses the term transition. For him, change and transition are not the same. But I will use change and transition interchangeably.
So the three phases of transition are as follows
  1. The first phase is the ending. All change, all transitions begin with an ending.
  2. The second phase is what Dr. Bridges calls the neutral zone.
  3. And the final phase is the New Beginning.
So let’s understand this. A transition begins with an ending
This is essential. All of us have made the mistake, maybe in front of the congregation or before the church board. We have shared the possibility of the new beginning before we have shared the necessity of the ending. And when we did that we suffered the consequences. And possibly the new beginning never happened because the people did not see the need for it.
So the first thing you need to do is take your people through the ending.
This is a painful period. This is the hard part. This, in my opinion, takes the most time.
There is a church in my local area that has a great young pastor. He was recently hired on. He is taking this established church through a radical change. And his first step? Teaching and preaching on why the current situation must end.
He is helping his people let go. He is helping his people deal with the loss associated with this change. I don’t know the numbers, but I suspect some people will leave. The pain of loss will be too much for them. But most will stay, especially if he continues to help them end the current methods.
Dr. Bridges teaches that a neutral zone follows this ending. It is during the neutral zone that the future is planned, teams are built, new patterns and new ways of doing business are created.
One caution, I believe many of good transition can die in the neutral zone. I have led my congregation into the neutral zone, I assumed we had reached the promised land. The change then ceased and in time we just reset back to the old way of doing business.
Do no make that mistake that the neutral zone is the finished product. You must know the ultimate destination and you must push through this temptation to stop.
I don’t know if you are into old books. The journey Dr. Bridges has mapped out reminds me of Homer’s Odyssey. If you remember, Odysseus is trying to get home after the Trojan war. What should have been a 10-day trip ended up taking 10 years. And all along the way, there were good reasons to stop and not finish the journey.
If you are going to take your church through major change you need to start with the ending and use the great gift of the neutral zone for development, but you cannot stop there. You must keep the finish in sight.
Before we begin to end things, what should we first do?
Before we end anything we must ask and answer two questions. Before I get to the questions let me share my situation.
The church I pastor has a church board. The board is made up of the deacons and elders. We meet once per month and make the decisions for the church. We examine the financial reports.  We follow Roberts Rules of order, - we do old business, new business.
This group of men is the group I must first sell on any church change. It is these men that will support me or not. I can be the upfront person leading the change if I have their support.  So change begins with them.
Your situation might be different. You may answer to no one, or answer to a congregation, or a board. It doesn’t matter. You still ask and answer these two questions.
Question number one: What must never change?
If you answer to a board or a congregation, ask them this question and listen closely to their answers.
I said earlier, that I feel the only thing that can never change is the Gospel, the truth. But that’s too simple. There are some things that are unique to every church that may find themselves on the do not change list. You need to note these. These are potential landmines.
Every answer that comes your way, record it, acknowledge it. But in the end, you do not have to live with it. You might be rocking that 1970’s gold carpet in the auditorium. And when you ask, What must never change, there will be someone who says, “The Carpet.”
Write it down. Note it. But you do not need to live with that carpet for the next 10 years. You can change it. That’s what leadership is all about and that is why you must take them through the painful process of letting go or ending.
Here’s a better example. What if someone says, “Our music must never change.” And it is music you feel must change? What are you going to do? Your church is traditional in its music and you feel it must change to contemporary. What should you do?
If that is a change you are willing to make, you can throw out the organ this week and put the drums up next week. And of course, suffer the consequences.
Or you can acknowledge their input and begin to take them through the process of change that begins with understanding that this to must end.
But that is the first question, “What must never change?”
The second question is this. What must we change?
You might want to reword this question. The word “change” frightens people. Change makes them nervous. Here’s the rewrite.
What must we do to improve?
That’s softer. It is not as confrontational.
Again, write everything down, even if you disagree with it. Then prioritize the list, and if you are working with a group begin to debate the answers.
There will be items on the list that everyone can agree with. I would begin with these.
Now let’s wind this up. In the weeks to come, I will go into greater detail on this subject, how to lead change.
But today, remember we learned that all change or transitions begin with an ending, there is a neutral zone, and then the final phase is the new beginning. Do not jump to the new beginning until you have helped them deal with the ending.
Before all that, ask and answer two questions: What must never change? And What must we change? Or What must we do to improve?
I hope this helps.
This is Mark Jones and you have been listening to Coaching Christian Leaders.
Please share this episode with your friends and fellow pastors. Also, don’t forget to subscribe. You can do so on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or any podcast player.
If you are interested in one on one coaching please contact me. I can be reached at

Resource Mentioned

Closing Thoughts

If you are a Christian leader in need of direction or motivation, I would love to help. I coach leaders, especially small-church pastors. I also provide free six-session masterminds for pastors and missionaries. If you are interested in any of the above, email me.

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Step One in Leading Change

Back in October, Thom Rainer posted Seven Reasons Pastors Get Fired. The first reason pastors get fired is "Members who can't deal with significant change." He later notes, "They would rather see the church slowly die than suddenly become healthy."

But a primary role for a leader is to lead change. Pastors who take their leadership role seriously will need to lead their congregations through significant change. Even at the risk of losing their jobs.

But much of this can be avoided if the pastor takes the first step correctly. The reason churches struggle with change, the reason church members would rather accept slow death, is because leaders mistakenly shift the group into the new beginning before putting to rest the current situation.

Dr. William Bridges, in his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, identifies three phases of a transition. They are:

  1. an ending
  2. a neutral zone
  3. a new beginning

Although we are talking about a church changing, you can see this clearly by looking at life's example. Childhood needs to end before a person becomes an adult. (In life, there are several transitions - child to teen - teen to young adult - and so forth.) The important thing to know is that before you begin, the current situation must end.

There is a church near me that is going through this very thing. They are in the midst of a serious change. And the pastor and his associate are preaching and teaching about the need for change. They are helping the congregation understand why the current situation must end. They are doing this before the new begins.

Leading a church through change might get you fired. But that can be avoided if you help the church first understand the necessity of ending. If you make the mistake of dragging your people into the future before you end the present you will surely get canned.

More on this in future posts. Also, look for podcast episodes on leading change. Below are links to the resources mentioned.

But let me close with this question: What is one thing you have done to lead your congregation through change?

Resources mentioned

- The Seven Reasons Pastors Get Fired, by Thom S. Rainer
- Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges
- Managing Transitions, by William Bridges

Jumpstart 2019

Hey, this is Mark and I have a question.

How can you accomplish your most important goals for 2019 within the first 90 days?

One way is to surround yourself with a group of experienced leaders and tap into their collective experience. Imagine a group of pastors sitting with you, working with you, encouraging you, and even holding you accountable. That would be amazing!

This kind of group is called a mastermind. In 2019, I will be offering three masterminds. These masterminds will be online. And they will be free for all! Here are the choices.

  1. Lunchtime Pastors' Mastermind - This is a 90-Day Mastermind for pastors that meets during lunchtime, 1:00-2:00 PM EST. It will start on January 10th. There will be two sessions per month - on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month. There will be a total of six sessions. Each session will last 60 minutes. The final session will be March 28th. I will limit this mastermind to six participants.
  2. Evening Pastors'Mastermind - This is a 90-Day Mastermind for pastors. We will meet in the evening, 7:00-8:00 PM EST. It will start on January 3rd. There will be two sessions per month - on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month. There will be a total of six sessions. Each session will last 60 minutes. The final session will be March 21st. I will limit this mastermind to six participants.
  3. Missionary Mastermind - This is a six-month mastermind for missionaries. We will meet from 1:00-2:00 PM EST. Each session will last approximately 90 minutes. We will start on January 3rd. We will meet monthly on the first Thursday of the month. There will be six sessions. The final session will be on June 7th. I will limit this mastermind to six participants.
Again, these masterminds will be online. All you need is a computer or a smartphone and the internet to participate. And remember, there is no cost for you. 

Email me at to reserve your seat.

Small-Town Pastors' Conference - Episode 21

October 8-10th, 2018, I attended the RHMA Small-Town Pastors’ Conference. RHMA stands for Rural Home Missionary Association. This conference was held in Lancaster Pennsylvania.
It was a great conference. Why? Well, I want to share some of the reasons I enjoyed it – who was there, what I learned – and then encourage you to consider attending the next one. There is on scheduled for April 8-10, 2019 in Morton Illinois. Morton is about 10 miles southeast of Peoria.
The primary speakers for the event were Ed Stetzer, Dr. Eugene Habecker, Jared Wilson, and Jason McConnell. All the speakers spoke to the heart and to the situation of the small-church small-town pastor.
Often when a small church pastor attends a typical pastors’ conference, they feel out of place because so much of the information is geared towards large churches and their staff. This is not the case at the RHMA conference.
But for me, the real highlight of the conference was meeting other small-church pastors. These are hard working men.  They love Jesus and they want their congregations to love Jesus as well. Many I met are bi-vocational, and some are second career pastors, much like myself. I really liked getting to know these men and I have since kept up with a couple of them.
The stats say that the over half the churches in the US have less than 75 people. Around 90 percent are less than 250. That means the number of small-church pastors is huge. Sadly, many of us function alone.
When I work out of my church and look out the window, all I see are a few cows of a small dairy farm. I have to drive a distance to meet other pastors.
But when I attend the RHMA conference, I am surrounded by many men in the same situation. We talk, we share ministry and it is encouraging and it is my favorite part of the conference.
Let me share a few things I learned from a select few of the speakers. I attended Dr. Habecker’s seminar on Courageous Conversations and forgiveness in Pastoral Leadership. The bulk of his seminar covered the Forgiveness Cycle. You can learn more about this in his book The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead.
I have a friend who is an executive coach. He works with CEOs and CFOs of major corporations. What is the primary thing he helps these C level leaders with? Soft skills.
I coach small-church pastors and some missionaries. What is a topic that eventually comes to the surface? Soft Skills.
What are soft skills? A simple definition is “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
All of us, no matter how gracious we may be, need to improve in our soft skills. Consider picking up Dr. Habecker’s book, The Softer Side of Leadership to learn how these impact your world of ministry. Or you want some personal coaching on soft skills, email me and we can address these skills through Christian Leadership Coaching.
Ron Klassen had a seminar titled Maximizing The Strengths of the Town and Country Church.
Ron recommended some great resources – David Ray’s book, The Big Small Church and the work of Christian Schwarz. I have links to these in the show notes.
Part of Ron’s seminar included four points on maximizing the relational strength of your church. Here they are:
  1. Focus on personal relationships more than the quantity of relationships. I love this and if you think about it, a pastor’s ability to focus on personal relationships is a strength of a small church.
  2. Be intentional about making intergenerational relationships a centerpiece of your church’s ministry. My only question here is the demographics I face and maybe you face. Much of my church is older. Sometimes we have young people for a season. So my question is, “What is the necessary step prior to this one that either holds the younger people in the church or draws them to it?” I think this is a great topic of a future conference or a podcast episode.
  3. Emphasize the advantages of relating with people from all walks of life and encourage your congregation to be purposeful about doing it. This point reminds me of the time, early in my ministry at the rural church where I serve. A farmer, by the name of Gordon, asked me to help him get the hay in. At the time Gordon was using the small bails. Now I am a chubby pastor who sits behind a computer all day. This work almost killed me. I think my flush face and hard breathing scared Gordon because he has never asked me back. Thankfully he also changed to the big bales and can now get it in with a forklift. In my church, I have farmers, bricklayers, electricians, AND I also have computer programmers and government contractors. I need to find a way to relate to all of them. Without being killed by the experience.
  4. Finally, design the worship service to reflect the relational bent of the congregation. Ron gave the examples such as adding a sharing and praying time and adding a personal touch to the greeting and announcements. These are simple changes any of us can do.
The final session I want to share was that of Jared Wilson. He spoke on the subject of Ministry in Hard Soil.
Instead of sharing the details of his talk, I want to share just a few points he made.
Early in his session, he asked an important question:
Is joy a dominant theme in your ministry?
So is it? Is joy the dominant theme in your ministry?
 Later, as he spoke on Ezekiel 37, Jared said, “The purpose of Christianity is not to make good people better but to make dead people alive.”
I’ll add my two cents here. There is a lot of making good people better and only a little of making dead people alive in the church today. How do we make dead people alive? The answer is Jesus and His gospel.
Jared presented several points on doing ministry in hard soil. Here is one that stood out to me.  Hard soil requires hardy prayers. I like that. And it makes me wonder if I am praying enough.
I have not mentioned all of the speakers. If you would like to hear the entire conference, recordings were available for purchase. I am not sure how long they will offer them, but I would encourage you to go to and ask if you can purchase the full set.
Thanks to RHMA for a great conference. I look forward to the next one in Lancaster.
Don’t forget the one in Illinois in 2019. Go to for more information
Thanks for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. Please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or where ever you get your podcasts.
As I mentioned, I am a small-church pastor, but I also have a Christian Coaching Practice that focuses on small-church pastors. If you are a small-church pastor email me at I would love to walk alongside you as your coach. So, feel free to email me about any question you may have about the coaching I provide.
Thanks again, and I will speak with you soon.

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Simple Tools to Build Your Church - Episode 20

Hugh Plappert is a businessman, an innovator, and a man who loves Jesus Christ. And Hugh loves to help churches grow and disciple their people.
Today, Hugh will share how his product, is a great tool that will help both small and large churches reach people and disciple people.

Hugh Shares


Church Growth in a Box Website
Upcoming Webinar - How to Launch a Disciple-Making Year without Hours of Meetings. Tuesday, November 6th, 11:00 am Central Time.

Closing Thoughts

 If you are the pastor of a small church and need some support, some coaching, then contact me.
can reach me at 
Over the past month, the leaders I have spoken with have talked about work-life balance, avoiding burnout, and how to navigate through tough situations. If these ring a bell with you, please contact me. I would be honored to walk with you and coach you.

Also, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast.  You can subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcheriHeartRadio, and most any podcast app.

How to Uncomplicate Discipleship - Episode 19

Today we visit with Dr. Warren Haynes, the author of the book Discipleship Uncomplicated
Dr. Haynes is the National Director of Contextualized Leadership Development for Gateway Seminary. His work puts him at the forefront of leadership training and disciple-making.
Today he shares from his book, Discipleship Uncomplicated.

He shared

  • His faith story and how it links to his current work - 00:45
  • His position as the National Director of Contextualized Leadership Development for Gateway Seminary - 3:30
  • The intended reader of his book, Discipleship Uncomplicated - 5:44
  • Why his book is unique - 5:30
  • An example of real-life disciple-making - 9:40
  • A definition of a disciple - 11:40
  • Eight principles of disciple-making - 13:45
  1. Love God, Love People
  2. What’s Your Name?
  3. Let’s Pray
  4. This is for You
  5. Let Me Share a Story; Tell Me Your Story
  6. Come with Me
  7. Gather People
  8. How to Multiply Leaders
  • The difference between being a disciple and making a disciple - 18:00
  • Why is it important in the disciple-making process to help or care for people. - 20:55
  • The four types of stories we can use to inspire people - 24:20
  1. God’s Story
  2. Our Story
  3. Biblical Stories that Apply to Today
  4. Life Stories
  • The impact of storytelling - 25:45
  • How a small group can use his book - 30:24

Contact Information

His email:


His website;

Closing Thoughts

I help pastors build healthy churches. Lately, my emphasis has been working with small churches. If you are the pastor of a small church and need some support, some coaching, then contact me. You can reach me at
Over the past month, the leaders I have spoken with have talked about work-life balance, avoiding burnout, and how to navigate through tough situations. If these ring a bell with you, please contact me. I would be honored to walk with you and coach you.
Also, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast.  You can subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcheriHeartRadio, and most any podcast app.

Check out this episode!