One of the things we hear over and over from church leaders and congregation members at the churches in which we’ve served is that the VitalChurch process is not an easy one. However, that is almost always immediately followed by them saying something like, “But it was what we needed to do and we are a better church for having gone through the process.”
Very few people like change—churches are no different. Change can be hard, especially when there are people within the church who are resistant to the change.
At VitalChurch, we often call ourselves “agents of change.” We don’t go into churches with the intention of just filling the pulpit while they search for their next lead pastor. We are there to help churches make difficult changes, so they can be a healthier and more fruitful place when their next permanent pastor arrives.
Recently, we surveyed leaders and members from a few of the churches we’ve worked with. Almost all of them commented on how much their church had changed from the beginning of the interim pastor period to the end. The type of change varied from church to church. In some churches, the major transformation was in the organizational structure; in others, it was in how outreach was approached; in still others, it was how communication and interpersonal relationships were handled.
Joyce Gould of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Reading, Massachusetts commented, “None of us was prepared for the amount of change that would be required—changes such as continuous authentic reconciliation, reaching beyond our walls to engage with the community, and seeking and empowering younger leadership.”
As a result of what she called “the steady hand of VitalChurch,” Gould says that now,
FBC is becoming more emotionally mature and more centered on prayer and the study of the Bible and its application to our lives.”
According to Kevin Beehner, Executive Pastor at CrossPoint Alliance Church in Lewiston, Idaho, VitalChurch coming to his church was exactly what they needed. He said,
[VitalChurch interim pastor] Tom Wilkens was able to lead our church through some challenging staffing transitions that would have been very difficult for our existing leadership to do. Overall, I feel the table has been set for our new lead pastor to dive in and begin leading us forward, rather than having to discern, process, and make difficult adjustments in his first year. Through Tom’s leadership, we had a whole year to get a jump start on changing our culture, rather than waiting for the new lead pastor to come in and begin that process.”
David Kuck, an Elder at Christ Community Church in Rochester, Minnesota said, “Before, we had blind spots. We didn’t realize we had unhealthy patterns and systems. Now, we are on the journey of being where we need to be.” Kuck also emphasized that he appreciated VitalChurch’s approach to change—which relies heavily on the Holy Spirit. He said,
The biggest reason we went with VitalChurch was because [their interim pastors] listen to the guiding of the Spirit.”
Since no two churches are the same, the type of transformation that is needed will be different in every church. This is why we require that all churches we work with go through our diagnostic analysis. It clearly identifies areas needing improvement, so once our interim pastor arrives at the church, he can hit the ground running and start addressing the most pressing issues right away.
However, our interim pastors can’t transform churches on their own. The church as a whole must be “bought in” to the process and be willing to change. VitalChurch interim pastor Dave Miles says, “Frequently we have people asking us, ‘What’s it going to take for our church to actually change?’ He explains, “It has to do with people’s hearts. It has to do with whether or not a group of people is willing to look deep in their souls and say, ‘We will surrender completely to what God has for us—at any cost. Regardless of what program it means we give up. Regardless of what ministry goal we choose.’ If people truly want to change, the bottom line is surrender. It’s a matter of giving yourself completely and wholly to what God wants. When a congregation does that, they’ll change.”
Is your church ready for a change? Could you benefit from an outside perspective from an organization that has brought about true revitalization in churches around the country? VitalChurch would love to partner with you! Contact us to learn more about what we do and how we can help.