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Lyle Schrag D.Min.

Church Transformation

There has been a lot of talk about Church Transformations in the past decade. In the 1990’s I was intrigued by a denominational development. Quite a few resources had been invested by one particular denomination toward Church Planting. While there was a level of success in the planting of churches, a question was raised “what about resurrecting dying churches?” In light of the heavy statistics that indicate the high percentage of churches that were in decline, an effort was made to design a process to transform distressed churches. Using techniques similar to church planting, it was discovered that if done right, transforming a dying church was far more economical than planting new churches, and while attention was still given to church planting, there was a renewed commitment made by the denomination to stimulate new growth and vitality in churches that had been at risk of abandonment.

Over the last 10 years, there have been a lot of lessons learned about Church Transformation. A lot of studies have been written and books published by experts on the subject. They all arouse a limited sense of interest, but last week I came across a study that intrigued me. Over the last Fall, one of my personal heroes – George Bullard [of the Columbia Partnership] has been conducting research on The enduring principles of congregational transformation. Rather than telling church leaders how to do transformation, he asked for church leaders to tell him how they are doing it. In this delightful bit of role reversal, over 700 church leaders have weighed in on an online research survey. Listing 21 “enduring principles” of church transformation, a list of top seven principles emerged: Continual Transformation Rather Than One-Time Transformation: Going Forward Rather Than Going Back, People Before Programs, Being Both Spiritual and Strategic, Future Rather Than Past, Kingdom Growth Rather Than Church Growth, Vision Plus Intentionality.

Each one were identified due to their perceived validity, strength, importance, and their enduring nature. At the same time, the results of the survey identify the bottom seven principles … ie. Those that proved to be of less importance for a church to experience transformation.

The results of the survey are free for the asking, and well worth the reflections: Persons interested in a summary of the complete preliminary results and a PowerPoint presentation that contains a presentation of the results may send a request to client.care@thecolumbiapartnership.org. Ask for: Enduring Principles Of Congregational Transformation Report.

Note: the results of the survey are intended to stimulate review, evaluation and dialogue. Bullard has made it a practice to gather church leaders into discovery groups that work out the implications of important principles. It’s an activity that I value … and intend to emulate.

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