When Bob Whitesel isn't teaching classes at Indiana Wesleyan University or writing books, he's advising churches on how to successfully implement changes in their congregations. In his latest book, Preparing for Change Reaction, he outlines the strategic steps to prepare for what he calls "change reaction"—the inevitable response from a congregation whenever a time of transition occurs.
MINISTRY TODAY: Expand on what you mean by change reaction.
BOB WHITESEL: People want to bring about change, but they often have trouble doing this in their churches. The problem is that people have a certain reaction to change and we don't have good ways of answering those reactions. My book identifies 10 of the most common change reactions that most pastors will hear, and how they can address those. No church will hear all 10. You'll hear one or two or three or four of them. For example, one change reaction you often hear is "we've tried to change in the past and it failed," so I explain the mechanics of how you bring about change. It's much slower than most people think.
MINISTRY TODAY: What advice do you give multigenerational churches that are trying to change?
WHITESEL: It is often best to have separate worship services. These different generations are really different cultures and they will need their own separate worship services most of the time. As a pastor, my purpose in worship is to connect people with Jesus. And people connect better with Jesus when they're familiar with the artistic forms we're using.
Unfortunately, many older people get contemporary music thrust upon them and I watch them sitting there, not singing, just looking kind of sad and hurt. The best thing is to have some separation. But the church also has to have regular opportunities to get these different cultures together for unity and ministry.
MINISTRY TODAY: What are change boundaries?
WHITESEL: People need to come to a consensus about what they won't change. Sometimes people are afraid you're going to change too much. If you come in and say, "Hey, we'd like to have a contemporary service," the older members might automatically think, Oh, they're going to get rid of our service. But that might not necessarily be what's going to happen. In my job as a consultant, I try to sit down with the leaders and agree on things they don't want to lose, things they don't want to change. I call these change boundaries. Trying to change without boundaries is dangerous.
MINISTRY TODAY: What's the difference among strategic, tactical and operational leadership?
WHITESEL: These terms come from the military. Strategic leaders are the people who see the big picture. They may not know the steps to get there, but they see the big picture of what has to be done. The second type of leader is the key leader for getting things done: the tactical leader. These are people who love numbers and organizing things. Operational leaders typically lead a small team of people, and they love working with that small team. Strategic leaders see the bigger picture, but it's frustrating if they don't have a tactical leader to plot out how to achieve the larger vision.
Most of the pastors I've encountered are either strategic leaders who see the big picture or they're operational leaders who just want to operate with a small team. Both of those leaders will fail in a church without the key ingredient of the tactical leader. But we typically scare these key leaders away because they feel that churches aren't interested in organization and administration.
MINISTRY TODAY: In your book you write that when church volunteers carry out theology, the church grows. What do you mean by that?
WHITESEL: Research shows that when lay people are involved in studying the Bible, in making changes within the church and in grappling with the theology of change, then it democratizes the participation of people who are reading the Bible and talking about how they can apply it. That translates to less of a pastor-driven church and more of lay-driven church. And historically churches grow the fastest when that happens.
MINISTRY TODAY: What challenges do you see in the church today that might not have been there 20 years ago?
WHITESEL: Today churches have to be multicultural to reach out. It used to be that churches could be primarily one culture because the neighborhoods used to be comprised of just one culture. But now because people are moving about much more easily, just about all churches, if they want to grow above 75 people, have to be multicultural.
LIFE AFTER CHURCH: GOD'S CALL TO DISILLUSIONED CHRISTIANS
Author: Brian Sanders
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
File Under: Christian Living
As the title suggests, Life After Church: God's Call to Disillusioned Christians attempts to help church "leavers" find their place in the body of Christ. A self-professed leaver, author Brian Sanders is the director of a micro church-planting network and pastor of a local body called the Underground Church. He writes as a transplanted believer to the disillusioned. "We long for churches that are more organic and less franchised," Sanders says. "Everyone is not the same and everyone is not called simply to open a small-group franchise for the mother church."
The book includes what the author calls "A Leaver's Manifesto," which identifies the core principles of "life after church" as the people of God, the Word of God, the mission of God and the kingdom of God. Also included is a useful chart depicting how "leaving happens in stages." Sanders does not suggest believers quit attending church en masse. Rather he advocates a renewed focus on the missional call of the church to be the body of Christ to nonbelievers skeptical of faith without works and justice without mercy.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (3); Theological Depth (3); Readability (4).
Reviewer: Sean Fowlds
REVISITING RELATIONAL YOUTH MINISTRY: FROM A STATEGY OF
INFLUENCE TO A THEOLOGY OF INCARNATION
Author: Andrew Root
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
File Under: Youth Ministry
Every pastor should regularly examine his motivation for ministry. Yet it's often youth pastors in particular who must keep in check the tendency to turn their church's youth group into a progression of bigger and better events. In Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, author and professor Andrew Root argues that the remedy for those leading teens is in seeking God's presence through community-based ministry, rather than in popular theory or thrilling events. Root's "theology of incarnation" emphasizes how relationships are the location of God's presence in our lives.
Root explains that encounters with people can be time with "the alive God." Using interviews and illustrations from his experience as a professor and former Young Life staffer, he adds theological depth to his case for the "transcendent otherness of God." He challenges youth pastors to go beyond doing mere jobs and live the incarnation of Christ with youth, rather than simply giving teens time together. True "place-sharing," as he terms it, is welcoming all in the context of God dwelling among His people.
By moving ministry toward practical theology, Root also shows how a historical study of incarnational youth ministry can help pastors walk with their teens during seasons of suffering and therefore experience Christ's presence. Using Dietrich Bonhoeffer's ministry to German youth as an example, he presents a model that is "not about influence but [God's] accompaniment."
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (5); Theological depth (5); Readability (4).
Reviewer: Chris Maxwell
CHURCH IS A TEAM SPORT: A CHAMPIONSHIP STRATEGY FOR DOING MINISTRY TOGETHER
Author: Jim Putman
Publisher: Baker Books
File Under: Leadership
Author and senior pastor Jim Putman wrote Church Is a Team Sport "for all of those who acknowledge that something is wrong with the church." In less than a decade, Putman watched the church he helped plant, Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho, grow from a handful of families to a membership of several thousand. During its early stages of growth, however, he discovered a major problem: Although newcomers were joining by the hundreds, many of them were young believers content to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else engage in ministry.
A three-time All-American wrestler in college and former coach, Putnam tells of his solution by using a metaphor of sports throughout his book to communicate "a championship strategy for doing ministry together." The key, he says, is always participation—getting in the game. A strong proponent of discipleship through the small-group model, he advocates a reproducible strategy of team building and leadership development.
Not for the faint of heart, Church Is a Team Sport challenges pastors and church leaders to exchange outmoded methods of ministry for church-growth concepts designed to mature believers while expanding the effectiveness of a church. All types of ministers, whether lay or professional, could benefit from studying and applying the proven principles the author espouses here.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (4); Theological Depth (3); Readability (4).
Reviewer: Sean Fowlds
BUILDING A HEALTHY MULTI-ETHNIC CHURCH: MANDATE,
COMMITMENTS AND PRACTICES OF A DIVERSE CONGREGATION
Author: Mark DeYmaz
File Under: Leadership/Culture
It's long been said that 11 o'clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. In Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, Mark DeYmaz acknowledges this through facts while raising diversity concerns about the state of the American church. More importantly, he offers a solution by taking us to Antioch, where he helps us hear Paul afresh and lets us listen to conversations with people of various ethnicities.
Pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (a group of multiethnic, economically diverse people from more than 30 nations), DeYmaz believes the homogenous unit principle is becoming irrelevant. His own congregation varies worship styles weekly, rotates leaders and styles, and welcomes all.
Attacking "segregation on Sunday," the book urges tearing down walls. Whether revitalizing a declining church, planting a multiethnic church or transforming a congregation toward a multiethnic family style, leaders can hear God's call for every tribe to experience Him together and learn from one another.
DeYmaz also outlines seven "core commitments" found in a healthy multiethnic church, including empowering diverse leadership and pursuing cross-cultural competence. He believes the most effective way to spread God's good news is to live it together in a variety of families. An insightful read, the book turns theology into application.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (5); Theological depth (4); Readability (4).
Reviewer: Chris Maxwell
Principles From a Life at Starbucks
Author: Howard Behar
In 1989, a frustrated 44-year-old retailer named Howard Behar sat down in a Northwestern coffee shop. While contemplating his next career move, he began taking mental notes of how the establishment could improve its overall feel and attract more customers. "Don't get too slick. Good texture. Need more chairs." Soon he was employed by the burgeoning coffee franchise (it had only 28 stores at the time) that today is the colossus we call Starbucks.
Now Behar shares his insights in a fascinating book filled with pithy nuggets of business and interpersonal wisdom. The gist of his tome: It's not about product, it's about people. "That's the number one priority," Behar writes. "If you grow people, the people grow the business."
Church leaders will find many ministerial applications. Behar's book serves as a good reminder for those in danger of forgetting what business—or ministry—is all about. Ultimately slick sermons and swank sanctuaries aren't enough. We need to connect with people and move them toward God.