Jeff Jarvis, author of What would Google do? says, “It seems as if no company, executive, or institution truly understands how to survive and prosper in the internet age—except Google. So, faced with most any challenge today, it makes sense to ask: WWGD?”
It just might beg the question, should churches also be seeking answers in beta/entrepreneurial land?
Lest you think it sacrilegious to even say such a thing, think of the hundreds of ways the church currently tries to unravel the mysteries of our culture by using the 3 Ms—music, media, and marketing. It’s not like we’re above it.
Recently, in work with several large churches and their leaders, I have noticed the following values guiding steady-handed church change:
These churches are known for...
They seem willing to receive new ideas from almost anyone including their own congregagants. They don’t get all their ideas by going to conferences—many of their best ideas come from within their own ranks.
“Openness,” said one leader I recently talked to, “means that you have to run your church with greater transparency in order to build up the kind of trust it takes to be ready for dialogue with those you serve.”
Many leaders are scared to death to operate with that quality of availability. They needn’t be, because ultimately people will have greater buy-in when they have a piece of the action in decision-making.
They seem to tread lightly and try not to get bogged down with deeply entrenched "churchy" programs that can take years to sunset. They, to quote Muhammed Ali, “Float like a butterfly...”
Churches that can’t make decisions with clear, concise, and open process within a reasonable timeframe don’t get much done, because there’s no practiced procedure for “greasing the skids” of change.
There is a fluidity in the “beta church” (BC) because they don’t endlessly lurch and jerk through every transition. Their movements are smooth and deliberate. They are like a slightly viscous sweet tea that goes down easily.
If you’ve ever heard a hybrid car go from a dead start to, say, 25 MPH, you’ve already experienced how the BC moves into new territory—quietly, easily, and efficiently.
They read a lot about what’s going on in the world. They tap into several in-depth radio, print, internet, and television sources to capture a wide range of thought and opinion on many different subjects because these are the subjects that will ultimately affect their church and its direction.
Their main interest, however, is in knowing their communities well. They are constantly examining shifting trends, tastes, and points of view within a 5 mile radius of their facility. Churches that become a “church fortress” fail to recognize their position within the cities where they live and serve.
They eschew the phrase, “We’ve never done it that way before!” They teach their congregations to think of change as an absolute and not just a possibility. Without being wild eyed, they simply present a prime value to their constituency which says in effect, “We’re always going to be on the move and changing, but we’re all going to move together!”
I love this last point because I hear it all the time and love the honesty it portrays. BC adherents fully understand that things aren’t always going to be perfectly precise and neat. They might even relish the fact that there will be times when they have to apologize for having made a decision that didn’t go as expected—they have even explained the possibility of such an occurrence long in advance of the actual event.
Now, you may not think that your church could become a BC, but you probably already have everything you need to make it happen. What’s really crucial is a slow shifting of the language you use to help people understand the function, future, and Biblical intent of the church—God’s church, their church.
Gary McIntosh says the first two commonalities among all turnarounds are 1) someone in authority defines reality, and 2) a sense of urgency is created, painting the potential of the church vs. its current, painful reality.
Rich Frazer says a declining church should ask itself questions like these: "What part of our purpose and vision is not working anymore that either needs to be thrown out or revised? What could be transformed and realigned?" …
In 1 Cor. 9, Paul gives advice to church leaders on how to merge into the community. What are you willing to give up in your cultural heritage in order to reach people? (Aubrey Malphurs in the Society for Church Consulting's Level 3 training …