Keep the old, add the new

Change.  One six-letter word that sparks fear in the hearts of church members everywhere, and especially small-church members.  Talk about changing the worship time, the order of service, the Sunday School literature, the songs we sing, or even the way we greet each other and somebody will be against it.  This is the universal law of humanity — all change is viewed as loss.  So, people resist change, and church people are no different.

Actually, I think church people resist change more than others because their church is the one thing they think they can keep from changing.  Pastors, on the other hand, want things to change — get better, get bigger, get going.  Big conflicts develop.  Feelings are hurt.  People get mad.  Folks leave the church.  You know the story. 

But, suppose there is another way to do this.  I remember years ago, Lyle Schaller was talking about how to assimilate new people into an existing adult Sunday School class.  Schaller’s suggestion was not to try.  He said, “New people need new groups.”  If you want to attract new people to Sunday School, start a new class where everybody is a newcomer. 

So, I’ve been thinking about how we who serve small, old churches can revitalize our congregations.  Lyle Schaller may have the answer — create new structures for new people.  New worship, new small groups, new ministries, new missional experiences.  Create these new opportunties for worship, service, study and fellowship while retaining the old things that the current congregation likes. 

Rather than trying to change everything, add new things.  I am sure there will still be opposition, because some folks are opposed to everything.  But, the majority of members might just see the wisdom of that approach.  We’re trying that approach here in Chatham.  I’ll let you know how it goes.